In spite of hundreds of thousands of arrests, billions of dollars spent and countless hours devoted, marijuana prohibition efforts in the United States have once again failed to curb the drug’s supply and demand.
Usage and availability rates of the drug have remained virtually unchanged, according to the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health, released recently by the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Our California marijuana lawyers learned that while overall, usage increased by about 0.5 percent from 2012 to 2013, while use by teens between the ages of 12 and 17 dipped by about 0.75 percent. Essentially, the only thing the government had done by keeping the drug illegal is allow violent drug cartels to retain widespread control over the industry.
This is nothing necessarily groundbreaking. Most Americans recognize marijuana prohibition as a failed venture. And yet, it continues to go on.
While the survey reported a slight increase in regular usage over the past year, usage rates have been on a steady incline for the last five years.
In what we hope will mark a significant shift in approach, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder recently announced that the Justice Department won’t challenge states that have legalized recreational use of small amounts of the drug or those states that have approved medical marijuana – so long as those states take strict measures to keep the drugs out of the hands of children and otherwise have strong regulatory actions in place.
While California was the first state to legalize the drug for medicinal purposes, 10 others followed suit, with two of those – Washington state and Colorado – having recently approved the drug for recreational purposes.
Dispensaries, patients and landlords in California have faced a barrage of federal enforcement action, particularly in recent years. Although the state permitted medical marijuana, the exact parameters of how it should be regulated were left largely to municipal governments, leading to a patchwork of varying degrees of enforcement. The federal government took broad liberties in their prosecution action, which continues to this day. Holder’s promise to back down unfortunately isn’t retroactive.
The recent survey revealed that marijuana is the most-used drug in the U.S., with some 18.9 million people over the age of 12 surveyed admitting to use at some point in the last 30 days.
Meanwhile, taxpayers are paying huge sums to keep the drug illegal. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation reports that nearly 44 percent of all drug abuse violation arrests are for those in possession of marijuana. Six percent are for the sale of marijuana. Half the current prison population is serving time for marijuana-related crimes.
According to the Urban Institute Justice Policy Center, the annual cost per inmate at a minimum security prison is about $21,000. Given that 56 percent of all U.S. inmates are housed in minimum security and the average incarceration time for marijuana offenders is about 37 months, were talking about roughly $15 billion annually.
And given the results of the most recent national drug survey, what, exactly, are we accomplishing?
The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.
US Government Report: Marijuana Prohibition has Failed to Meet Goals, Sept. 5, 2013, Marijuana Policy Project/The Daily Chronic
More Blog Entries:
Study: Medical Marijuana Approval Associated With Lower DUI Fatalities, Aug. 22, 2013, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyer Blog