U.S. Government Data Shows That Marijuana Prohibition Has “Clearly Failed To Achieve Its Stated Objectives”

The increased enforcement of criminal marijuana prohibition has failed to reduce marijuana use and access in the United States, according to a report released today by the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy.

The report — based almost entirely on published U.S. government data — finds that increased funding for marijuana law enforcement is not associated any demonstrable reduction in marijuana availability, arrests, potency, or “rates of cannabis-related harm.”

The following excepts are taken from the report’s executive summary and conclusion.

Tools for Debate: US Federal Government Data on Cannabis Prohibition
A report of the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy

In the last several decades there has been a remarkable increase in US federal and state funding for anti-drug efforts, with the annual overall federal anti-drug budget as reported by the US Office of National Drug Control Policy increasing by more than 600% (inflation adjusted), from approximately $1.5 billion in 1981 to more than $18 billion in 2002 (the last year the budget was consistently reported). While only a portion of this budget funded programs specific to cannabis prohibition, increased federal and state funding nevertheless coincided with a greater than 150% increase in cannabis-related arrests and a greater than 420% increase in cannabis-related seizures between 1990 and 2006.

The limitations of cannabis prohibition in the US, however, are demonstrated by federally funded surveillance systems which show an approximate increase of 145% in estimated cannabis delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content between 1990 and 2007, despite the dramatic increase in funding to anti-drug efforts. Furthermore, evidence of prohibition’s failure to reduce the supply of cannabis is demonstrated by the estimated decrease of approximately 58% (inflation adjusted) in the retail price of US cannabis between 1990 and 2007.

The limitations of US cannabis prohibition are further evidenced by the ease with which American youth report being able to obtain the drug. According to US drug use surveillance systems funded by the US National Institutes on Drug Abuse, over the last 30 years of cannabis prohibition the drug has remained “almost universally available to American 12th graders,” with approximately 80–90% saying the drug is “very easy” or “fairly easy” to obtain. The failure of prohibition to reduce cannabis supply is also demonstrated by the fact that roughly 60% of school-aged US youth who use cannabis report having obtained their most recently used cannabis for free or having shared someone else’s. Interestingly, rates of cannabis use among American youth do not inversely correlate with levels of funding for cannabis prohibition. Instead, the estimated annual prevalence of cannabis use among US grade 12 students rose from 27% in 1990 to 32% in 2008, whereas among 19- to 28-year-olds it went from 26% in 1990 to 29% in 2008.

While it has been argued that rates of cannabis use would be higher if strict criminal penalties were not in place, this argument is inconsistent with available scientific evidence which indicates that patterns of drug law enforcement are not strongly correlated with rates of cannabis use.

… Given that cannabis prohibition has clearly failed to achieve its stated objectives and has also resulted in a range of serious unintended harms, regulatory models should be given urgent consideration, both in the United States and in other settings. … In light of the widespread and often free availability of cannabis that exists despite extremely costly criminal justice measures, successfully reducing rates of cannabis-related harm will likely require the implementation of strict regulatory measures which are associated with reducing the harms of other legal substances and are too commonly underutilized in the areas of tobacco and alcohol control.

Full text of the study, as well as links to the power point and video version of the report may be accessed here.

The International Centre for Science in Drug Policy (ICSDP), based in Vancouver, Canada, is “an international network of scientists, academics, and health practitioners committed to improving the health and safety of communities and individuals affected by illicit drugs.”

37 thoughts

  1. How many more studies are going to come to this same conclusion before we finally see the government repeal their stupidity? (well, at least this part of it anyway…)

  2. Thank you science! Activists have been saying this for decades now only to be brushed off as the lunatic fringe. Now we all see who the true lunatics are and why.

    “[M]arijuana prohibition has done far more harm to far more people than marijuana ever could.” That was true when US conservative author and commentator, William F. Buckley, Jr., first stated it and it is true today.

  3. The drug war is not a failure; rather it works perfectly for its intended purposes. It generates billions of dollars for government agencies at all levels, employing millions of people. It created and supports whole industries such as drug testing, and has enhanced the drug rehabilitation industry. The drug war also protects other industries such as tobacco and alcohol, and even legal medical drug companies. It also protects the lumber and oil industries. The drug war even drives this Nation’s foreign policy. The drug war also funds gang violence at home and terrorists abroad, creating even more American jobs needed to combat these threats. The drug war also has the added benefit of conveniently side stepping Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms and liberties, allowing givernment to control even the most intimate facets of citizen’s lives, increasing government’s control. The drug war also guarantees a ready supply of drugs for children, guaranteeing an endless supply of new participants to support the prison industry, lawyers, law enforcement, etc. The drug war also provides government the opportunity to marginalize those considered undesireable, take away their ability to vote, find employeement, get an education, take their children, sieze their property, etc. Who in their right mind could possibly want to do away with this cash cow, and return to a time when there was no illegal drug use in this country?

  4. Of course it has failed – and – so have those who gotten on the circus train with them. Now lets try something that works. Shit or get off the pot!

  5. And now the truth comes out again.When is the government going to work for the people again and not all of the special interest groups and corporate intities.LEGALIZE< TAX < REGULATE < AND EDUCATE < this is the solution.Either that or complete prohibition on all drugs including pharmacutical drugs .And especially alcohol and cigarettes.

  6. The prohibition machine will simply use this data to prove that the war on drugs is not big enough, or viscious enough, or that penalties are not stiff enough…what else would they say..they have NEVER looked at any other reports with ANY intellectual honesty, why would they start now? There is too much money to be made in prohibition. Save your seeds and hide your weed, we got a long way to go.

  7. I bet we will never hear the media cover this, and if it does, the government will simply say “that isnt true”….. WITHOUT saying how it isnt……

    Land of the free my @$$.

  8. O! Now this is a great report, this with that new DVD, What If Cannabis Cures Cancer will surely open a lot of eyes. The report states that the US Drug Policy is harmful to the citizens and to the stability of Nations. It is a failure on a scale not seen before. This could end up being the longest held lie the US Government ever told, it not the biggest but perhaps the longest.
    This drug policy is broken, it don’t work, it is like a car with 5 flat tires, except our wayward government is driving down our streets at break neck speed. These folks are Rickless, they are endangering us all. Our safety is the further from their mind then the moon.
    We must support CA and every State who choose to break this injustice. Vote to support Prop 19 and lets remind the US Government employees who the boss is, US, the people, remember the backbone of America? Yes, that US, people like those in CA that want to do an end to this injustice.
    They can not stop this train and it’s coming down the track Washington, hear CA coming, I do!

  9. You would be amazed how my californians haven’t even heard of Prop 19 yet it still has been ahead in the polls from the begining. TELL YOUR FRIENDS, NEIGHBORS, RELATIVES to vote “YES” on prop 19. this November!

  10. US Government Data Shows That Marijuana Prohibition Has “Clearly Failed To Achieve Its Stated Objectives”.

    Well, that covers the stated “official” government objectives, but what about the unstated “unofficial” government objectives?

    What percentage of local, state, and federal LEOs are specifically tasked with Prohibition 2.0 and War on Drug operations, and what has been the rate of growth of “drug warriors” from the beginning to current force numbers?

    What are the total number of persons arrested for simple drug possession and non-violent low-level street dealers from the beginning of Prohibition 2.0 and the War on Drugs to current numbers, and what percentage are minority offenders?

    What percentage of persons arrested for simple drug possession and non-violent low-level street dealers have had their civil rights abrogated, such as denial of voting, or barred from attending college, or ability to travel abroad stripped from them, or the forfeiture of all their assets?

    A rhetorical question, but what single metric of criminal activity has given rise to that most profitable of LEO adjudications, the private prison and related slave-wage labor industries?

    Another rhetorical question, but which LEO activity at local, state, and federal level has done the most to justify the militarization of police forces for 30 years prior to 9/11/2001, providing a real financial boon to the Military Industrial Complex and their defense contractors?

    Finally, here’s an “open book” homework assignment: “In what manner have certain private industry groups otherwise profited from the government’s long War on Drugs and Prohibition 2.0? Identify those industries.
    ( Hint: use )

  11. Just dont get it…The government can lie about the “harms” of cannabis, yet they dont lie about statisics? WTH? Are they afraid of getting caught? No that cant cant be…they fly drugs into our country to sell on the streets..just ask freeway ricky. So why dont they lie about their”successes” on white paper? Oh thats right..they cant be succesful at stopping cosumption of cannabis…it would end their jobs…

  12. It could help to show the 2010 DVD, What If Cannabis Cures Cancer. This shows the depth our government has gone to protect a lie and harm those they vowed to protect. The drug policy of the American Governmnet are a train wreck, a train wreck your government would like you not to see. They have gone wrong, they have continued to go wrong even after getting an education. This government still wants you to believe the earth is flat and the sun orbits around the US Government. They want you to believe there is no one other than us in all of space and that they own it too.
    I for one have had enough of these fools.
    Vote CA, Vote and get the word out, vote yes is a vote for liberty.

  13. “Instead, the estimated annual prevalence of cannabis use among US grade 12 students rose from 27% in 1990 to 32% in 2008, whereas among 19- to 28-year-olds it went from 26% in 1990 to 29% in 2008.”

    These are propaganda statistics to make it look like there are less people who have used marijuana than there really are. The fact is that 54% of Americans have tried marijuana by age 21, and over 85% of people will have tried it at least once by age 50.

    You don’t even have to look much past Wikipedia or Erowid for the real numbers, so why is ICSDP citing these bullshit stats.

  14. Further Along

    When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

    I VOTE YES Proposition 19

  15. Awesome comments Mike Stroup and David762! And Nic, let’s not forget this quote from the same sacred document:

    “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.”

    We should also ask why all these planes full of cocaine that crashed in Central America in the last few years have ties to the CIA.

  16. Proposition 19

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. –Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

    Proposition 19 Marks The Beginning

  17. Nic 26., I don’t have access to any bud; in fact, I don’t even know any kids. “Give me liberty, or give me death.”

  18. So you don’t like beer, In The Name Of Liberty, The People Mark Proposition 19 as The New Tea Party

    This is what America is about.

    The Freedom to vote, The Freedom to change.


  19. People don’t oppose things unless it opposes their interests. Their interests are to keep it illegal for illegal reasons – or – just because they’re too damned ignorant to the facts. Ignorance scares people.

  20. Your all sheep, I have a bridge for sale and I’m sure you’ll all be bidding on it. The only catch is the feds will laugh at you for claiming ownership and the local government, at any time, can prevent you from using it. Still wanna buy it, it’s better then nothing right?? I’m sick of you portraying me as “us against them” I have been using marijuana everyday for over 20 years and do not consider myself us or them, but I certainly don’t agree with you on this one.

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