Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Costs of Marijuana Prohibition

I've always tried to remain drug-agnostic on this site, because it seems to be one of those hot-button items that opponents will use to dismiss their opponent out of hand, especially given some of the ridiculous falsehoods peddled by both sides, but I couldn't resist sharing this article. It lays out the arguments for ending marijuana prohibition and instead creating a system of regulation similar to that of alcohol. Now, you can say what you like about some of the other drugs; I think some of them are banned for good reason, and I'm not about to join on the "legalize everything" bandwagon, but marijuana is very, very harmless in the grand scheme of things (certainly less so than alcohol), and could prove to be a boon for our economy, "produc(ing) combined savings and tax revenues of between $10 billion and $14 billion per year". We sure could use some of that money right now.

Of course, as long as the religious right is the primary political constituency of the ruling party, there will be no push on reform no matter how much evidence comes out on the extent of the drug war's failure. But let's think about this: the same people who will spend billions of dollars, despite the inconsistency in law ('drugs are bad' but 'alcohol is good'), for the sake of what many see as a moral stance; however, the same general segment of society (the far right) is currently defending torture as a 'necessity' in the war on terror(ism). Hm.

Conventionalism -- the tendency to accept and obey social conventions and the rules of authority figures; adherence to the traditional and accepted
Authoritarian Submission - submission to authorities and authority figures
Authoritarian Aggression -- an aggressive attitude towards individuals or groups disliked by authorities; particularly those who threaten traditional values

Anyway, here's a summary of the report. The entire piece is at

Milton Friedman, 500+ Economists Call for Marijuana Regulation Debate; New Report Projects $10-14 Billion Annual Savings and Revenues

Replacing marijuana prohibition with a system of taxation and regulation similar to that used for alcoholic beverages would produce combined savings and tax revenues of between $10 billion and $14 billion per year, finds a June 2005 report by Dr. Jeffrey Miron, visiting professor of economics at Harvard University.

The report has been endorsed by more than 530 distinguished economists, who have signed an open letter to President Bush and other public officials calling for "an open and honest debate about marijuana prohibition," adding, "We believe such a debate will favor a regime in which marijuana is legal but taxed and regulated like other goods."

Chief among the endorsing economists are three Nobel Laureates in economics: Dr. Milton Friedman of the Hoover Institute, Dr. George Akerlof of the University of California at Berkeley, and Dr. Vernon Smith of George Mason University.

Dr. Miron's paper, "The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition," concludes:
**Replacing marijuana prohibition with a system of legal regulation would save approximately $7.7 billion in government expenditures on prohibition enforcement -- $2.4 billion at the federal level and $5.3 billion at the state and local levels.

**Revenue from taxation of marijuana sales would range from $2.4 billion per year if marijuana were taxed like ordinary consumer goods to $6.2 billion if it were taxed like alcohol or tobacco.

These impacts are considerable, according to the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C. For example, $14 billion in annual combined annual savings and revenues would cover the securing of all "loose nukes" in the former Soviet Union (estimated by former Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb at $30 billion) in less than three years. Just one year's savings would cover the full cost of anti-terrorism port security measures required by the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002. The Coast Guard has estimated these costs, covering 3,150 port facilities and 9,200 vessels, at $7.3 billion total.

"As Milton Friedman and over 500 economists have now said, it's time for a serious debate about whether marijuana prohibition makes any sense," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C. "We know that prohibition hasn't kept marijuana away from kids, since year after year 85% of high school seniors tell government survey-takers that marijuana is 'easy to get.' Conservatives, especially, are beginning to ask whether we're getting our money's worth or simply throwing away billions of tax dollars that might be used to protect America from real threats like those unsecured Soviet-era nukes."

Posted by crimnos @ 7:56 AM

Read or Post a Comment

GREAT ARTICLE!! And I couldn't agree with you more.

Posted by Blogger James @ 2:09 PM #

The costs are even higher than the article claims, and the benifits of legalization are also greater. The article only talks about the revenue that could be gained by taxation, but does not mention the other positive benifits Marijuana can play in industry and society.

Canibis is a wonderful plant. Not only can it be used to make recreational and pharmaceutical drugs, it can also be used to make a wide variety of products, and do it better than current methods.

For instance, marijuana seeds are very high in oil content. Acre-per-acre, marijuana seeds could outproduce corn as a bio-fuel.

Acre-for-acre marijuana fibers provide more paper than pine, and can be replanted up to three times per year depending on location.

Marijuana can also be used to create high quality plastics that rival those produced by petro-chemicals. The fact that none are now produced is an artifact of prohibition. The plant has not been available in significant enough quantities to enough people to allow effective development of quality plastics.

This list just goes on and on.

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous @ 7:32 PM #

Having lived in a country where Marijuana is legal-- and even having never done it myself-- I support legalization 100%.

Legalize it, regulate its quality, and tax the hell out of it.

Can you imagine how relieved our jailing would be if we stopped jailing people for minor possession? The only thing I do wonder about is the harder drug market, as former pot dealers (having had their former employ taken from them) start to deal hard drugs instead and increase the distribution channels. How can that issue be solved? Could pot revenue fund treatment programs?

The anonymous poster made great points about sustainability, too; I feel like we're just screwing ourselves by not allowing any and all innovation in this area.

Posted by Blogger alice_pants @ 12:22 PM #

er, how relieved our jails would be... oops.

Posted by Blogger alice_pants @ 12:24 PM #
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