Marijuana Enforcement in California: A Costly and Wasteful War

by D. Gieringer, CANORML

Costs of Prohibition:

The war on marijuana has not controlled drug abuse. On the contrary, the record shows clearly that the crackdown on marijuana fueled the state's disastrous cocaine epidemic. Recent studies have found that marijuana tends to substitute for alcohol and harder drugs, and that states with tough marijuana laws tend to have worse accident and drug abuse problems.

California's marijuana decrim law has been a success: The Moscone Act reduced the penalty for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana from a felony to a minor misdemeanor in 1976. Since its passage, the state has saved $90 million per year in arrest and court costs, while consumption declined to its lowest level since 1967, when use was still a felony.

Official studies have consistently called for further decriminalization, including the National Academy of Sciences (1982), the Presidential Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse (1973), and the state Research Advisory Panel (1990), which recommended legalizing personal use and cultivation of marijuana.

Marijuana legalization works. In the Netherlands, where cannabis is legally available in coffee shops, only 5% of the population are regular users, while opiate and hard drug addiction is lower than in neighboring countries. Other foreign countries, including Germany, Australia, Italy, Switzerland and France, are seriously considering the Dutch system.

-- D. Gieringer, Coordinator, California NORML, July 1993.

National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, NORML
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San Francisco CA 94114
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