CA NORML Costs of Prohibition
California’s War on Marijuana: A Costly, Failed WarCalifornia’s War on Marijuana: A Costly, Failed WarCalifornia’s War on Marijuana: A Costly, Failed WarCalifornia’s War on Marijuana: A Costly, Failed War
California’s War on Marijuana:
A Costly, Failed War
Costs of Marijuana Prohibition
- Marijuana accounted for 17,000 felony and 61,000 misdemeanor arrests in California in 2008, at a cost to the state of some $203 million.
- There were 1,500 marijuana prisoners in state prison as of 2009, an increase of nearly 2000% in 20 years. An unknown number of additional offenders are in county jails and federal prisons.
- California's CAMP (Campaign Against Marijuana Planting) marijuana eradication reported 4,320,314 plant seizures in 2010, enough to make 3.8 trillion cigarettes. The value of the destroyed crop was lost to the local economy and diverted to foreign smugglers.
- Total marijuana consumption by Californians may be reasonably estimated at 1 million pounds per year, a $2.7 - $4.5 billion market which could yield over $1.2 billion per year in taxes, with additional spinoff benefits of $12 -$18 billion.
- The war on marijuana has disrupted the peace of our wilderness with CAMP helicopters and driven the market into the hands of street dealers and foreign smugglers.
- The war on marijuana has deprived us of an economically valuable crop, cannabis hemp, a productive source of oil, fiber, protein and biomass.
California’s Failed War on Pot: the Historical Record
- California first outlawed cannabis or "Indian hemp" in 1913, before "marijuana" was publicly known (History). After being prohibited, marijuana use spread from a mere handful to millions of Californians, and over 1,850,000 marijuana arrests have been recorded in the state.
- Following the popularization of marijuana in the sixties, enforcement
became so costly that the state "decriminalized" possession from a felony to a
misdemeanor in 1976. The number of marijuana arrests and felonies promptly
plummeted, saving the state an estimated $100 million per year (Source: Michael Aldrich and Tod Mikuriya, "Savings in California Marijuana Law Enforcement Costs Attributable to the Moscone Act of 1976 — A Summary, Journal Of Psychoactive Drugs 20(1) Jan-Mar 1988).
- In 1983 the state launched the CAMP (Campaign Against Marijuana Planting ) helicopter eradication program to stop widespread cultivation in Northern California’s "Emerald Triangle." The price of marijuana doubled, and cocaine took its place as the most popular illicit drug, leading to the disastrous crack epidemic.
- In 1990 the California Research Advisory Panel recommended that personal possession and cultivation of marijuana be made legal. The panel, consisting of pharmacological experts charged with overseeing controlled substances, stated:
"An objective consideration of marijuana shows that it is responsible for less damage to society and the individual than are alcohol and cigarettes."
- California became the first state to re-legalize medical marijuana when voters approved Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act of 1996. Contrary to the predictions of opponents, who warned that Prop. 215 would "effectively legalize" marijuana and encourage teen drug abuse, marijuana arrests have continued to climb since passage of Prop. 215, while the level of youth marijuana use in California stabilized or slightly declined to a level below the national average. See data on youth use.
- The war on pot is a crime creation program. It makes criminals of millions of otherwise law-abiding Californians and creates a multi-billion dollar illicit market for criminal dealers and smugglers.
- The war on pot has not controlled drug abuse. The modern drug problem entirely postdates the criminalization of marijuana.
- California’s marijuana decriminalization law has been a success: it has saved taxpayers over $1 billion in enforcement costs, with no adverse impact on drug abuse.
- Official studies have consistently backed decriminalization, including the National Academy of Sciences (1982), the Presidential Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse (1972), and the state Research Advisory Panel (1990).
- Marijuana legalization works. In the Netherlands, where sale of cannabis has been de facto legalized through coffee shops, marijuana and hard drug abuse are lower than in comparable prohibitionist countries, including the U.S.
Cal. NORML Estimates 750,000 - 1,125,000 Medical Marijuana Patients in California (May 2011)
Marijuana Legalization Could Yield California Taxpayers Over $1.2 Billion Per Year (October 2009)
California Arrest and Prisoner Data