Decriminalization of marijuana has received substantial attention over the last several decades. Decriminalization means that possession is not subject to criminal sanctions but instead punishable only by a civil fine. Trafficking, and selling or distributing to minors, remain subject to standard criminal penalties.
Proponents suggest that decriminalization has several beneficial consequences, including budgetary savings for state and local governments, improved welfare for marijuana users, and an improved allocation of criminal justice resources. Opponents suggest that decriminalization produces a substantial increase in marijuana use along with increased crime and other negative effects.
This report examines two effects of decriminalization: the impact on government budgets and the impact on marijuana use.
The report estimates that decriminalization of marijuana in Massachusetts would produce an annual savings in law enforcement resources of approximately $29.5 million.
This report also reviews evidence from other states and countries on the effects of marijuana decriminalization on marijuana use. This evidence provides no indication that decriminalization leads to a measurable increase in marijuana use.