Marijuana arrests are the engine driving the U.S. war on drugs. Nearly half of all drug arrests each year are for marijuana-related offenses
, the overwhelming majority of which are for personal possession. These arrests fall disproportionately on blacks and Latinos, although whites consume marijuana at the same rate or higher. Many of those who are arrested are saddled with a criminal conviction that can make it difficult or impossible to vote, obtain educational loans, get a job, secure housing, or even adopt a child. Additionally, the huge number of marijuana arrests each year usurps scarce law enforcement, criminal justice, and treatment resources at enormous cost to U.S. taxpayers.
Marijuana prohibition has also caused incalculable violence and destruction by fostering an illegal marijuana market. Organized crime, drug cartels, and gangs are the greatest financial beneficiaries of marijuana prohibition. In Mexico, illegal marijuana sales have contributed to the loss of tens of thousands of lives.
The Drug Policy Alliance aims to reduce the number, racially disproportionate nature, and potential collateral consequences of marijuana arrests, as well as other harms resulting from marijuana prohibition.
Graphs of annual marijuana arrests in the US from 1969 - 2009
NORML's Marijuana Arrests Investigator: Here you can map arrest data taken from the report Crimes of Indiscretion, Marijuana Arrests in the US
This report examines the budgetary implications of legalizing marijuana – taxing and regulating it like other goods – in all fifty states and at the federal level.
Criminal Justice Policy Foundation
The report estimates that legalizing drugs would save roughly $48.7 billion per year in government expenditure on enforcement of prohibition. $33.1 billion of this savings would accrue to state and local governments, while $15.6 billion would accrue to the federal government. Approximately $13.7 billion of the savings would results from legalization of marijuana, $22.3 billion from legalization of cocaine and heroin, and $12.8 from legalization of other drugs.
State and federal governments in the United States face massive looming fiscal deficits. One policy change that can reduce deficits is ending the drug war. Legalization means reduced expenditure on enforcement and an increase in tax revenue from legalized sales.
A report prepared by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the "Marijuana Tax Act of 1937."
The following paper reviews various studies** that have examined this issue in regions that have either a) regulated marijuana use and sales for all adults; b) decriminalized the possession of small quantities of marijuana for adults; c) medicalized the use of marijuana to certain authorized individuals; or d) deprioritized the enforcement of marijuana laws. This paper also proposes general guidelines to govern marijuana use, production, and distribution in a legal, regulated manner.