Chronic City: Academic Study Shows Marijuana Arrests Have No Impact On Usage Rates

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The most extensive study yet undertaken on U.S. Marijuana arrests and penalties, released today, finds no relationship between Marijuana arrest and use rates. The report further finds that current penalty structures act as a price support mechanism that boosts the illegal market.

Assembled by Jon Gettman, adjunct assistant professor in criminal justice at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va., the new report claims:

• Marijuana arrests have almost doubled since 1991 -- but levels of Marijuana use have remained fundamentally unchanged

• Penalties that increase for larger amounts of Marijuana encourage consumers to make multiple small purchases, acting as a de facto price support for the illicit market

• Florida has the nation's harshest Marijuana penalties, while the District of Columbia has the highest arrest rate for Marijuana offenses

• Although African Americans use Marijuana at a rate only about 25 percent higher than whites, blacks are almost three times as likely to be arrested for Marijuana possession as whites

·• California Marijuana arrests have risen much faster than the national figure since 2003.

• Despite rising arrests and plant seizures, California had more Marijuana users in 2007 than 2003.

• In California, decriminalization of Marijuana possession saved taxpayers $857 million in 2006 (details in the California state report [PDF]).


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Photo: Marijuana Policy Project
MPP's Rob Kampia: "a failed policy... doing nothing but harm"
​ "These figures paint a devastating portrait of a failed policy that burns through tax dollars while doing nothing but harm," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) in Washington, D.C. "Most Americans agree that Marijuana prohibition doesn't work, even if most politicians aren't yet ready to publicly agree with their constituents."

Gettman's summary report is available here: Marijuana Arrests in the United States (2007).

The full Marijuana Policy Almanac includes state rankings and individual reports for all 50 states plus the District of Columbia.
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