By Paul Armentano
For decades, proponents of marijuana prohibition have argued that the enactment of cannabis decriminalization or legalization — or in some cases, just the mere act of talking about legalization — will adversely impact the public’s use of marijuana or young people’s attitudes toward it.
In fact, over time the allegation that ending prohibition will inevitably increase marijuana use and societal harms has become our opposition’s primary talking point — even though there exists no evidence of this supposed cause-and-effect scenario anywhere in the world!
In March I published a white paper, Real World Ramifications of Cannabis Legalization and Decriminalization, summarizing the bulk of this evidence — gleaned from studies published in America and throughout the world. Included among them was the recent World Health Organization paper that concluded that the United States possesses the highest levels of illicit drug use among any nation in the world, while simultaneously imposing some of the globe’s harshest drug law penalties and enforcement.
Nonetheless, opponents of sensible marijuana law reform — such as those leading the charge against the passage of California’s 2010 Control and Tax Cannabis Initiative — continue to publicly make this false claim.
That is why it is refreshing to see National Public Radio, in their latest in an ongoing series of stories on the marijuana movement, take John Lovell — a lobbyist for California police chiefs — to task for claiming that passage of this November’s statewide initiative would inevitably increase use. It will not — and John Lovell knows it.
And now the rest of America knows it too.
Do Looser Laws Make Pot More Popular? Not So Far
Marijuana use is not on the rise.
At least, that’s the gist of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health done every year by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In 2008 — the most recent data available — 6.1 percent of Americans 12 and older admitted using marijuana in the previous month.
In absolute terms, that number is probably low; after all, this survey asks people to admit to using illegal drugs. But the real significance of the number is that it’s steady — it’s been hovering right around 6 percent since 2002. Drug researchers say the real percentage may be higher, but it’s probably holding steady, too.
And yet, during those same years, marijuana has been edging toward legitimacy. States with medical marijuana laws have made it possible for thousands of people to buy pot over the counter, in actual stores. Some police departments have started de-emphasizing marijuana arrests.
Critics of liberalization believe this inevitably leads to greater consumption.
“It’s axiomatic,” says John Lovell, a lobbyist for California police chiefs. He’s also helping to organize the campaign against an initiative in California to make marijuana legal for adults.
“Anytime you take a product — any product — from a less convenient sales forum to a more convenient sales forum, use increases,” Lovell says.
But cities where marijuana have been liberalized have not seen a spike in consumption, so far. In 2003, voters in Seattle made marijuana the “lowest law enforcement priority” for city police. Researchers tracked the results. Caleb Banta-Green studies drug use trends at the University of Washington’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute. He says self-reported consumption and pot-related emergency room visits remained flat, before, during and after the initiative went into effect.
Banta-Green says he gets similar reports from drug researchers in other cities.
“I’m not hearing stories on a regular basis that, ‘There was liberalization in marijuana policies, and soon afterwards, usage rates increased dramatically,’ ” he says.
Read the full story here.