A woman being arrested for cannabis possession

Policing cannabis costs Australia $1.1 billion every year


A new study has explored the true cost of cannabis – finding that policing cannabis is costing Australia over $1 billion every year.  

Researchers from Curtin University National Drug Research Institute have released a new study this week, confirming cannabis is costing Australia $1.1 billion annually in drug policing, prosecution and imprisonment alone. 

Unsurprisingly, this is our largest cannabis-related cost, as cannabis costs our healthcare system $700 million annually and only accounts for $560 million in worker absence and reduced productivity. 

The study also discovered that over 150,000 cannabis users meet the criteria for marijuana dependence, out of the 2 million Australians who use the drug every year. To arrive at these conclusions, researchers examined government data from July 2015 to July 2016.

In the first half of 2020, NSW police seized over $100.5 million in cannabis. However, many Australians have rightfully criticised the Australian Federal Police for spending taxpayer money to make Australia’s drug problem worse. 

An innnocent looking cannabis plant
An innnocent looking cannabis plant

While cultivating cannabis without proper equipment and quality control testing can produce potentially-unsafe crops, draconian drug laws have life long implications for those punished by them.

Here at Pondering Pot, we’ve covered a number of these cases before – including a man who was doxed by the media for carrying 3.2 grams of cannabis and a woman who faced a two-year-long court battle after supplying cannabis oil to terminally ill Australians. 

In NDRI’s statement, the studies lead researcher Professor Steve Allsop seemed to agree, saying:

I’ve worked in this field for 40 years… if someone’s found with small amounts of cannabis for personal use, we shouldn’t potentially do more harm.

While cannabis leads to risky behaviours like drug driving, Professor Allsop believes criminal consequences should only be applied after other (more rehab-related) options have been exhausted. According to researchers, it is cheaper and more effective to approach low-level cannabis offences with a ‘health response’ than a ‘criminal response’.

Although the data is certainly interesting, researchers do not believe it can determine whether decriminalising cannabis would be cheaper for Australia long term.

To read more about the history of Australia’s cannabis policing, click here.



  1. How sad that our police force and tax dollars are wasted on destroying our families, communities and nation(if you can call a colony ruled by a foreign monarchy a nation). David Heilpern has just given a great interview on why he resigned as a magistrate in lismore court house, it’s all about how unscientific, malicious, and wasteful this war is.
    When will we stop giving all our time and money to people who are destroying us?

  2. It actually costs more than that unless Qld Policing costs, far outweighs the other states and territories.
    Of the $2.6b total Police budget, as stated at a recent event by the then, Shadow Police minister, QPS Operating budget is $1bn annually.
    Of that, as per the Qld Productivity Commission report, $500m is spent on drug enforcement. HALF THEIR POLICE OPERATING BUDGET
    How then, can the total expenditure Nationally, be only $1.1b?

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