Marijuana is a topic of significant public discourse in the United States, and while many are familiar with the discussions, it is not always easy to find the latest, research-based information on marijuana to answer to the common questions about its health effects, or the differences between Federal and state laws concerning the drug. Confusing messages being presented by popular culture, media, proponents of “medical” marijuana, and political campaigns to legalize all marijuana use perpetuate the false notion that marijuana is harmless. This significantly diminishes efforts to keep our young people drug free and hampers the struggle of those recovering from addiction.
The Administration steadfastly opposes legalization of marijuana and other drugs because legalization would increase the availability and use of illicit drugs, and pose significant health and safety risks to all Americans, particularly young people.
This Web-based resource center provides the general public, community leaders, and other interested people with the facts, knowledge, and tools to better understand and address marijuana in their communities.
This resource center will be regularly updated and expanded to address emerging issues, research, and prevention tools, and highlight successful local efforts to reduce marijuana use.
Visit Resource Center http://www.whitehouse.gov/ondcp/marijuanainfo
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.
The national pro-drug lobby spends millions of dollars to persuade voters to falsely believe “medical” marijuana laws are about compassion for the terminally ill. Because there has been little coordination between the states, the people of targeted states are unaware of the negative consequences of these bad laws until after they have been fooled into passing them. These laws are simply a back-door route to legalization, a shield for widespread recreational use of marijuana, and a springboard for a lucrative marijuana industry that can’t be regulated. Once passed, those selling these laws to voters on the premise of compassion quickly demonstrate their only real interest is capitalism.
Similar to the experience in other targeted states, virtually all of the money spent on Arizona’s “medical” marijuana initiative came from the Marijuana Policy Project. The Arizona prevention organization raised and spent a paltry $25,000 on their campaign as compared to well over $800,000 spent by the Marijuana Policy Project. Their disingenuous campaign tactics were ones used successfully in other states. Their campaign materials were printed in advance and their talking points were well rehearsed. Their main message was an impassioned plea to allow suffering, terminally ill people access to “medicine.” A beautiful young woman who had been a cancer patient was the official spokesperson. The media ate it up, giving plenty of free media time to the beautiful young cancer victim as a human-interest story (thus not a campaign message requiring equal time from our opposition). We were outspent and disadvantaged by years of propaganda. It should have been a rout.
The polls predicted a rout in Arizona. We now understand that the conducting and releasing of disingenuous polls is another one of the national pro-drug lobby’s campaign tactics. Throughout our campaign, well-funded pro-drug groups released (or encouraged the media to conduct and release) poll after poll showing that we would lose by a landslide. Apparently, the pro-drug lobby believes people (and legislators) are sheep. The simple question — “Are you in favor of ‘medical’ marijuana?” – does not reveal the deeper (and more relevant) feelings concerning the widespread recreational use, as well as increased social and economic ills, caused by these laws. This “polling” tactic is going on all over the country. The “polls” simply do not accurately reflect the opinion of the majority on the real issues.
As you know, contrary to the claims of the pro-drug lobby, state “medical” marijuana laws are not popular! (Similar to their strategy of relentlessly repeating their false mantra for 20 years that “marijuana is harmless,” they have spent millions and millions of dollars to deceive the public with disingenuous, loud and aggressive campaign tactics proclaiming the popularity of “medical” marijuana.) Marijuana advocates don’t mention that in California and Colorado, more cities and counties ban marijuana businesses than allow them! Nor do they mention that state “medical” marijuana laws create chaos, causing increased crime, youth marijuana use, and traffic fatalities and spawning a business that simply can’t be regulated.
As evidence that the public is becoming more aware of the chaos, just this past year, among other significant events:
- the people of Montana, through a grassroots campaign created by four moms, led a repeal effort (which led to repeal by the legislature, but then vetoed by the Governor, followed by the passage of a severely restrictive bill that now is being challenged in court by marijuana advocates),
- the people of South Dakota soundly rejected a “medical” marijuana initiative,
- the people of Oregon soundly rejected a “medical” marijuana dispensary component for their existing program,
- the people of California defeated a general legalization bill, despite being outspent by marijuana advocates $3.8 million to $300,000,
- the people of Arizona very narrowly passed a “medical” marijuana bill, despite the fact that opponents were outspent by advocates $800,000 to $25,000, and
- a repeal bill was introduced in the New Mexico legislature, resulting in a memorial bill requiring comprehensive studies over the next year.
AB 390, a bill to legalize marijuana in California, has gone up in smoke at the State Capitol.
Children need to grow up in safe neighborhoods and attend schools free of marijuana users and sellers. We need to continue to protect our youth from the dangers of drugs. That starts with stopping the proliferation of pot.
The demise of this disastrous California bill goes to show that our voice was heard at the State Capitol and legislators on both sides of the aisle agreed we don’t want a proliferation of WEED in our streets and communities…our churches…parks and schools.
Legalizing marijuana is bad public policy and most of the legislators know it. In my opinion, once the public wakes up and understands the dangers of legalizing marijuana, legislators voting to legalize may find themselves on the wrong side of public opinion. A lot of voters are going to let their representatives know they will not stand for legalizing such a dangerous drug.
Marijuana is a dangerous and destructive drug…and we must not rest until the pro-legalizers are defeated once and for all.
To think some California lawmakers would resort to legalizing the sale and manufacture of drugs to generate tax revenue in which to balance our state budget is an outrage!
There are many ways to get the economy moving again. Putting a flood of mind altering drugs on the streets and then taxing their sales is not one of them.
It doesn’t make sense for our legislators to ban cigarette usage in public places because it is harmful to health, while at the same time saying “yes” to marijuana smoke, which is also carcinogenic.
California lawmakers recently banned trans fat because it is harmful to health. And now they want to make marijuana legal because it’s supposedly good for consumption in certain cases?
If we say marijuana is okay for adults…then what message do do send our children? That it’s okay for them too?
How do we expect our youth to say “No!” to drugs when the adults are saying “yes.”
Why would our public policymakers legalize marijuana, tax it and then go back and use that same money AND MORE for drug prevention programs to convince kids to not smoke dope. It’s bad public policy. It doesn’t make sense.
Taxing marijuana is “blood money” plain and simple. And California lawmakers would have blood on their hands if they voted to legalize this dangerous drug.
Pot should never be legal for general use in California. It’s bad for health, it’s bad for our communities, it’s bad for kids and it’s bad for our brains.
California will go down a dangerous path for which there will be no turning back if voters legalize marijuana. To think people will smoke pot while driving on our roads, visiting our parks, walking in our neighborhoods, sitting in their backyards (with the odor wafting over our fences) and passing near our schools. It is a disaster waiting to happen of enormous consequences. Has anyone given any thought to this?
Rogue legislators like Tom Ammiano want to legalize marijuana because they say it will be a windfall for the economy. Many others think it would actually be a drain on the state budget and the root cause of many job losses due to absenteeism and lost productivity.
There is no guarantee that legalization would undercut the black market, especially if the drug is taxed. Drug pushers would simply sell it “tax free.”
Legalizers think the revenue from a new marijuana tax will solve California’s budget woes, but AB 390 specifically states that people can grow their own weed, which many will do. How do you tax that?
Where will we get the money to pay for a new watchdog agency to regulate the drug? And will employees of this same agency be allowed to smoke it during their work breaks since it will be legal?
AB 390 to legalize marijuana was passed in the California Assembly Public Safety Committee (Tom Ammiano’s committee) on January 12, 2010. Increase the use of drugs, and our public will be safer? Was there another motive?
President Obama was right to declare he wants to usher in a new era of responsibility; and that includes ensuring marijuana remains classified as an illegal drug. There’s no excuse for legalizing another harmful drug known kill through the inducements of carcinogens and mental instability.
Because marijuana is illegal at the federal level, one can imagine California becoming a favored destination for drug buyers – and an exporter of drug dealers.
The “legalizers” will argue we are overcrowding our prisons with people arrested for simple possession of marijuana. The truth is: no one ever stays in jail for more than a day just for possessing it. Anyone that is in jail or prison for marijuana either:
- Also had a role in distribution; or,
- Pled down to possession in exchange for information; or,
- Violated terms of parole/probation, and their original crime was much more serious
Legalizers say: “If marijuana is legalized we can tax it and bring in much needed revenue to our state.”
- In 2005, the State of California spent $19.9 billion dollars on substance abuse and addiction or $545.09 per capita on alcohol and tobacco. But, the State of California collected $1.4 billion dollars of tax revenue or $38.69 per capita on the sale of alcohol and tobacco products. The costs far exceeded the revenue, and marijuana would likely follow a similar trend.
- The tax revenue does not account for the additional public health concerns and costs, such as cancer risks due to smoke inhalation or increased mental illness due to prolonged use.
Legalizers say: “People with medical issues should be able to smoke marijuana to relieve pain or other debilitating symptoms.”
- There is likely medical benefit from components in the cannabis plant. This is very different than legalizing smoked marijuana.
- Medicine should never be determined by voters.
- The general public does not have the knowledge necessary to vote on whether a particular pill or patch is beneficial for the treatment of heart disease, attention deficit disorder, or diabetes. Why is this different?
- The 1999 IOM report said that smoked marijuana should generally not be recommended for medical use; we don’t “smoke” medicine.
Legalizers say: “Marijuana toxicity has never killed anyone.”
- Marijuana contributes to dependence, mental illness, lung obstruction, lung cancer, memory loss, motor skill disruption and other harms in a way that tobacco does not, and its harms are underappreciated.
- ER admissions for marijuana-related illness (psychotic episodes, etc.) exceed those of heroin.
- There have been numerous cases of fatal car and other accidents caused by someone under the influence of marijuana.
Smoked marijuana is not medicine. Pot smoke contains more carcinogens than cigarette smoke and is simply not healthy for you. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration routinely tests new drugs according to a rigorous protocol to prove their safety before they are allowed to be sold to the public as medicine. Marijuana has passed no such test.
Legalization will increase drug use and health care costs. Marijuana is an addictive drug that poses significant health consequences to its users. Recent studies have linked marijuana use to birth defects, respiratory system damage, cancer, mental illness, violence, infertility, and immune system damage.
The latest information from the U.S. Treatment Episode Data Set reports that 16.1% of drug treatment admissions were for marijuana as the primary drug of abuse, compared to 6% in 1992.
Legalization will increase crime-related costs. 75% of children in foster care are placed there because of a parent’s substance abuse. Sexual assault is frequently facilitated by substance use – some experts put the number at over 60%. The U.S. Department of Justice found that 61% of domestic violence offenders also have substance abuse problems.
All forms of marijuana are mind-altering (psychoactive). In other words, they change how the brain works. A lot of other chemicals are found in marijuana, too — about 400 of them, some of which are carcinogenic. Marijuana is addictive with more teens in treatment with a primary diagnosis of marijuana dependence than for all other illicit drugs combined.
Long-term marijuana abuse can lead to addiction; Long-term marijuana abusers trying to quit report irritability, sleeplessness, decreased appetite, anxiety, and drug craving, all of which make it difficult to quit.
Numerous studies have shown marijuana smoke to contain carcinogens and to be an irritant to the lungs. In fact, marijuana smoke contains 50–70 percent more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than does tobacco smoke. Marijuana users usually inhale more deeply and hold their breath longer than tobacco smokers do, which further increase the lungs’ exposure to carcinogenic smoke.
Driving experiments show that marijuana affects a wide range of skills needed for safe driving — thinking and reflexes are slowed, making it hard for drivers to respond to sudden, unexpected events. Also, a driver’s ability to “track” (stay in lane) through curves, to brake quickly, and to maintain speed and the proper distance between cars is affected. Research shows that these skills are impaired for at least 4-6 hours after smoking a single marijuana cigarette, long after the “high” is gone. Marijuana presents a definite danger on the road.
Emergency Room admissions for marijuana-related illness (psychotic episodes, etc.) exceed those of heroin.
Researchers at Columbia University have found that marijuana use is almost twice as high in states with medical marijuana laws compared to states without them. This, according to an article published in an upcoming issue of the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
Another recent finding underscores that disturbing message. Among youths aged 12 to 17, marijuana usage rates are higher in states with medicinal marijuana laws, says a study in last month’s Annals of Epidemiology.
This is concerning, because marijuana, according to the National Institutes of Health, is linked with dependence, respiratory and mental illness, poor motor performance, and cognitive impairment, among other negative effects. In fact, more kids now go to treatment because of a primary marijuana condition than for any other drug, including alcohol.
Read the report Columbia University Teen Attitudes on Substance Abuse.
In October 2009, Ms. Rosalie Pacula of the Rand Corporation provided the following report on the issue facing states considering ‘decriminalization’ of Marijuana.
“If use increases, known harms will also increase. We know that today over one third of self-reported past year users in the household population meet criteria for marijuana dependence.
Additionally, over 160,000 people showed up in treatment facilities with marijuana as a primary diagnosis that were not referred from the criminal justice system.
However, the cost of treating people who are dependent and seeking treatment needs to be considered in a benefit-cost calculation, as the State pays for the vast majority of drug treatment.
There also may be costs associated with treating other marijuana-induced health problems.”
Read the report in full RAND Study, Issues to Consider
Visit RAND at www.rand.org
The issues around marijuana may seem complicated, but the bottom line is simple:
- We know from analysis at RAND that legalization would cause the price of marijuana to fall and its use woould rise, especially among youth.
- With more users, we will see more addiction. Marijuana addiction is real and affects about 1 in 9 people who ever start using the drug (a number similar to alcohol). If one starts in adolescence, that number jumps to 1 in 6 users.
- If you care about educational outcomes, you need to oppose legalization because marijuana use reduces learning and memory, increases drop-out rates and lower grades.
- If you care about economic competitiveness and jobs, you need to oppose legalization because employers will not hire those who test positive for drug use.
- If you care about safe roads, you need to oppose legalization because smoking marijuana doubles a user’s risk of having an accident.
- Taxes on marijuana would never pay for the increased social costs that would result from more users. Our experience with alcohol and tobacco shows that for every dollar gained in taxes, we spent $10 in social costs.
- Legalization would jeopardize our ability to get Federal funds, because of drug-free workplace requirements and the fact that marijuana is against Federal law.
- Our experience with even tightly regulated prescription drugs, such as OxyCotin, shows that legalizing drugs widens availability and misuse, even when controls are in place.
- Legalization would not curb violence. Marijuana accounts for only a portion of the proceeds gained by criminal organizations that profit from drug distribution, human trafficking, and other crimes, so legalizing marijuana would not deter these groups from continuing to operate.
- Legalization wouldn’t even reduce the burden of the criminal justice system. Today, alcohol ~ which is legal- is the cause of over 2.6 million arrests a year. That is a million more arrests than for all illegal drugs combined.
- In places that have experimented with quasi-legalization, marijuana use and associated problems have skyrocketed. That is why the Netherlands, the U.K., and other countries, after experiencing a wave of increased use, are now reversing their policies.
Click Here: Truth About Marijuana Video.
“I started using on a lark, a dare from a best friend who said that I was too chicken to smoke a joint and drink a quart of beer. I was fourteen at that time. After seven years of using and drinking I found myself at the end of the road with addiction. I was no longer using to feel euphoria, I was just using to feel some semblance of normality. Then I started having negative feelings about myself and my own abilities. I hated the paranoia. I hated looking over my shoulder all the time. I really hated not trusting my friends.
“I became so paranoid that I successfully drove everyone away and found myself in the terrible place no one wants to be in—I was alone. I’d wake up in the morning and start using and keep using throughout the day.” —Paul
“I was given my first joint in the playground of my school. I’m a heroin addict now, and I’ve just finished my eighth treatment for drug addiction.” —Christian
“The teacher in the school I went to would smoke three or four joints a day. He got lots of students to start smoking joints, me included. His dealer then pushed me to start using heroin, which I did without resisting. By that time, it was as if my conscience was already dead.” —Veronique
Today a full 16 percent of the U.S. population is dependent on alcohol, nicotine or other drugs. Another 27 percent of the general population engages in use of these substances in ways that put themselves and others at risk, including underage and adult excessive drinking, tobacco use, and misuse of pain relievers, stimulants and depressants. For a staggering 43 percent of the nation, then — nearly every other American — addiction and risky substance use are a matter of public health.
Addiction is America’s number one health care and health cost problem. Approximately 30 percent of our federal and state health care spending is attributable to this disease. Across all government spending, the total financial cost is nearly $500 billion annually.
The extent of human misery is incalculable.