The Facts About Marijuana
1. Our current legal drugs—alcohol and tobacco—are examples of commercialized products with addiction potential and high usage rates fueled by easy availability. Although these products are taxed, neither produces a net economic benefit to society. The healthcare and criminal justice costs associated with alcohol and tobacco far surpass the tax revenue they generate, and little of the taxes collected on these substances is contributed to the offset of their substantial social and health costs.
2. Federal excise taxes collected on alcohol in 2007 totaled around $9 billion and states collected around $5.6 billion. Taken together, this is less than 10 percent of the more than $185 billion in alcohol-related social costs such as healthcare, lost productivity, and criminal justice system expenses.53 Nor does tobacco carry its economic weight when taxed: each year, tobacco use generates only about $23 billion in taxes but results in more than $183 billion per year in direct medical expenses as well as lost productivity.
3. Advocates of legalization say the costs of prohibition, mainly through the criminal justice system, place a great burden on taxpayers and governments. While there are certainly costs to current prohibitions, legalizing drugs would not cut costs associated with the criminal justice system.
4. Marijuana use is the highest it has been in 8 years. In 2010, daily marijuana use increased significantly among all three grades surveyed (8th, 10th, and 12th graders) in the Monitor The Future (MTF) study.
5. One in 11 people who start marijuana use will become addicted—a rate that rises to one in six when use begins during adolescence. In 2009, marijuana was involved in 376,000 emergency department visits nationwide.
6. Making matters worse, confusing messages being conveyed by the entertainment industry, media, proponents of “medical” marijuana, and political campaigns to legalize all marijuana use perpetuate the false notion that marijuana use is harmless and aim to establish commercial access to the drug. This significantly diminishes efforts to keep our young people drug free and hampers the struggle of those recovering from addiction.
7. The Administration steadfastly opposes drug legalization. Legalization runs counter to a public health approach to drug control because it would increase the availability of drugs, reduce their price, undermine prevention activities, hinder recovery support efforts, and pose a significant health and safety risk to all Americans, especially our youth.
8. There is no substitute for the scientific approval process employed by the FDA. For a drug to be made available to the public as medicine, the FDA requires rigorous research followed by tests for safety and efficacy. Only then can a substance be classified as medicine and prescribed by qualified health care professionals to patients.
9. In the wake of state and local laws that permit distribution of “medical” marijuana, dozens of localities have been left to grapple with poorly written laws that bypass the FDA process and allow marijuana to be used as a so-called medicine. John Knight, director of the Center for Adolescent Substance Abuse Research at Children’s Hospital Boston, recently wrote: “Marijuana has gotten a free ride of sorts among the general public, who view it as non-addictive and less impairing than other drugs. However, medical science tells a different story.”
10. Similarly, Christian Thurstone, a board-certified Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, an Addiction Psychiatrist, and also an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Colorado, said: In the absence of credible data, this debate is being dominated by bad science and misinformation from people interested in using medical marijuana as a step to legalization for recreational use. Bypassing the FDA’s well-established approval process has created a mess that especially affects children and adolescents. Young people, who are clearly being targeted with medical marijuana advertising and diversion, are most vulnerable to developing marijuana addiction and suffering from its lasting effects.
11. Outside the context of Federally approved research, the use and distribution of marijuana is prohibited in the United States.