Government reports indicate that the nation's marijuana laws
cost taxpayers $41.8 billion annually. This calculation is
based on (a) a reconciliation of estimates of the annual supply
of marijuana in the United States and estimates of its overall
value and (b) Office of Management and Budget (OMB) data on
the share of the Gross Domestic Product diverted by regulatory
taxes to US Government budgets.
Government reports from the Office of National Drug Control
Policy, the Library of Congress, and other sources indicate
that the supply of marijuana in the United States is 14,349
metric tons, or 31.1 million pounds. Various price indexes
from public and private sources produce a retail price of
$7.87/gr or $3,570/lb, setting the overall retail value of
the illicit marijuana market at $113 billion.
The Office of Management and Budget reports that local, state,
and the federal government receipts represent 28.7% of the
gross domestic product as tax revenue. The diversion of $113
billion from the taxable economy into the illicit economy
deprives taxpayers of $31.1 billion annually.
According to the Uniform Crime Reporting Program of the Federal
Bureau of Investigation, marijuana arrests consist of 5.54%
of all arrests. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that
total criminal justice expenditures in the United States in
2004, for example, were $193 billion. Marijuana arrests cost
taxpayers $10.7 billion annually.
Federally-funded surveys indicate that marijuana has remained
widely available over the last 25 years. The Monitoring the
Future Survey indicates that since 1992 surveys report that
at least 2 out of 5 eighth grade students, 2 out of 3 10th
grade students, and 4 out of 5 high school seniors find marijuana
Despite marginal changes in annual data, marijuana use in
the United States has remained fundamentally unchanged in
the last decade and a half. Since the beginning of annual
surveys on drug use, now called the National Survey on Drug
Use and Health, in 1990 the average level of annual marijuana
use has been 9.3% (± 1%) of the population age 12 and
over. In 1990 10.2% of this population used marijuana in the
last year, and in 2005 annual usage was at 10.5%.
During this period the average monthly use of marijuana averaged
5.1% (± .6%). In 1990 monthly marijuana usage was at
5.1%; in 2005 monthly marijuana usage was reported by 6% of
this population. During this period monthly use of marijuana
by adolescents age 12 to 17 averaged 6.9% (± 1.6%).
In 1990 monthly marijuana use was reported by 5.2% of this
age group; in 2005 this age group reported monthly marijuana
use by 6.8%.