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 Conviction: A History of Marijuana Prohibition in the United States

June 30, 1999
Bonnie, Richard J, and Whitebread, Charles H.
Drug Policy Alliance

Originally printed in 1974, The Marijuana Conviction is the first comprehensive history of marijuana use and prohibition in the U.S. Bonnie and Whitebread's historical overview examines the origins and history of marijuana prohibition as well as laws' unintended consequences.

Disparity by Design: How Drug-free Zone Laws Impact Racial Disparity – And Fail to Protect Youth

March 1, 2006
Justice Policy Institute
Drug Policy Alliance

A new national report, authored by the Justice Policy Institute and commissioned by the Drug Policy Alliance, finds that drug-free zones fail to protect youth from drug activity, while creating high levels of racial disparity in the criminal justice system.

Arresting Blacks for Marijuana in California: Possession Arrests, 2006-08

October 2, 2010
Levine, Harry G., et al.

The Drug Policy Alliance and the California State Conference of the NAACP have released a report that documents widespread race-based disparities in the enforcement of low-level marijuana possession laws in California. In the last 20 years, California made 850,000 arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana, and half a million arrests in the last 10 years. The people arrested were disproportionately African Americans and Latinos, overwhelmingly young people, especially young men. Yet, U.S.

Arresting Latinos for Marijuana in California: Possession Arrests in 33 Cities, 2006-08

October 2, 2010
Levine, Harry G., et al.
Drug Policy Alliance

The Drug Policy Alliance and the William C. Velasquez Institute have released a report that documents widespread race-based disparities in the enforcement of low-level marijuana possession laws in California. In the last 20 years, California made 850,000 arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana, and half a million arrests in the last 10 years. The people arrested were disproportionately African Americans and Latinos, overwhelmingly young people, especially young men. Yet, U.S.

End Marijuana Possession Arrests in New York

Tell legislators to close the loophole that NY police exploit to make marijuana arrests.

Legalize Marijuana

Urge your state Rep. to introduce legislation to regulate marijuana for adults over 21.

10 Facts About Marijuana

Marijuana Arrests

749,825

Number of people arrested for marijuana law violations in 2012.

Get Involved

You can help end the drug war by visiting our Action Center.
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