Chart of the Day: Marijuana Prices Have Plummeted in Washington State

Via Keith Humphreys, here’s the result of Washington State’s legalization of marijuana in July 2014:

Humphreys adds this comment:

Prohibition imposes huge costs on drug producing industries that are passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices. These higher prices are one of the principal reasons (the others being stigma and fear of punishment) that illegal drugs are used so much less frequently than legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco. Marijuana is a rare example where we can see the impact of legalizing a drug in real time, which shows that were the production and sale of heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine also legalized, those drugs would also become dramatically cheaper to consume.

This is a two-sided coin, of course. Advocates for legalization of hard drugs like cocaine and heroin will hail it: if we stop the drug war, prices will fall and drug users will be less likely to resort to crime to raise money for their next hit. Conversely, drug warriors will point out that this shows just how effective drug prohibition is: it keeps prices high and therefore reduces overall consumption.

So which do you want? Higher consumption but (maybe) lower crime? Or lower consumption with (maybe) higher crime? Marijuana doesn’t cause much crime or much societal damage in the first place, so it’s a relatively easy case. But how about meth? Or opioids? That’s a little harder.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend