How many people are using cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and marijuana in the United States? How much are they using? And how much are they spending? These are a few of the research questions addressed by a new RAND Corporation report on trends in the U.S. markets for several illicit substances. And according to the report, business is booming. Between 2006 and 2016, the 10 years the report examines, people consumed more and spent more on nearly every federally illicit drug. In 2016, RAND estimates total spending on cannabis, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine grew to around $150 billion dollars.
Deaths related to illicit substance use also rose between 2006 and 2016 for every drug but one: cannabis. The RAND report, geared toward federal policymakers, includes marijuana, since it, like heroin and cocaine, are Schedule I substances under federal law. But state-legal marijuana markets provide the report with its best and most reliable data, highlighting how criminalized prohibition makes it difficult to assess drug consumption and spending. In fact, the RAND report acknowledges the inadequacies of the methodology it developed in partnership with the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy. But despite its shortcomings, it also offers some crucial insights