"Advocates of marijuana prohibition argue that it reduces marijuana trafficking and use, thereby discouraging crime, improving productivity, and enhancing public health. Critics counter that prohibition has only modest effects on trafficking and use and causes many problems typically attributed to marijuana itself." By any rational analysis, marijuana should be legalized in a tax regulated market to produce billion in tax revenues, eliminate billions in government expenditures, treat patients suffering from illnesses, and reduce the violence concomitant with prohibition.
The latest survey data of the Department of Health and Human Services for 1991 indicates that nearly 10 million Americans are regular users; about 20 million are occasional users, and more than one-third of the population age 12 and over have experimented with the drug. The demand for marijuana has created a multi-billion dollar industry, and as of 1992, it is the nation's leading cash crop (Gettman 2007). Using conservative price estimates derived from federal surveys, domestic marijuana production has a value of $35.8 billion, more than corn and wheat combined, easily making it America's largest and most lucrative cash crop. Analyzing the size and scope of any black market presents of a number of difficulties in that participants have vested interest in obscuring their activities. The marijuana market is no exception. Activists on both sides of the issue may be quick to estimate the size of the market, yet the partisan nature of the debate calls into question the plausibility of the numbers. Consequently, these estimates should be used as baselines from which to assess the impact of possible policy prescriptions.
According to estimates by Harvard University economist Jeffrey Miron, replacing marijuana prohibition with a system of taxation and regulation would save between $10 billion and $14 billion per year in reduced government spending and increased tax revenues (Gettman 2007).12 Another researcher recently estimated that the revenue lost from our failure to tax the marijuana industry could be as high as $31 billion! Based on a retail price of $7.87 a gram, a pound of marijuana is worth $3,570 and the commodity is worth $7,871,480 per metric ton. At this price the annual supply of 14,349 mt of marijuana available in the United States is worth $112.9 billion. A more accurate estimation of lost tax revenue can be acquired through examination of current levels of government revenue as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The diversion of funds into the illicit market in marijuana costs government $31.1 billion in tax revenue annually (Gettman 2007). Local, state, and the federal government receive 28.7% of the GDP in tax revenue. If the money spent on marijuana were instead spent on legal goods, it would add $112.9 billion to the GDP, producing $11.6 billion in revenue to state and local governments, $7.2 billion to the federal government in social security and other social insurance premiums, and $12.2 billion in other federal tax revenue. Marijuana Prohibition results in the creative destruction of $31.1