Hundreds of Economists: Marijuana Prohibition Costs Billions, Legalization Would Earn Billions

Over 300 economists, including three Nobel Laureates, recently signed a petition that encourages the president, Congress, governors and state legislatures to carefully consider marijuana legalization in America. The petition draws attention to an article by Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron, whose findings highlight the substantial cost-savings our government could incur if it were to tax and regulate marijuana, rather than needlessly spending billions of dollars enforcing its prohibition.

Miron predicts that legalizing marijuana would save $7.7 billion per year in government expenditure on enforcement, in addition to generating $2.4 billion annually if taxed like most consumer goods, or $6 billion per year if taxed similarly to alcohol and tobacco. The economists signing the petition note that the budgetary implications of marijuana prohibition are just one of many factors to be considered, but declare it essential that these findings become a serious part of the national decriminalization discussion.

The advantages of marijuana legalization extend far beyond an opportunity to make a dent in our federal deficit. The criminalization of marijuana is one of the many fights in the War on Drugs that has failed miserably. And while it's tempting to associate only the harder, "scarier" drugs with this botched crusade, the fact remains that marijuana prohibition is very much a part of the battle. The federal government has even classified marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance (its most serious category of substances), placing it in a more dangerous category than cocaine. More than 800,000 people are arrested for marijuana use and possession each year, and 46 percent of all drug prosecutions across the country are for marijuana possession. Yet this costly and time-consuming targeting of marijuana users by law enforcement and lawmakers has done little to quell use of the drug.

The criminalization of marijuana has not only resulted in a startlingly high number of arrests, it also reflects the devastating disparate racial impact of the War on Drugs. Despite ample evidence that marijuana is used more frequently by white people, Blacks and Latinos account for a grossly disproportionate percentage of the 800,000 people arrested annually for marijuana use and possession. These convictions hinder one's ability to find or keep employment, vote or gain access to affordable housing. The fact that these hard-to-shake consequences – bad enough as they are — are suffered more frequently by a demographic that uses marijuana less makes our current policies toward marijuana all the more unfair, unwise and unacceptable.

Our marijuana policies have proven ineffective, expensive and discriminatory. Our courtrooms, jails and prisons remain crowded with nonviolent drug offenders. And yet, the government persists in its costly, racist and counterproductive criminalization of marijuana. We learned our lesson decades ago with alcohol prohibition; it is long overdue for us to do the same with marijuana prohibition. In the face of Miron's new report, and its support from hundreds of economists, we are hopeful that not only will the national conversation surrounding marijuana change, but so will our disastrous policies.

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Malcolm Kyle

Maybe you're a police officer, a prison guard or a local/national politician. Possibly you're scared of losing employment, overtime-pay, the many kick-backs and those regular fat bribes. But what good will any of that do you once our society has followed Mexico over the dystopian abyss of dismembered bodies, vats of acid and marauding thugs carrying gold-plated AK-47s with leopard-skinned gunstocks?

Kindly allow us to forgo the next level of your sycophantic prohibition-engendered mayhem.

Prohibition Prevents Regulation : Legalize, Regulate and Tax!


Jeffery Miron has been studying this issue for a long time and he is right. Legalize it!

Paul from Illinois

The real reason has nothing to do with drugs. It is about hemp. If canabis is legalized than so is hemp. Which goes against the wood paper industry, the oil industry, the cotton industry, the oil industry, and some major chemical corporations such as Dupont. Imagine better longer lasting paper and clothes, a renewable fuel and plastic products that bio degrade, and farm fields that need less fertilizer. I almost forgot livestock feed. yes this is the real reason why Cannabis sativa is outlawed. A natural growing plant that humans have used for over 6000 years threatens so many industries that are heavy polluters, and now law enforcement reaps rewards.

That thing in Columbia about prostitutes was a cover up because Obama went there because they want to legalize drugs.

Ron Seadler

On Monday, May 1, in Louisville KY, I have to plead guilty to cultivation of my cancer medication because the narcs are lying about how they gained entry to our house. I will have to serve at least 6 months. I am a very productive and academic person who just studies science and plays jazz mandolin. They also managed to get me fired from my CAD system management job of 28 years. Why, why , why?

Guam Rabbi

It is way past time for the legalization of cannabis. The real hitch is the cowardice of our politicians who fear the various fiefdoms - such as the DEA & the Bureau of Prisons as well as numerous police departments - who will lose funding & power once intelligence & sanity prevail on this issue.


good post, but i think it could have used a little editing:

first, the idea that miron's findings should be part of a 'national decriminalization discussion' contradicts his projections of potential tax revenues, which can be generated only after legalization, not mere decriminalization.

2nd, the post says 'we learned our lesson decades ago with alcohol prohibition'. were that true we wouldn't have repeated the error with drugs.

3rd, miron's article was published in 2005, and the first signature on the petition belongs to a nobel laureate who died in 2006, yet the post begins with a sentence saying 300 economists 'recently signed a petition'.

finally, i wish miron or the economists or the writers of your post had mentioned the parallel rises of organized crime during the two prohibitions and the associated cost to society beyond enforcement expense and lost revenue.


This is another in a long line of study's that will be ignored by the powers that be.
The prison/law enforcement community simply cannot give up the BILLIONS of dollars that, since ainslinger, have been thrown at a harmless substance.
The fact it is racist is just a bonus for these power mad thugs.

Matt Baker

If you get the chance watch the documentary, 'The House I Live In'. It demonstrates the current futility in the drug classification and policing in the US perfectly.


The classification of marijuana as a Schedule I substance is also quite dubious.

The US Department of Health and Human Services holds a patent, #6630507, on the medical applications of cannabinoids as anti-oxidants. This contradicts the substance's Schedule I listing.

The synthetic THC Marinol is classed as a Schedule III substance, further calling into question the basis for marijuana's Schedule I classification.


The problem is that the billions it would generate won't be going into the same hands and thusly it shan't be made legal.


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