There are many good reasons to legalize marijuana from the standpoint of social justice, including the racial disparity in cannabis convictions. But the financial costs of the War on Drugs shouldn't be overlooked. Pennsylvania, for example, spends $2.5-million each year to imprison 97 nonviolent cannabis offenders, which includes people who are arrested simply for possession.
That figure comes from Pennsylvania's Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, who has become an advocate for medical marijuana legalization. Although Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have decriminalized marijuana, the Keystone State still prohibits medical as well as recreational marijuana.
That stance comes at a high cost to taxpayers, and it diverts money that could be spent elsewhere. According to DePasquale's figures, that $2.5-million cost means Pennsylvania spends more than $25,000 annually per inmate. By contrast, the state spent only $16,235 per student in 2014.