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Reason Foundation

Drug policy FAQs for the day

Skaidra Smith-Heisters
March 3, 2008, 12:07pm

In no particular order: Do state laws allowing medical use of marijuana increase overall marijuana use? No, according to statistical anaylses by Texas A&M Health Science Center researchers Dennis M. Gorman and J. Charles Huber Jr. The researchers looked at reported marijuana use in two high risk populations (arrestees and emergency department patients) in select cities in California, Oregon, Colorado and Washington before and after the states approved medical marijuana laws. They concluded "consistent with other studies of the liberalization of cannabis laws, medical cannabis laws do not appear to increase use of the drug. One reason for this might be that relatively few individuals are registered medical cannabis patients or caregivers. In addition, use of the drug by those already sick might 'de-glamorise' it and thereby do little to encourage use among others." More here. If marijuana is not highly addictive, why do people enroll in drug treatment programs for marijuana? According to the most recent data from SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 58 percent of substance abuse treatment admissions for marijuana tracked by the feds last year were the result of referrals through the criminal justice system. Additionally, 36 percent of those purportedly "in treatment" for marijuana abuse reported they had not used the drug in the month prior to their admission for treatment (and 16 percent had only used it between one and three times in the month prior). When ONDCP and others make the argument that the number of people in treatment for marijuana proves the drug should remain illegal, they're essentially saying that the number of people arrested for marijuana proves that we should arrest people for marijuana. Legalization advocates are more likely to see this data as support for our own position--that the greatest risk to marijuana users is the threat of arrest itself.

Skaidra Smith-Heisters is Policy Analyst


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