(reprinted from the NORML Weekly News, http://www.norml.org)
October 15, 1998, Washington, D.C.: Marijuana remains the fourth largest cash crop in America despite law enforcement spending approximately $10 billion annually to enforce prohibition, a new report from The NORML Foundation concluded. Nationally, only corn, soybeans, and hay rank as more profitable cash crops to American farmers.
"These findings clearly illustrate the failure and futility of marijuana prohibition," charged Allen St. Pierre, executive director of The NORML Foundation. "Marijuana should be legally controlled like any other legitimate cash crop."
The report, entitled "1998 Marijuana Crop Report: An Evaluation of Marijuana Production, Value, and Eradication Efforts in the United States," estimates that farmers harvested 8.7 million marijuana plants in 1997 worth $15.1 billion dollars to growers and $25.2 billion on the retail market. The report used marijuana's wholesale value to compare it to other cash crops.
"Had the author's calculated marijuana's total value to growers by street market prices, marijuana would decidedly rank as America's number one cash crop," St. Pierre said. Marijuana stands as the largest revenue producing crop in Alabama, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. It ranks as one of the top five cash crops in 29 others. Increases in state and federal spending since 1980 to reduce marijuana cultivation demonstrated little effect in limiting overall production.
The report bases its findings on Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) marijuana eradication statistics, a survey of state police eradication self-appraisals, and published marijuana price reports. Authors calculated marijuana weight and yield estimates based on a conservative ten ounce per plant model. Had the authors accepted the government's one pound per plant standard, 1997's marijuana crop would have been worth $26.3 billion to growers and $43.8 billion on the street.
The report also found that law enforcement eradicated over 237 million ditchweed plants in 1997 compared to only four million cultivated marijuana plants. Ditchweed, otherwise known as feral hemp, is non-psychoactive and has no retail value or market value to farmers. Nevertheless, it comprises more than 98 percent of all the marijuana eradicated annually by law enforcement.
The NORML Foundation is a nonprofit educational, research, and legal foundation that explores alternatives to marijuana prohibition. Its sister organization, The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), published previous marijuana crop reports between 1982 and 1992.
Hard copies of the report are available upon request from The NORML Foundation. An electronic version of the report is available online from the NORML website at http://www.norml.org/news/index.shtml#story1.