Marijuana Prohibition Has Failed; Pot Use Is On the Rise

We need a better system of regulating and taxing marijuana for adults.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/Stepan Kapl

Despite hundreds of thousands of arrests for drug-related offenses, and the billions of dollars poured into programs to take marijuana off the streets, usage rates have remained relatively constant.

This year’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health revealed further proof that prohibition doesn’t work.

The survey, released by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) on Sept. 4 shows that, in short, marijuana prohibition has failed. The survey took its data from 70,000 people aged 12 and older, and also looked at other drug and alcohol abuse issues.

Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement that the survey reveals nothing new.

“Billions of dollars are being spent to enforce marijuana prohibition laws, yet they have utterly failed to reduce supply and demand,” he said. “By keeping marijuana illegal, our government is simply handing over control of a lucrative market to violent drug cartels instead of legitimate taxpaying businesses.”

As Huffington Post reports, "U.S. Attorney Eric Holder's announcement that the Department of Justice will let Colorado and Washington's recreational marijuana laws go into effect couldn't have come at a better time" because the survey shows that for some, marijuana use has actually increased. Overall past-month use increased by less than half of 1 percent from 2011 to 2012, and use by individuals aged 12-17 decreased by less than three-quarters of 1 percent.

“The majority of Americans agree that marijuana prohibition has failed,” Riffle said. “It is time to replace our broken marijuana laws with a more effective and efficient system of regulating and taxing marijuana for adults. Marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol, and it is time to treat it that way.”

April M. Short is a yoga teacher and writer who previously worked as AlterNet's drugs and health editor. She currently edits part-time for AlterNet, and freelances for a number of publications nationwide.

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