Useful Facts

  • According to the 2006 edition of the FBI’s About Crime in the United States (released on September 24, 2007), about 9,000 people were arrested in Massachusetts in 2006 for marijuana offenses. Between 1995 and 2002 this rate fell from 11,600 to the present level, which has been unchanged since. 1
  • Nationally 829, 625 were arrested; 90% for simple possession. This was an all time record, as it is just about every year. (Annual marijuana arrests have nearly tripled since the early 1990s.) Costs to the taxpayer are more than $10 billion annually.
  • Total U.S. marijuana production is 14,349 metric tons annually, with a retail value of $113 billion. In diverting this amount from the legal economy, prohibition costs at least $31.1 billion in lost tax revenues annually. 2
  • Exposure to drug prevention programs and the threat of criminal legal sanctions play little if any role in determining whether or not Americans use cannabis or other drugs.3
  • Even when controlling for differences in use, Blacks are arrested at more than twice twice the rate of whites for marijuana possession, nationally. And the disparity is growing. 4
  • Use by high school seniors in decrim and non-decrim states was compared in a federally funded study. It concluded, “decriminalization has had virtually no effect either on the marijuana use or on related attitudes and beliefs about marijuana use among American young people in this age group.”5
  • On the “gateway” theory, a federally funded study concluded “there is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs.”6
  • Marijuana is not harmless, but other, far more dangerous drugs are tolerated and regulated (i.e., alcohol, nicotine, aspirin.) There are no documented deaths from marijuana.7
  • Eleven states, constituting about 32% of the U.S. population, have decriminalized marijuana to some extent: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon.
  • California has saved over 100 million dollars annually in direct law enforcement and criminal justice costs since decriminalizing in 1976.8
  • Smoking marijuana is not a fringe activity of those on the margins of American society. In reality, it is extremely common. In Massachusetts, about 400,000 people smoked marijuana this month.9 They would fill a dozen Fenway Parks.

“For the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie–deliberate, contrived and dishonest– but the myth–persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the clichés of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”

— John F. Kennedy. Commencement Address at Yale University, June 11, 1962

  • 1. To check these numbers go the Persons Arrested page on the FBI website, scan down to the “Arrest Table”, make a note of the number associated with “possession:marijuana,” and finally divide that into the total of Drug abuse violations. The Massachusetts numbers can be found here.
  • 2. Marijuana Production in the United States (2006) By Jon Gettman, Ph.D.
  • 3. A report by NORML on the article “Investigating how Decisions to use Marijuana Change over Time” in Substance Use & Misuse.
  • 4. “U.S. Marijuana Arrests (Part Two: Racial Differences in Drug Arrests)“, J.Gettman, Ph.D., 2000.
  • 5. “Marijuana Decriminalization: The Impact on Youth, 1975-1980,” Monitoring the Future Occasional Paper 13, L.Johnston, J. Bachman, and P. O’Malley; Ann Arbor, MI: Institute for Social Research, 1981; Pp. 27-29.
  • 6. “Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base,” Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, 1999.
  • 7. (Over 430,000 people die of tobacco-related illness, 100,000 from alcohol-related illness or accident, 16,500 from nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin annually in the U.S.) National Vital Statistics Report, Center for Disease Control, 1999.
  • 8. “Savings in California Marijuana Law Enforcement Costs Attributable to the Moscone Act of 1976 — A Summary,” Aldrich, Michael R. Ph.D.,and Mikuriya, Tod M.D.; Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 1988.
  • 9. National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, SAMHSA, Office of Applied Studies, 1999.