Reducing the Harms of Marijuana Prohibition

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.
 
The Drug Policy Alliance works to reduce the number of marijuana related arrests and associated penalties through crafting and advocating for legislation removing or reducing criminal penalties, initiatives making marijuana arrests the lowest law enforcement priority, and community based policy changes.  
 
DPA also works to expose and reduce rampant, system-wide racial disparities in marijuana arrests. DPA has released reports documenting and detailing chilling disparities in New York City and across California and continues to raise awareness about the unique burden U.S. marijuana policy places on black and Latino communities.
 
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 Marijuana Policy Almanac

This almanac provides the largest collection of detailed data about marijuana arrests in the United States ever released to the public. It contains detailed data at the national, state, county, and local agency level about marijuana arrests and related topics, such as marijuana use, criminal justice costs, and clearance rates for serious crimes. The Marijuana Policy Almanac also contains individual summary reports for each state, and rankings of states by penalties for marijuana possession, marijuana arrest rates, and the number of marijuana users.

Efficacy and Impact: The Criminal Justice Response to Marijuana Policy in the United States

August 25, 2005
Jason Ziedenberg and Jason Colburn
Justice Policy Institute

Law enforcement has been at the center of federal spending on criminal justice responses to drug use for decades. Leading national indicators of drug use and drug violations will show that 1) there is no clear relationship between drug arrests and drug use, and that 2) the impact of increased arrests, convictions and incarcerations of people for marijuana offenses has significant and measurable “collateral consequences” on communities and individuals.

The war on marijuana: The transformation of the war on drugs in the 1990s

Ryan S. King and Marc Mauer
Sentencing Project / Harm Reduction Journal

The results of this study suggest that law enforcement resources are not being effectively allocated to offenses which are most costly to society. The financial and personnel investment in marijuana offenses, at all points in the criminal justice system, diverts funds away from other crime types, thereby representing a questionable policy choice.

The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition

Jeffrey A. Miron

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.

The Budgetary Implications of Drug Prohibition

February 1, 2010
Jeffrey A. Miron
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.

The Budgetary Impact of Ending Drug Prohibition

September 27, 2010
Jeffrey A. Miron and Katherine Waldock

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.

NORML Report on Sixty Years of Marijuana Prohibition in the U.S.

NORML

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."

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