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This Is How Much Marijuana Prohibition Costs You, The Taxpayer


cannabis marijuana tax taxpayer cost prohibitionThis the end of the lengthy article, which brings up many valid arguments to make the author’s point. Read the rest by following the link at the bottom of the page.


Let us work out some arithmetic based again on FBI statistics. In 2011, law enforcement personnel arrested a massive 12,408,899 individuals. Of these, 1,531,251, 12.3%, were for “drug abuse violations.” 49.5% of these individuals were for crimes relating to marijuana. That is 757,969 people arrested for crimes dealing with marijuana. Knowing how many people were arrested in 2011 for marijuana related offenses, let us calculate the cost of this incarceration for taxpayers.

According to Urban Institute Justice Policy Center, the yearly cost for an inmate in a minimum security prison is $21,006. Let us use this figure because 56% of all inmates are housed in minimum security institutions. According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, in 2010, the average prison sentence for inmates incarcerated for marijuana abuses is 36.8 years.

With 757,969 individuals incarcerated for marijuana abuse, at $21,006 a pop, that is $15,921,896,814 to keep these individuals imprisoned for one year. At this rate, over the course of 36.8 years, $585,925,802,755 would have to be coughed up by the American taxpayer to clothe, shelter, offer medical, dental and psychiatric care, maintain, transport, and educate these individuals and maintain facilities for them to live in. This — $585 billion over more than 30 years —%

via This is How Much Marijuana Prohibition Costs You, the Taxpayer.

Source: The Compassion Chronicles


About Author

"Rick Thompson was the Editor in Chief for the entire 2-year run of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Magazine, was the spokesman for the Michigan Association of Compassion Centers and is the current Editor and Lead Blogger for The Compassion Chronicles. Rick has addressed committees in both the House and Senate, has authored over 200 articles on marijuana and is a professional photographer." Rick Thompson Is An Author At The Compassion Chronicles and focuses on all things Michigan.


  1. The best report done on the cost of Prohibition was done by Miron of Harvard (“Budgetary Impact of Ending
    Drug Prohibition”). When I interviewed him, he said that the financial gains from ending cannabis prohibition would only be modest.
    “The report estimates that legalizing marijuana would save $7.7 billion per year in government expenditure on enforcement of prohibition. $5.3 billion of this savings would accrue to state and local governments, while $2.4 billion would accrue to the federal government.
    The report also estimates that marijuana legalization would yield tax revenue of $2.4 billion annually if marijuana were taxed like all other goods and $6.2 billion annually if marijuana were taxed at rates comparable to those on alcohol and tobacco.”

    He is a strong supporter of ending Prohibition but told me that the money is about the tenth reason on the list that we should be doing it. “Ancillary benefits of legalization are naturally
    important: by eliminating the black market, legalization promises reduced crime
    and corruption, fewer infringements on civil liberties, better quality control
    for marijuana users, along with budgetary benefits.”

  2. Ouch, my head…

    I’m so very sorry to be the one to say this, but this is horrible math.

    The problem of mass-incarceration is bad — but we’re not going to change things by making mistakes while calculating *how* bad.

    +750k *arrests* each year — true enough. We cannot, however, then use that same number to calculate the costs of incarceration — not all of those +750k arrests get jail time, as Pat Cowdin aptly pointed out. So we cannot multiply 750k x $21k (avg cost of 1 year of jail-time) to calculate the cost of prohibition for the taxpayer.

    And, last but *certainly* not least — the average prison sentence for inmates incarcerated for marijuana abuses in 2010 was 36.8 MONTHS — not years. The original article from which this was excerpted has been corrected, appropriately. I strongly urge Rick Thompson to make the corrections, as well.
    I’m all for ending prohibition, but it’s not going to happen if we fail to accurately describe the systematic problems we wish to solve.

  3. The 750,000 number seems to be right, according to the FBI, but
    only a fraction see jail time. However, the real numbers are sobering
    enough. In 2010 alone, an ACLU report said, “states spent a combined total of over $3.6 billion enforcing marijuana possession laws.” If we’re going to spend that much money on something to improve our society, let’s train all those drug enforcement officers to become grade school teachers.

  4. I checked the actual report the article was citing.

    “The average prison term for drug offenders varied
    widely by drug type, from an average of 111.0
    months for crack cocaine offenders (median of 96
    months) to 36.8 months for marijuana offenders
    (median of 25 months).”

    So 36.8 months not years :) At least this typo doesn’t affect the math of the cost per year.

    I told the creator of the original article on http://www.policymic.com/ and he changed it to months and adjusted the numbers.

    Learn to read articles before you just copy and post them to your weed blog Rick Thompson.

  5. I honestly cannot believe that the average prison sentence for marijuana useage is 36 years, that is so insane. are they really still doing that?

  6. You didn’t calculate for “rate of inflation” – adding another 2.5% per year on average (except for the Reagen years when it hit 14%) – and compounding with each successive year.

  7. I think there’s something wrong with that math. Were 700,000+ ARRESTED or INCARCERATED? Those two numbers are NOT the same thing. Everyone that’s arrested does not end up going to jail.

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