RSS Feed for this category

New Report: U.S. Government Data Demonstrates Failure of Cannabis Prohibition (Press Release)

New Report: U.S. Government Data Demonstrates Failure of Cannabis Prohibition

Leading International Scientific Body Supports Call for Legalization and Regulation to Reduce Cannabis-Related Harms

October 7, 2010 [Vancouver, Canada] – The International Centre for Science in Drug Policy (ICSDP) today released a new research report that demonstrates the clear failure of U.S. marijuana prohibition and supports calls for evidence-based models to legalize and regulate the use of cannabis. The British Medical Journal, one of the world’s most influential medical journals, published a supportive commentary to coincide with the report’s release today.

The new report, entitled Tools for debate: U.S. federal government data on cannabis prohibition, uses 20 years of data collected by surveillance systems funded by the U.S. government to highlight the failure of cannabis prohibition in America. The report has deep relevance for California as the state prepares to vote on the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis proposition and, potentially, legalize cannabis.

“Data, collected and paid for by the U.S. government, clearly shows that prohibition has not reduced cannabis consumption or supply. Since prohibition is not working, we need new approaches to better address the harms of cannabis use,” says Dr. Evan Wood, founder of the ICSDP. “Scientific evidence clearly shows that regulatory tools have the potential to effectively reduce rates of cannabis-related harm.”

Despite dramatically increased law enforcement funding, the U.S. government’s data demonstrates that cannabis prohibition has not resulted in a decrease in cannabis availability or accessibility. According to the US Office of National Drug Control Policy, federal anti-drug expenditures in the U.S. increased 600% from $1.5 billion in 1981 to over $18 billion in 2002. However, during this period, the potency of cannabis increased by 145% and the price of cannabis decreased by a dramatic 58%.

According to U.S. government funded reports, in the face of increasing enforcement expenditures over the last 30 years, cannabis has remained almost “universally available” to young Americans. Cannabis use among U.S. grade 12 students increased from 27% in 1990 to 32% in 2008 and approximately 80-90% of grade 12 students say the drug is “very easy” or “fairly easy” to obtain.

“From a public health and scientific perspective, the evidence demonstrates that cannabis prohibition has not achieved its intended objectives,” states Dr. Carl Hart, a co-author on the report and Associate Professor of Psychology at Columbia University. “The fact that cannabis prohibition has also enriched organized crime groups and fueled violence in the community creates an urgency to implement evidence-based alternatives that may be more effective at controlling cannabis supply and access.”

In addition to describing the failure of cannabis prohibition, the report notes that legalization combined with the implementation of strict regulatory tools could be more effective at controlling cannabis use and reducing cannabis-related harms. Research demonstrates that similar regulatory tools have been successful in controlling the harms of tobacco and alcohol when strictly enforced.

The report also discusses the regulatory tools available to governments, including conditional licensing systems; age restrictions; product taxation; retailer operating and location limitations; marketing prohibitions; and packaging guidelines.

While the report urges an evidence-based approach to cannabis regulation and notes the comparative successes several European countries have had in decriminalizing cannabis use, it also notes the limitations of models in place in Netherlands and Portugal. People who use marijuana in these two European countries do not face prosecution, but the production and distribution of cannabis remains illegal and largely controlled by organized crime.

“Legalization and strict regulation are more likely to be effective at eliminating the role of organized crime in marijuana production and distribution, because the profit motive is effectively removed,” said Dr. Wood.

In his commentary published in today’s British Medical Journal (, Dr. Robin Room notes that regulatory tools developed at the end of alcohol prohibition in the 1930s can also be used today to successfully control cannabis.

“The evidence from Tools for Debate is not only that the prohibition system is not achieving its aims, but that more efforts in the same direction only worsen the results,” says Dr. Room, Professor of Social Research at the University of Melbourne. “The challenge for researchers and policy analysts is to now flesh out the details of effective regulatory regimes.” 

Dr. Wood is one of the six international illicit drug policy experts who authored the report, which has been endorsed by over 65MDs and PhDs in 30 countries who are members of the ICSDP Scientific Network.

The full report is available online at

A related ICSDP report released in April 2010 demonstrates that the illegality of cannabis clearly enriches organized crime and drives violence, as street gangs and cartels compete for drug market profits. In Mexico, an estimated 28,000 people have died since the start of the drug war in 2006. U.S. government reports have previously estimated that approximately 60% of Mexican drug cartel revenue comes from the cannabis trade.

The full 26-page report, “Effect of Drug Law Enforcement on Drug-Related Violence: Evidence from a Scientific Review,” is available online at

– xxx –

International Centre for Science in Drug Policy
ICSDP is an international network of scientists, academics, and health practitioners who have come together in an effort to ensure illicit drug policies are informed with the best available scientific evidence.  The ICSDP aims to be a primary source for rigorous scientific evidence on illicit drug policy in order to benefit policymakers, law enforcement, and affected communities. To this end, the ICSDP conducts original scientific research in the form of systematic reviews, evidence-based drug policy guidelines, and research collaborations with leading scientists and institutions across diverse continents and disciplines.


Mahafrine Petigara
Tel: +1 604 623 3007, ext 297

Marissa Bushe                                                        
Tel: +1 604 623 3007, ext. 285     

Marijuana: the Victimless Crime That Costs New York State $15 Billion a Year (Opinion)

United States
Kristin Davis opines that there is one fact that Americans, and New Yorkers, must face (as it slaps us in the face): Prohibition hasn’t stopped the use and domestic production of marijuana. Marijuana is currently used by over 25 million Americans annually and cannabis is the largest cash crop in the United States. In fact, the only thing prohibition has done for the people of New York is cost them a huge amount of money — somewhere in the ballpark of $10-15 billion a year.
The Daily Caller (DC)

End Drug Prohibition, Save $88 Billion a Year, Report Says
The savings come in two forms: reduced criminal justice expenditures and increased tax revenues from the sale of legalized drugs.

According to Miron, drug legalization would save about $41.3 billion a year in enforcement costs. About $15.6 billion in savings would accrue to the federal government, while the states would see a savings of about $25.7 million.

Legalizing marijuana alone would net $8.7 billion a year in reduced law enforcement spending and increased taxes. Legalizing other currently illicit drugs would net another $32.6 billion.

Miron and Waldock estimate that drug legalization would generate about $46.7 billion in taxes, assuming that legal drugs were taxed at rates similar to those of alcohol and tobacco. Marijuana taxes would generate $8.7 billion in revenue annually, while taxing drugs like heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine would generate $38.0 billion a year.

The report contains data on all 50 states, as well as the federal level. That makes it useful not only as an analytical tool, but also gives it the possibility of being picked up by local media around the country since media outlets everywhere can take the local angle.

In an era when Washington is drowning in debt and politicians in state houses around the country are struggling to balance budgets, this report couldn't be more timely.

Washington, DC
United States

Attempts to Ban Fake Marijuana Are Further Proof of Prohibition's Failure (Opinion)

Mike Meno, director of communications at the Marijuana Policy Project, opines that K2 bans are misguided because they don't address the core issue: millions of Americans want to use marijuana, or something that will mimic its effects, and if they're afraid about illegal means of doing so, they will continue to seek out legal alternatives.
The Huffington Post (CA)

Former Spanish Drug Czar Says Legalize Drugs


Moms United to End the War on Drugs Campaign Rally

Moms are uniting and leading the charge to end drug prohibition, just as they did with alcohol prohibition in the 1930s.  It's time to end the pointless and punitive criminalization of people who use drugs and the needless deaths caused by the illegal drug trade.

Mothers, family members, healthcare professionals and individuals in recovery will gather to bring focus to our country’s failed drug policies and the havoc they have wreaked on our families.  Please join us.

For more information, contact

Wed, 10/13/2010 - 11:00am - 1:00pm
10th St. between L & N Streets West steps of the State Capitol building
Sacramento, CA 95814
United States

Guns and Grow-Ops: Conservatives Should Be Consistent (Opinion)

Tom Flanagan, a professor of political science at the University of Calgary and a former Conservative campaign manager, opines on why he thinks conservatives should be more consistent, and re-examine their views about an issue that is more important than the long-gun registry – prohibition of mind-altering drugs.
The Globe and Mail (Canada)

Prop 19: Amsterdam Psychiatrist Blasts US Drug Czars for Distortions, Fear-Mongering (Letter to the Editor)

On August 25, the Los Angeles Times published an open editorial written by six former US drug czars referring to cannabis policies in the Netherlands while voicing their opposition to California's Proposition 19. On September 2, ENCOD president Fredrick Polak sent an open letter to the LA Times.
Men's News Daily (US)

The Relationship Between Prohibition and Homicide

Data analyzed by Harvard University's Professor Jeffrey Miron confirm the hypothesis that drug and alcohol prohibition cause increased rates of violence.
Free Market Mojo (US)

Ending the War on Drugs

Australian barrister and former political adviser Greg Barns opines on why drug prohibition is bad for Australia and calls for an end to the drug war.
ABC News Online (Australia)

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Safe Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School