When marijuana was prohibited by the United States federal government in 1937 very few Americans even knew what it was. Now, 66 years later nearly 100 million Americans not only know about, but have tried it. Out of that number 85% consider marijuana a "safe" drug. Marijuana uses range from the illegal recreational user to various medicinal uses in diseases such as AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, and multiple sclerosis, among others (Marijuana Prohibition Facts). Groups encouraging the decriminalization of marijuana in the United States argue that money freed up from the prison systems and war on drugs could be used in other areas of government interest. Medicinal use would be an alternative for heavy medications or a new approach for otherwise difficult to treat symptoms. They also argue that marijuana decriminalization would not increase marijuana use overall. The United States would benefit greatly from marijuana decriminalization.
Cultivation, possession, and distribution are all illegal in the United States resulting in 13 million marijuana arrests since 1970. Currently, it is estimated that 77,000 marijuana-related offenders are in prison right now (Marijuana Prohibition Facts). Taxpayer money is spent rapidly to arrest and prosecute marijuana law violators. Annually, $7.5 billion to $10 billion in tax money is spent on these individuals. Of those arrests, 90% were for possession alone (NORML). Incarcerating the nonviolent marijuana offenders costs the public an additional $23,000 per year per person .
(NORML). Decriminalizing marijuana would save both the federal government and the states billions in funds that could be used to fund other interests as demonstrated in the state of California with the passing of the Moscone Act in 1976. According to a study of the state justice department budget, California saved nearly $1 billion from 1976 to 1985 by decriminalizing the personal possession of just one ounce of marijuana (NORML).