While the Obama Administration continues to support the drug war, consensus is continuing to grow that current prohibitionist policies are far too costly with little benefit to the taxpayers. Economists are now signing a petition stating as much:
More than 300 economists, including three nobel laureates, have signed a petition calling attention to the findings of a paper by Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron, which suggests that if the government legalized marijuana it would save $7.7 billion annually by not having to enforce the current prohibition on the drug. The report added that legalization would save an additional $6 billion per year if the government taxed marijuana at rates similar to alcohol and tobacco.
That’s as much as $13.7 billion per year, but it’s still minimal when compared to the federal deficit, which hit $1.5 trillion last year, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
While the economists don’t directly call for pot legalization, the petition asks advocates on both sides to engage in an “open and honest debate” about the benefits of pot prohibition.
This is nothing new, as economists have long pointed out the bad economic policies of prohibition, including Milton Friedman. This has not only been recognized here at OB&B (see Noted Economists Agree) but national organizations as well: Milton Friedman’s Century
Many of you may know Dr. Friedman as the Nobel Prize winning economic analyst and outspoken proponent of the economic benefits of drug legalization. You also may recall that in 2005, he lead a list of over 500 U.S. economists who supported a Harvard University report on the failed economic policies of marijuana legalization, and continued to speak out against the drug war leading up to his death in 2006.
Economists have been leading the charge on prohibition for a long time, and the American public (as well as international public) understands the economics of the drug war seemingly better than our elected officials. I don’t believe this is a trend that will continue forever. Continued pressure on the US government from international allies to economists to the voting public will eventually give way to reform.