The war on drugs has proven to be a complete failure on the societal level, but continues to be extremely profitable for law enforcement agencies and the prison system.
From The Intercept:
"Drug war money has become a notable source of funding for law enforcement interests. Huge government grants and asset-seizure windfalls benefit police departments, while the constant supply of prisoners keeps the prison business booming. ...
"Police receive federal grants from the Justice Department to help fund drug enforcement efforts, including specific funding to focus on marijuana.
"Asset forfeiture is another way law enforcement agencies have come to rely on marijuana as a funding source. Police departments, through a process known as asset forfeiture, seize cash and property associated with drug busts, including raids relating to marijuana. The proceeds from the seizures are often distributed to law enforcement agencies. From 2002 to 2012, California agencies reaped $181.4 million from marijuana-related asset seizures."
In the first three months of this year, John Lovell, a lobbyist for California police chiefs and prison guard supervisors, raised $60,000 for the Coalition for Responsible Drug Policies – a committee he created to defeat the marijuana initiative.
Much of the money raised came from groups such as the California Police Chiefs Association, the Riverside Sheriffs' Association and the California Correctional Supervisors' Organization.
The efforts of law enforcement lobbyists have helped defeat marijuana initiatives in other states:
"California is only the latest state in which law enforcement unions have led the opposition to ending marijuana prohibition across the country in recent years. During the 2014 election, Florida law enforcement officials successfully campaigned against a medical marijuana ballot measure by arguing that the initiative would promote a range of problems, from teenage use of the drug to respiratory disease."
Anti-legalization lobbyist Lovell was involved in a successful campaign to defeat a 2010 California marijuana initiative, but this time the results may be different:
"Supporters of legalization have already raised more than $2.25 million for the campaign — 40 times what opponents have — and recently secured a number of high-profile endorsements, including Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif. and the California Medical Association. Polls show Californians are even more in support of legalization this time around, with around 60 percent of likely voters claiming they will back the measure."
More than half of Americans now support marijuana legalization, and as more states pass medical and recreational cannabis initiatives, the public is able to see the benefits of such laws.
States such as Colorado and Washington, where recreational cannabis sales are legal, have shown that legalization creates huge amounts of tax revenues – and without any of the dire results predicted by the opposition.
In Colorado and Washington, violent crime rates have dropped and, instead of spending money prosecuting marijuana offenders, the states receive millions in extra tax revenues and fees. Tourism is up, employment is up and crime is down. Teen marijuana use has not risen; in fact, rates have dropped slightly in both states.
Legalization of marijuana has clearly been a success there, and the majority of Americans support the ending of cannabis prohibition nationally.
It seems the only people now standing in the way of legalization are the drug war profiteers in law enforcement and the prison industry.