Despite recent political and financial problems in Europe, Germany and Austria have reportedly allocated billions of dollars towards cannabis prohibition.
Germany is spending €5.2 billion to €6.1 billion annually on anti-drug initiatives with cannabis being the prime target. Roughly three-quarters of drug offences in Germany stem from the growing or selling cannabis. Even formally progressive areas like Berlin, where possession of 10 to 15 grams of cannabis would typically be cited but not prosecuted, have become areas of zero tolerance.
In Austria, the government is continuing to throw good money at their failed war against cannabis. The Hanf Institut in Vienna estimates that the country “spends about €400 million on the persecution of some 29,000 people who commit crimes without a victim,” citing figures from the Austrian federal police.
“On average, one indictment costs €15,000, while the confiscated amount is less than 40 grams,” the institute reported. “This is the equivalent of about 100 joints—with a market value of about €320.”
A better solution may be legalization in lieu of increased law enforcement costs. It is estimated that Austria is losing out on €600 million in tax revenue from cannabis production and sales. Those figures are also based on the amount of cannabis seized by the police, so the number is undoubtedly much higher when you factor in those who haven’t been caught or those who would partake in a legal product.
Considering how much these economies are struggling, it seems odd that they would continue to throw money at a losing battle when the alternative is profiting from it. With several countries benefiting significantly from cannabis, it should be a matter of “when” and not “if” they will make strides towards legalization.