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MarijuanaLegalization:

ABadIdea

MarijuanaisthemostcommonlyusedillicitdrugintheUnitedStates,withnearly17million Americansage12andolderreportingpastmonthuse,and374,000peopleenteringanemergency roomannuallywithaprimarymarijuanaproblem.1Thedownwardtrendinyouthmarijuanause duringthelate1990shasended.Accordingtothe2009NationalSurveyonDrugUseandHealth, pastmonthmarijuanauseamong12 to17yearoldsclimbed9percentfrom2008(6.7%)to2009 (7.3%),asshowninfigure1.2 Figure1 CurrentUseandPerceivedRiskofMarijuanaUse Notsurprisingly,thisincrease AmongYouth,2002 2009 coincideswithasofteningofyouth PersonsAged12to17 attitudesabouttherisksof Significantly lower thanin20022008 40 10.0 marijuana(figure1).Among12 to 35.0 34.9 34.7 34.5 34.0 33.9 32.4 35 17yearolds,theperceptionof 30.7 8.0 30 8.2 greatriskinsmokingmarijuana 7.9 7.6 7.3 25 6.8 onceamonthdeclinedfrom2008 6.7 6.7 6.7 6.0 3 20 (33.9%)to2009(30.7%). Significantly higherthan
PercentReportingPastMonthUse

4.0

lowerthanin2002 Recently,therehavebeen 10 2.0 increasingeffortstolegalize 5 %UsingMarijuanainthePastMonth %ReportingGreatRiskinSmokingMarijuanaOnceaMonth marijuana.TheObama 0 0.0 Administrationhasconsistently 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 reiterateditsfirmoppositiontoany Source: SAMHSA, 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (September 2010). formofdruglegalization.Together withFederalpartnersandstateandlocalofficials,theOfficeofNationalDrugControlPolicyis workingtoreducetheuseofmarijuanaandotherillicitdrugsthroughdevelopmentofstrategies thatfullyintegratetheprinciplesofprevention,treatment,recovery,andeffectivesupply reductionefforts.Proposalssuchaslegalizationthatwouldpromotemarijuanauseare inconsistentwiththispublichealthandsafetyapproach.
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in2006 and2008 but

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Inthehighlychargeddebateoverlegalization,manytroublingmisperceptionshavegained currency.Itiscriticalthesefalseassumptionsbeaddressedandclarifiedusingthebestevidence available.Acarefulexaminationofthefactsleadstothefollowingconclusionsaboutthedangers ofmarijuanauseandthelikelyconsequencesoflegalization:


ONDCPseekstofosterhealthyindividualsandsafecommunitiesbyeffectively leadingtheNationsefforttoreducedruguseanditsconsequences. October 2010

PercentReportingGreatRisk

Marijuanauseisharmfulandshouldbediscouraged
Marijuanauseisassociatedwithdependence,respiratoryandmentalillness,poormotor performance,andimpairedcognitiveandimmunesystemfunctioning,amongother negativeeffects.4 Marijuanaintoxicationcancausedistortedperceptions,difficultyinthinkingandproblem solving,andproblemswithlearningandmemory.5 Studieshaveshownanassociationbetweenchronicmarijuanauseandincreasedratesof anxiety,depression,suicidalthoughts,andschizophrenia.6 Otherresearchhasshownmarijuanasmoketocontaincarcinogensandtobeanirritantto thelungs.Marijuanasmoke,infact,contains5070percentmorecarcinogenic hydrocarbonsthandoestobaccosmoke.7

Legalizationwouldlowerprice,therebyincreasinguse
ArecentreportfromtheRANDCorporation,AlteredState,discusseshowlegalization wouldcausethepriceof Figure2 marijuanatoplummet,triggering CurrentUseofMajorSubstancesin theGeneralPopulation,2009 increasesinuseofthedrug.8 PastMonthUse(Ages12orOlder) Illegalityhelpskeeppriceshigher. 60 Andbecausedruguseissensitive 51.9 50 toprice,especiallyamongyoung people,higherpriceshelpkeep 40 9 useratesrelativelylow. 30 23.3 Useofthelegalsubstances 20 alcoholandtobaccofaroutpaces 10 6.6 theuseofmarijuana(figure2),a 0 strongindicationthatlawsreduce Marijuana Cigarettes Alcohol theavailabilityandacceptabilityof substances. Ourexperiencewitheventightly
regulatedprescriptiondrugs,suchasOxycontin,showsthatlegalizingdrugswidens
availabilityandmisuse,evenwhencontrolsareinplace.

PercentReportingPastMonthUse
Source: SAMHSA, 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (September 2010).
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Taxrevenuewouldbeoffsetbyhighersocialcosts
Thecoststosocietyofalcoholandtobaccosubstancesthatarelegalandtaxedare muchgreaterthantherevenuetheygenerate. Federalexcisetaxescollectedonalcoholin2007totaledaround$9billion;statescollected around$5.5billion.Combined,theseamountsarelessthan10percentoftheestimated $185billioninalcoholrelatedcoststohealthcare,criminaljustice,andtheworkplacein lostproductivity.10 Tobaccodoesnotyieldnetrevenuewhentaxed.Eachyear,Americansspendmorethan $200billiononthesocialcostsofsmoking,butonlyabout$25billioniscollectedintaxes.11

Legalizationwouldfurtherburdenthecriminaljusticesystem
Legalizingmarijuanawouldincreaseuseofthedrugand,consequently,theharmitcauses, thusaddingtotheburdenonthecriminaljusticesystem.Arrestsforalcoholrelated crimes,suchasviolationsofliquorlaws,publicdrunkenness,anddrivingunderthe
ONDCPseekstofosterhealthyindividualsandsafecommunitiesbyeffectively leadingtheNationsefforttoreducedruguseanditsconsequences. October 2010

influence,totalednearly2.7millionin2008.Marijuanapossessionarrestsundercurrent lawsin2008totaledaround750,000.12 Mostpeoplewhoseonlycrimeismarijuanapossessiondonotgotoprison.Asurveybythe BureauofJusticeStatisticsshowedthat0.7%ofallstateinmateswerebehindbarsfor marijuanapossessiononly(withmanyofthempleadingdownfrommoreseriouscrimes).13 Otherindependentresearchhasshownthattheriskofarrestforeachjoint,ormarijuana cigarette,smokedisabout1arrestforevery12,000joints.14

Legalizationwoulddolittle,ifanything,tocurbdrugviolence
Marijuanaaccountsforonlyaportionoftheproceedsgainedbycriminalorganizationsthat profitfromdrugdistribution,humantrafficking,andothercrimes,solegalizingmarijuana wouldnotdeterthesegroupsfromcontinuingtooperate. Underthemostcommonlyproposedlegalizationregimeonethatimposeshightaxeson marijuanaviolentdrugcartelswouldsimplyundercutlegalpricestokeeptheirmarket share.Withincreaseddemandformarijuanaresultingfromlegalization,thesegroups wouldlikelygrowstronger.
SAMHSA,2009NationalSurveyonDrugUseandHealth(September2010). DrugAbuseWarningNetwork(DAWN),SAMHSA,2010.Foundathttps://dawninfo.samhsa.gov/ 2 SAMHSA,2009NationalSurveyonDrugUseandHealth(September2010). 3 SAMHSA,2009NationalSurveyonDrugUseandHealth(September2010). 4 SeeMoore,B.A.,etal,RespiratoryeffectsofmarijuanaandtobaccouseinaU.S.sample,JournalofGeneralInternalMedicine20(1):3337,2005. AlsoseeTashkin,D.P.,Smokedmarijuanaasacauseoflunginjury,MonaldiArchivesforChestDisease63(2):93100,2005.Otherevidenceonthe effectofmarijuanaonlungfunctionandtherespiratorysystem,andthelinkwithmentalillness,canbefoundinexpertreviewsofferedbyHall W.D,andPacula,R.L.(2003),Cannabisuseanddependence:Publichealthandpublicpolicy.Cambridge,UK:CambridgeUniversityPress.,andRoom, R.,Fischer,B.,Hall,W.,Lenton,S.,andReuter,P.(2009),CannabisPolicy:Movingbeyondstalemate,TheGlobalCannabisCommissionReport,the BeckleyFoundation.Roometal.write,Cannabisuseandpsychoticsymptomsareassociatedingeneralpopulationsurveysandtherelationship persistsafteradjustingforconfounders.Thebestevidencethattheseassociationsmaybecausalcomesfromlongitudinalstudiesoflarge representativecohorts.Further,onpage26,theywrite:animalstudiessuggestthathighdosesofcannabisextractsandofTHCimpair immunefunctioning.AlsoseeDegenhardt,L.&Hall,W.(2006),Iscannabisacontributorycauseofpsychosis?CanadianJournalofPsychiatry,51: 556565.Amajorstudyexaminingyoungpeopleand,importantly,asubsetofsiblingpairswasreleasedinFebruary2010andconcludedthat marijuanauseatayoungagesignificantlyincreasedtheriskofpsychosisinyoungadulthood.SeeMcGrath,J.,etal.(2010),Associationbetween cannabisuseandpsychosisrelatedoutcomesusingsiblingpairanalysisinacohortofyoungadults,ArchivesofGeneralPsychiatry. 5 PopeHG,GruberAJ,HudsonJI,HuestisMA,YurgelunToddD.Neuropsychologicalperformanceinlongtermcannabisusers.ArchGenPsychiatry 58(10):909915,2001. 6 MooreTH,ZammitS,LingfordHughesA,etal.Cannabisuseandriskofpsychoticoraffectivementalhealthoutcomes:Asystematicreview.Lancet 370(9584):319328,2007. 7 Hoffman,D.;Brunnemann,K.D.;Gori,G.B.;andWynder,E.E.L.Onthecarcinogenicityofmarijuanasmoke.In:V.C.Runeckles,ed.,RecentAdvances inPhytochemistry.NewYork:Plenum,1975. 8 BeauKilmer,JonathanP.Caulkins,RosalieLiccardoPacula,RobertJ.MacCoun,PeterH.Reuter,AlteredState?AssessingHowMarijuana LegalizationinCaliforniaCouldInfluenceMarijuanaConsumptionandPublicBudgets,RAND,2010. 9 Forexample,see:Williams,J.,Pacula,R.,Chaloupka,F.,andWechsler,H.(2004),AlcoholandMarijuanaUseAmongCollegeStudents:Economic ComplementsorSubstitutes?HealthEconomics13(9):825843.;PaculaR.,Ringel,J.,Suttorp,M.andTruong,K.(2008),AnExaminationofthe NatureandCostofMarijuanaTreatmentEpisodes.RANDWorkingPaperpresentedattheAmericanSocietyforHealthEconomicsAnnualMeeting, Durham,NC,June2008.Jacobson,M.(2004),BabyBoomsandDrugBusts:TrendsinYouthDrugUseintheUnitedStates,19752000,Quarterly JournalofEconomics119(4):14811512. 10 Seehttp://www.taxpolicycenter.org/taxfacts/displayafact.cfm?Docid=399.AlsoHarwood,H.(2000),UpdatingEstimatesoftheEconomicCostsof AlcoholAbuseintheUnitedStates:Estimates,UpdateMethodsandData.ReportpreparedfortheNationalInstituteonAlcoholismandAlcohol Abuse. 11 Stateestimatesfoundathttp://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/31/weekinreview/31saul.html?em;Federalestimatesfoundat https://www.policyarchive.org/bitstream/handle/10207/3314/RS20343_20020110.pdf;Alsosee http://www.tobaccofreekids.org/research/factsheets/pdf/0072.pdf;CampaignforTobaccoFreeKids,seeSmokingcausedcosts,onp.2. 12 FederalBureauofInvestigation(2008)UniformCrimeReports,Washington,DC.Availableat:http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/ucr.htm 13 SubstanceAbuseandTreatment,StateandFederalPrisoners,1997.BJSSpecialReport,January1999,NCJ172871. http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/satsfp97.pdf 14 BeauKilmer,JonathanP.Caulkins,RosalieLiccardoPacula,RobertJ.MacCoun,PeterH.Reuter,AlteredState?AssessingHowMarijuana LegalizationinCaliforniaCouldInfluenceMarijuanaConsumptionandPublicBudgets,RAND,2010.
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ONDCPseekstofosterhealthyindividualsandsafecommunitiesbyeffectively leadingtheNationsefforttoreducedruguseanditsconsequences. October 2010

Office of National Drug Control Policy


www.WhiteHouseDrugPolicy.gov www.TheAntiDrug.com www.AboveTheInfluence.com

ONDCPseekstofosterhealthyindividualsandsafecommunitiesbyeffectively leadingtheNationsefforttoreducedruguseanditsconsequences. October 2010