Over 300 Economists Agree: It’s Time to Legalize Marijuana

Over 300 economists have signed on to an open letter to the President, Congress, Governors, and State Legislators asking them to allow this “country to commence an open and honest debate about marijuana prohibition.” The petition states that the undersigned “believe such a debate will favor a regime in which marijuana is legal but taxed and regulated like other goods.”

Notably, three of the economists who have already signed on are Nobel Laureates. Three hundred plus additional economic scholars have already signed on, you can view the list and more details here. Full text of the petition letter is below:

We, the undersigned, call your attention to the attached report by Professor Jeffrey A. Miron, The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition. The report shows that marijuana legalization — replacing prohibition with a system of taxation and regulation — would save $7.7 billion per year in state and federal expenditures on prohibition enforcement and produce tax revenues of at least $2.4 billion annually if marijuana were taxed like most consumer goods. If, however, marijuana were taxed similarly to alcohol or tobacco, it might generate as much as $6.2 billion annually.

The fact that marijuana prohibition has these budgetary impacts does not by itself mean prohibition is bad policy. Existing evidence, however, suggests prohibition has minimal benefits and may itself cause substantial harm.

We therefore urge the country to commence an open and honest debate about marijuana prohibition. We believe such a debate will favor a regime in which marijuana is legal but taxed and regulated like other goods. At a minimum, this debate will force advocates of current policy to show that prohibition has benefits sufficient to justify the cost to taxpayers, foregone tax revenues, and numerous ancillary consequences that result from marijuana prohibition.

You can view media coverage of this effort here.

97 thoughts

  1. This doesn’t even begin to cover the economic benefits of legal Hemp! Textiles, vitamins, oil, protein, plastics, building materials, etc.. Hemp is sustainable, renewable, and incredibly useful.

    It boggles my mind that it’s illegal to grow a non-drug plant in this country.

  2. Like all of the other petitons I can see this petition having no effect on weather our government will discuss marijuana prohibition honestly. If anyone in the US government discusses it it’ll most likely be one sided and anti-marijuana like the majority of the debates. We’ve been ready for the end of prohibition, we’re more ready than ever, but sadly our corrupt regime will keep depressing and lying to us about cannabis. Something tells me we’ll collapse economically before the rich greedy bastards finally legalize this incredible plant.

  3. This is a free country is nt it NOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  5. You know, it’s more than just the graph above. People who are on the fence about cannabis might be persuaded with the statistics from a different angle. I’d like to see the geographical locations of the murders plotted in little year-color-coded dots. A different color dot indicates a different year in which the murder occurred. Overlay the same geographic area of Mexico to different areas of the U.S. to make the point.

    Ask the Central Question:

    Would U.S. citizens put up with it in their communities?

    It approached the 10,000 in 2009.
    It is trending upward, with an estimated 16,466 in 2011.
    Since 2006, low ball estimate is 47,554, high ball estimate is 60,420.

    That from Wikipedia: Mexican Drug War

    To just drive the fear into people make sure you show plotted maps of the extrapolation into the future. Show estimates of future projections on the murders and how they spread to new geographic areas.

    Yeah Grandma & Grandpa, they can spread to an area near you. Just look at that pattern.

    You wouldn’t put up with that at home, so why would you put up with it in Mexico? Just because they’re Mexicans? If the same plots were done for Europe, would the Europeans put up with that kind of shit? The Netherlands will have to backpedal on Opstelten’s fuckin’ weedpass in the face of violence in areas where he is having the wietpas implemented this May. Lul! Put this show on Dutch television, and in Dutch with some actual Dutch in it perhaps, amongst North and South Americans. Perhaps English as the lead language with voice overs for the foreign moderators leading in and following up commentary on the segments.

    No one in their right mind will blame any of the countries from Mexico through to South America when they legalize cannabis outright. I mean, the Dutch have their coffeeshop system and have the best results against hard drugs. I mean, you (U.S. prohibitionists/feds) let the Dutch have their coffeeshop system but shit on the non-eurocentric populations. You give them military protection and military cooperation without making a big enough deal out of it to sever diplomatic ties.

    What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. If they can do it, any country in the world can do it. You must separate cannabis from hard drugs’ sales to the consumers to reduce the number of hard drug users. You know how it works.

    I was thinking a television show with some eye candy like an attractive woman. She’ll hypnotize the stuffy old male prohibitionists and ought to be dressed to come across as the granddaughter of the prudish old female prohibtionist.

    You know the ratings are decent, and the reruns carry the legalization message on long after the media are no longer printing the prohibitionist shit or replaying the prohibitionist soundbites.

    Take it from there.

    The Beat Goes On


    Sonny & Cher

    I love you, Sonny!

  6. Beautiful.

    Now we can only hope for the CHANGE away from ignoring the truth as history has taught us.

    I’m not getting my hopes up.

  7. This is just a bunch of professional economists and Nobel laureates. How could they possibly be any smarter that your average drug war zealot?

  8. The end of prohibition has begun.
    It won’t be long now till the wall comes crashing down.
    Support ballot initiatives to legalize marijuana.
    Legalize! Apologize! Compensate!

  9. that graph is just a graphic dude, doesn’t have anything to do with the story, which you would know if you had read more than the first two lines, or even looked at the graph…you should spend less time smoking pot and more time reading!

  10. This does not take into account the costs associated with children being put in foster care or taken out of their homes because a parent was arrested for marijuana. This does not take into account the costs of the family going on public assistance for food and healthcare because the breadwinner has been jailed. This does not include the continuing costs to taxpayers because the breadwinner is a convict and unemployable when they get out of jail. Arrest and incarceration are only a part of the costs associated with marijuana prohibition.

  11. When your country spends trillions on a war, billions combating drugs, and $800,000 on a weekend getaway to Las Vegas, I doubt the idea of saving $7.7 billion and generating anywhere from $2.4 billion to $6.2 billion is going to do much good. Couple this with the fact that large industries, namely the tobacco and alcohol industry, are in ever Congressman’s ear saying ‘Here’s a few million to keep marijuana illegal, so we don’t have to compete with it’.

  12. I agree, prohibition advocates need to prove why cannabis prohibition should be continued. Most Americans are tired of government waste, and prohibition is the biggest waste of it all.

  13. I agree, prohibition advocates need to prove why cannabis prohibition should be continued. Most Americans are tired of government waste and prohibition is a monumental waste of tax dollars.

  14. They should place a leaf on our drivers license or ID. and tax on a 6 month bases for smoking and or growing marijuana.

  15. Don’t make it entirely about smoking marijuana. Also include the benefits of the hemp plant and how beneficial it is to modern traditions such as the paper industry.

  16. The Economists are on the right track, but MARIJUANA PROHIBITION supported by FEDERALISM will just take that petition and use to wipe their asses with it. Then the 21ST CENTURY INQUISITORS and other various type of AUTHORITARIANS would complain about jobs being lost, but then again they can concentrate on the real criminals, there are enough of them to keep the prison system going and end the UNICORNIZATION of marijuana users. FDA approved drugs for BIG PHARMA would not be effected to much becuse all the side effects spewed out would create another type of FDA approved drug to combat the side effects and it all goes round and round like a circle and they never see the end. When is the government concerned about saving a buck, when they have a BLANK CHECK to do what they want under MARIJUANA PROHIBITION. HAIL TO THE MONARCHY!

  17. Yes, lets trust the economists, when have they ever been wrong? Oh wait GFC. While we are on economics, lets consider the other costs to the economy as a whole apart from direct costs associated with prohibition, e.g. healthcare, diminished workforce.

    Shouldn’t we be listening to studies about long terms effects of marijuana use as opposed to how legalising it will result in overall financial gain?

  18. There’s quite a bit more than 300 economists in the USA. So many more in fact, that it renders your starting statement illogical due to the fact that you have committed a hasty generalization fallacy. Not that I’m against it, by any means, but this article could gain more by being more credible.

  19. President Obama promise of “Hope” and “Change”

    I respectfully suggest that you issue their full pardon to all cannabis prisoners

    Mr. President Obama, I am hereby respectfully requesting that your exercise your executive privilege as President of the United States and that you grant full pardons, vindication and subsequent removal of their felony convictions of all cannabis prisoners




  20. The prohibition against cannabis is beyond ludicrous at this point.

    ps. NORML, you should use Disqus for your comments section. Makes it far easier to manage and for folks to comment

  21. Ok I used to love stiring up the question of legality on marijuana…..I did so in high school for my Senior Composition class…….recieved a D on my paper probably because my paper was a C, but I alleged that the instructor didn’t like the topic……i.e., she wanted me to select her 19 topics. At that point I was an occassional user 1-3 times per year. I went through college and had my periods where I consumed a copious ammount of marijuana.

  22. I appologize because my thought was incomplete. I belive that in a perfect world marjiuana ……..and all other “drugs” should be leagalized. We live in an imperfect world and maybe I do not consume enough marijuana regularly to view this oversight I will illustrate in my opinion. I read the article posted and the $14 million dollar benifit that we might expierence from legalization & taxation. ………..Ok if your worth this ammount of money…..then you could hire staff to guard you on the look-out for the feds as you enter your paranoia while your stoned, but this number is very weak versus the social cost of legalization. Here is my first point of contention……we need to make tobacco illegal…because of it’s burden it inflicts on the healthcare community. BTW in 2008 tobacco cost our healthcare system 193 BILLION DOLLARS Knowing that marijuana has similar effects as tobacco….(when smoked) it would be irresponsible of our government to leagalize it. My next point is that you aren’t going to stop the omnipresent crime related to the marijuana trade because the criminals would simply direct their interests to another “cash crop/ drug”. Another item to contemplate is the fact that if it is legal…… the dreaded corporations will absorb marijuana’s production, distribution, and sale. It would be very unlikely that legalization would benift the average Joe or enable them to grow their own.

  23. You want to legalize marijuana? Vote Ron Paul! He not only will stop this illegal and unconstitutional war on American citizens, but he has also said he would PARDON and RELEASE from federal prisons all non violent drug users. BOOM! Say “NO” to Obamney and vote for Freedom!

  24. Legalize marijuana? Get out of here. The prison industrial complex makes much more money jailing those who smoke it illegally now.

  25. After 30 years in the military and 28 of not lighting up, I’m back….

    History tells us that the problems decrease when a wanted drug is legalized. It’s time to have MJ regulated the same as alcohol. We have the proof, now its time to elect politicians that will recognize the facts.

  26. I have talked to a lot of Dutch about pot. None of them smoke it and they said it is the tourist doing it.

    Massachusetts passed a law that being caught with less then a ounce of pot is just a fine.

    Now the holier then thou’s will get up on their soap boxes screaming it will be the downfall of the American society if it becomes legal. Well so far Holland and Massachusetts are doing quite well.

    Of course the article talks about the taxes that can be collected but misses how much less prisons will cost due to less pot smokers being jailed and also shrinking of enforcement.

    Of course it will be people who make money enforcing these laws that will scream the loudest.

    OBTW the reason pot is illegal is due to that they found out the pot stems can be made into paper. Hurst who owned a lot of forest would have lost a lot of money so he pushed all his friends in the government to make pot illegal.

  27. Great idea … but if 74% of the American people want taxes raised on the wealthiest in the nation and that gets blocked by a filibuster … I don’t have much confidence that this will get passed either. Our representative form of democracy in badly broken.

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