The annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health released Thursday by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that teen marijuana use rates decreased nationally in 2016. Past-month use rates among adults increased slightly, but alcohol use rates among all age groups decreased, indicating the possibility that adults are substituting marijuana for alcohol.
Past-month use rates for the 12-17 age group decreased by 0.5% from 2015 to 6.5% nationally in 2016. This is the lowest level of marijuana use in this age group since 2002. The data also shows a steady decrease since 2014, when the first states to make marijuana legal for adults began allowing regulated retail sales. The full report is available here.
“Critics of legalization worry about the message being sent to youth by marijuana policy reform efforts, but the real message is that marijuana should only be used by responsible adults, and it seems to be sinking in. Regulating marijuana for adults reinforces that message and creates effective mechanisms for making it more difficult for teens to obtain marijuana,” said Morgan Fox, senior communications manager for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol, and regulation gives adults the legal option to choose the safer substance.”
In an exciting new development, the District of Columbia Department of Health issued a report that, in its conclusion, recommends the legalization of the sale of marijuana within D.C. The 32-page report calls on the District to "[i]mpose state taxes on production, distribution, and sales along with a licensed market participation, age restriction, and prohibitions on advertising and marketing to minors" and to "[u]se current regulatory models for tobacco and alcohol to base legislation to enact effective marijuana controls under District of Columbia laws".
Additionally, the report urges the strengthening of addiction recovery programs, the improvement of marijuana education--especially for expecting and new mothers--and the monitoring of alcohol and tobacco use among both users and non-users of marijuana.
The D.C. Department of Health's recommendation is highly encouraging, but is currently met with obstacles put in place by Congress. Check out our D.C. page to learn more about the situation
You can read the full D.C. Department of Health report here.
This weekend, the Waste Management Phoenix Open, one of the largest golf events of the year, will take place in Scottsdale. This tournament has been called “The Greatest Party on Grass,” based, in part, on the amount of alcohol consumed at the event. The tournament even has Coors as one of its sponsors.
In response, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol posted a billboard in Phoenix posing the question, “If beer and golf make for the ‘Greatest Party on Grass’… Why can’t adults enjoy a safer party on grass?" As you can see, it is a fun billboard. But the message is quite serious. We as a society let adults enjoy alcohol — as we should — but we punish adults who prefer a safer substance. That’s just wrong.
There has been a lot of discussion about marijuana policy during the 2016 presidential race, but there are still some questions that the candidates need to address.
In order to get some answers, we have partnered with Change.org for the launch of ChangePolitics, a mobile elections platform that enables voters to engage with the candidates on the issues they care about by asking and upvoting questions.
- Do you think seriously ill people should be allowed to access medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it?
- Do you think it should be a crime for adults to consume marijuana responsibly? Why?
- If elected, how would your administration address the current tension between state and federal marijuana laws?
- Do you think marijuana prohibition has been more effective than alcohol prohibition, less effective, or equally effective?
A study recently published in Scientific Reports compared the risk of death associated with a number of drugs, including marijuana. The results added even more evidence proving that marijuana is far safer than legal alcohol.
The Washington Post reports:
Researchers sought to quantify the risk of death associated with the use of a variety of commonly-used substances. They found that at the level of individual use, alcohol was the deadliest substance, followed by heroin and cocaine.
And all the way at the bottom of the list? Weed -- roughly 114 times less deadly than booze, according to the authors, who ran calculations that compared lethal doses of a given substance with the amount that a typical person uses. Marijuana is also the only drug studied that posed low mortality risk to its users.
These findings reinforce drug safety rankings developed 10 years ago under a slightly different methodology. So in that respect, the study is more of a reaffirmation of previous findings than anything else. But given the current national and international debates over the legal status of marijuana and the risks associated with its use, the study arrives at a good time.
Given the relative risks associated with marijuana and alcohol, the authors recommend "risk management prioritization towards alcohol and tobacco rather than illicit drugs." And they say that when it comes to marijuana, the low amounts of risk associated with the drug "suggest a strict legal regulatory approach rather than the current prohibition approach."
In other words, individuals and organizations up in arms over marijuana legalization could have a greater impact on the health and well-being of this country by shifting their attention to alcohol and cigarettes. It takes extraordinary chutzpah to rail against the dangers of marijuana use by day and then go home to unwind with a glass of far more lethal stuff in the evening.
After seeing the massive popularity of the billboards MPP posted near the stadium where the Super Bowl will take place that emphasize the objective safety of marijuana compared to alcohol, Project SAM decided to insert their outdated message into the conversation.
Uruguay and its President, Jose Mujica, have been making headlines recently for legislation to regulate the marijuana market. President Mujica has been determined to pass the law, supporting the movement throughout the legislative process and defending the policy to opponents both in his own country and abroad. Now that the law has passed, Uruguay is facing pressure from the U.N., which accuses the legislature of violating an international convention.
The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 essentially bans countries from allowing the consumption or production of specific drugs, except for medical or research purposes. The United Nations Information Service has released a document explaining how Uruguay is violating the convention.
According to the President, “the decision of the Uruguayan legislature fails to consider its negative impacts on health since scientific studies confirm that cannabis is an addictive substance with serious consequences for people’s health. In particular, the use and abuse of cannabis by young people can seriously affect their development.”
Cannabis is not only addictive but may also affect some fundamental brain functions, IQ potential, and academic and job performance and impair driving skills. Smoking cannabis is more carcinogenic than smoking tobacco.
The health claims of the U.N.I.S. are without merit. Studies into marijuana’s effect on the body show that it is safer than alcohol and has fewer long-term effects than tobacco. Furthermore, contrary to what Mr. Yans states, marijuana is not linked with cancer, unlike tobacco, which causes more than five million deaths per year.
The current U.N. drug policy and the 1961 Convention are not compatible with an evidence-based approach to drug policy. Luckily, Uruguay is not the only country looking to reform the world’s approach to marijuana. Recently, there has been evidence that the U.N. is losing support for the war on drugs. Hopefully, international policy can be adapted to reflect current knowledge surrounding marijuana and the consequences of prohibition. Until then, Uruguay and other countries looking to regulate marijuana may find an enemy in the U.N.
December 5th of this year marks the 80th anniversary of the end of alcohol prohibition in the United States. Prohibition lasted 13 years, between January 19, 1920 and December 5, 1933. Prohibition contributed to a failing economy, directly bolstered organized crime, and remains one of the biggest public policy failures in US history.
The restaurant and entertainment industries suffered under prohibition, while thousands of workers lost jobs as barrel makers, truckers, waiters, and every other job associated with the businesses of brewing and distilling. Prohibition also cost the federal government $300 million to enforce and lost $11 billion in tax revenue. The problems weren’t just economic; the laws that enforced prohibition were also filled with loopholes. One law allowed pharmacists to prescribe whiskey to patients, which resulted in a huge surge of pharmacy registrations. Another resulted in a surge of church and synagogue attendance, not because of any religious epiphanies but because wine was still allowed in religious services.
Crime surged under prohibition, with newly organized crime syndicates protecting and facilitating the new illicit market. Law enforcement officials were corrupted with bribes, and those that weren’t corrupt filled courtrooms and jails with prohibition offenders. The US started spending more money on the prison system and incarcerated citizens under a law that would be repealed after less than 15 years.
80 years later, we can see that the prohibition of alcohol was an enormous mistake. Americans actually drank more under prohibition than they did before it, and the illicit market for alcohol prompted a new era of organized crime. On this anniversary, let us reflect on current prohibition in the United States. How many tax dollars does the US forfeit in the name of marijuana prohibition? How many of its citizens’ tax dollars does the government waste by arresting non-violent offenders of that prohibition? How has this policy fostered the growth of organized crime and cartels in the United States and abroad? When will the end of marijuana prohibition have its anniversary?
Last Sunday, the New York Times published an editorial that compared marijuana and alcohol use, particularly the relative harms of the two substances and the influence people substituting marijuana for alcohol could have on road safety.
But assuming the argument that alcohol and marijuana are “substitutes” bears out, that could be good news, especially for road safety. Of the two substances, alcohol is far more hazardous.
For the most part, marijuana-intoxicated drivers show only modest impairments on road tests. Several studies have suggested that drivers under the influence of marijuana actually overestimate their impairment. They slow down and increase their following distance. The opposite is true of drivers under the influence of alcohol. [MPP emphasis added]
It should be noted that no one should drive under the influence of any impairing substance, including marijuana. Still, the overall impact on public safety due to making marijuana legal will certainly be positive.
The New York Times has a rapidly growing readership and can have a tremendous impact on public opinion. For a paper of this magnitude to recognize and discuss the respective effects of marijuana and alcohol shows real progress in the changing attitudes towards marijuana.
A series of bus advertisements have been launched in Portland, Maine in support of Question 1. On November 5, Portland voters will decide on a city ordinance that proposes removing penalties for adults possessing up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana. The ads feature adults explaining why they prefer marijuana to alcohol and ask, “why should adults be punished for making a safer choice?” You can see all of the ads here.