NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 23, 2005

The federal government spends about $35 billion a year on the "war on drugs," mainly on prosecuting marijuana users; but the crackdown has done little to curtail the supply of and demand for drugs, says USA Today.

Critics say that resources are targeted too much toward marijuana, which is considered a harmless drug when compared to heroin, cocaine and methamphetamines -- known to produce violent behavior.

  • Police make nearly 700,000 pot-related arrests each year, accounting for nearly half of all drug arrests.
  • From 1990 to 2002, marijuana arrests increased 113 percent, compared to arrests for other drugs, which increased just 10 percent.
  • Twenty percent of marijuana arrests are for possession, not dealing.
  • o Additionally, African-Americans who represent only 14 percent of marijuana users, account for 30 percent of arrests; this creates resentment in the minority community toward law enforcement officials.

Furthermore, targeting marijuana usage has had a negligible effect on its supply and demand, according to USA Today:

  • When adjusted for inflation, the price of pot has fallen by 16 percent since 1992, but potency has doubled.
  • Overall marijuana use has remained the same since 1990, but daily use by high school seniors has nearly tripled, from 2.2 percent to 6 percent.

There is no doubt that today's more potent forms of marijuana carry health and social risks, such as depression and schizophrenia, but it is time to evaluate whether the current drug policy is working, says USA Today.

Source: Editorial, ?War on Drugs Gone to Pot,? USA Today, May 18, 2005.

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