16 Facts About Marijuana And The U.S. Economy
$13.7 Billion Saved On Prohibition Enforcement Costs
The government would save an estimated $13.7 billion on prohibition enforcement costs and tax revenue by legalizing marijuana, according to a paper endorsed by 300 economists.
Marijuana Inmates Cost Prisons $1 Billion A Year
Marijuana Prohibition Costs Taxpayers $41.8 Billion A Year
California Marijuana Crop Worth $14 Billion A Year
Illegal Marijuana A $36 Billion A Year Industry
One-Third Of Americans Think Legalization Would Boost The Economy
Dispensary Ads Boost Newspapers’ Revenue
Mendocino Zip Tie Program Raised $600,000
Oakland Raised More Than $1 Million In Marijuana Tax Revenue
Colorado Pulls In $5 Million From Pot Sales Tax
Legal Marijuana Could Be $100 Billion Industry
Each weGrow Center Creates 75 Jobs
Majority Of States Support Taxing Marijuana
Marijuana Affects Workplace Motivation
More Than 1,000 Dispensaries In California
Denver Counts More Dispensaries Than Starbucks
Just Say No To These Outrageous Arguments Against Legalizing Marijuana
Nearly 80 years ago, the feature film “Reefer Madness” hit theaters, projecting demonstrably false anti-marijuana propaganda all over the big screen. In today’s era of legal medical and recreational cannabis, the tone of this movie is often mocked. But drug warriors are still employing many of the same hysterical arguments to prop up their campaign against weed.
When it comes to public opinion, it’s becoming clear that anti-pot crusaders are losing the battle. Recreational marijuana is for sale in Colorado, it’s coming to Washington in just a few months and over a dozen more states are considering legalization measures right now. In all, 20 states have passed laws allowing the medical or recreational use of marijuana, and with a majority of Americans now in favor of legal weed for the first time in U.S. history, the momentum is on marijuana’s side.
As more states move toward reforming pot laws, many anti-weed groups have clung to the same tired rhetoric, a decision that has only served to further marginalize them. Greater public acceptance and access to the drug mean that many of marijuana’s stigmas, once accepted as fact, now appear increasingly out of touch with reality.
While there may be more reasonable arguments to make when considering the issue of legal marijuana, these overused statements are not among them:
1. “Marijuana Is Addictive.”
It’s believed that somewhere between four and nine percent of regular marijuana users are likely to develop dependency problems, and it’s true that a good number of marijuana users later avail themselves of professional help. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported that 957,000 people age 12 and over sought treatment for marijuana in 2012. But while drug warriors have touted this as evidence of a marijuana abuse epidemic, pot policy reformers have noted that the large majority of these patients have been referred by the criminal justice system, which has expanded options for treatment over jail time or other penalties. While it’s a clear step up from imprisonment, many of the people who end up in treatment are still forced there for minor marijuana charges.
Furthermore, “not all abuse and dependency is created equal,” as the authors of Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know put it. The authors point out that while some heavy marijuana users do experience symptoms of clinical dependency and feel discomfort or withdrawal when trying to quit, kicking a pot addiction doesn’t lead to the same type of intense, dangerous physical and psychological pain that often accompanies alcohol, nicotine or heroin dependency.
2. “It’s As Dangerous As Heroin And LSD.”
Key anti-drug officials have been unwilling to budge on the supposed parallels between pot and these harder drugs. During congressional testimony in 2012, DEA Administrator Michelle Leonhart refused to answer a question about whether crack was more harmful than pot. In January, Michael Botticelli, the drug czar’s chief deputy, ducked a question about whether meth or cocaine was more addictive than marijuana, leading Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) to explain why these repeated denials and other inconsistencies in federal anti-drug policy only serve to undermine broader anti-drug efforts.
“Being unable to answer something clearly and definitively when there is unquestioned evidence to the contrary is why young people don’t believe the propaganda, why they think [marijuana is] benign,” Blumenauer said. “If a professional like you can’t answer clearly that meth is more dangerous than marijuana — which every kid on the street knows, which every parent knows — if you can’t answer that, maybe that’s why we’re failing to educate people about the dangers. If the deputy director of the office of drug policy can’t answer that question, how do you expect high school kids to take you seriously?”
3. “Pot Is A Gateway Drug That Will Lead You To More Dangerous Substances.”
But in reading drug use statistics — or any statistics at all — it’s important to remember that correlation does not equal causation. Just because users of heroin, cocaine or other hard drugs are very likely to have used marijuana earlier in their lives doesn’t mean that the pot itself was the catalyst for their later drug-related decisions.
As Maia Szalavitz writes at Time, “Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang members are probably 104 times more likely to have ridden a bicycle as a kid than those who don’t become Hell’s Angels, but that doesn’t mean that riding a two-wheeler is a ‘gateway’ to joining a motorcycle gang. It simply means that most people ride bikes and the kind of people who don’t are highly unlikely to ever ride a motorcycle.”
It makes sense that statistics would show drug users frequently turning to pot first. Marijuana is relatively easy to lay hands on, meaning that anybody with a desire to alter their state of mind with a substance can likely access it (though if this is the actual standard-bearer of a gateway drug, as some would argue, then studies have also shown alcohol to be the true gateway substance).
Studies have pointed out this flaw in the “gateway theory” since as early back as the late 1990s, though the failure to find a direct link hasn’t stopped anti-drug crusaders from pushing the argument.
4. “You Smoke Marijuana Like Tobacco, So It Must Be Just As Bad For You!”
While many marijuana smokers may report respiratory discomfort like coughing or wheezing after excessive pot use, an extensive study released in 2012 found that the drug itself does not impair lung function. Other studies have found that cannabis can even suppress a variety of aggressive cancer cells. If medical science has reached any real conclusion about marijuana, it’s simply that more research should be done to pin down the exact effects of cannabis smoke and cannabinoids.
And while smoking is the most common way to use marijuana, there are also other methods of delivery that allow users to minimize or avoid potential harm to the lungs: Ingesting high-potency cannabis-infused edibles or using a vaporizer, which eliminates much of the heated marijuana smoke, are a few of the most common alternatives.
5. “Pot Can Make You Go Insane.”
While it’s established that psychotic people are more likely to have used drugs — and most commonly cannabis — before the onset of the disease, research has shown that smoking pot simply leads to an earlier onset of psychosis by an average of 2.7 years in people already prone to the condition. Other research suggests that marijuana emphatically does not cause psychosis, and past research has not been able to definitively rule out the possibility that people who are prone to developing mental illnesses like schizophrenia may simply be more likely to turn to drugs a causal relationship between marijuana use and crime has not been found.
When it comes to violent crime, alcohol is a much more significant factor than marijuana. A report from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism suggests that 25 to 30 percent of violent crimes are linked to alcohol use. A 2003 article from the journal Addictive Behaviors noted that “alcohol is clearly the drug with the most evidence to support a direct intoxication-violence relationship,” and that “cannabis reduces likelihood of violence during intoxication.” The National Academy of Sciences even found that in chronic marijuana users, THC causes a decrease in “aggressive and violent behavior.”
Although there is little evidence that marijuana use increases the likelihood of criminal behavior, marijuana convictions are definitely likely to ruin lives and expose people to a life of crime behind bars. State laws differ, but in some places, possessing just one marijuana joint can be punishable by up to a year in prison and a $10,000 fine. Marijuana convictions also appear to be racially biased. A recent ACLU report, which tracked marijuana arrests by race and county in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, found that black people are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana than white people.
6. “It Makes You Lazy And Unsuccessful.”
A Marijuana Policy Project study, listing 50 of some of the most successful people in the world who have admitted to using pot, completely shatters this mythology. President Obama, Jon Stewart and billionaire George Soros can hardly be characterized as lazy or unproductive.
Anti-drug groups have also argued that marijuana nullifies the traits required to be a successful athlete. That’s probably news to a lot of football players. Despite a league policy that bans the substance, one former player has said that something like half of all NFL players smoke pot either for medical or recreational reasons. Professional football is one of the most demanding and competitive sports in the world. Players probably aren’t high while competing, but the fact that some turn to pot during their free time underscores the point that it’s possible to achieve a balance between one’s professional life and one’s recreational marijuana use.
7. “Legalization Will Cause Mass Zombification!”
8. “I Tried It Once And Didn’t Like It.”
9. “People Don’t Even Use It At Weddings, So Obviously It’s More Harmful Than Beer.”
“If I’m at a wedding reception here and somebody has a drink or two, most people wouldn’t say they’re wasted,” Walker said, according to The Capital Times. “Most folks with marijuana wouldn’t be sitting around a wedding reception smoking marijuana.”
Walker appears to be employing some serious circular reasoning here, claiming that weed — which is illegal, obviously — is less socially acceptable than alcohol, which is (he seems to be saying) one reason it should remain illegal. Walker has said that there’s “a huge difference” between marijuana and alcohol, and the governor is right: Most studies show that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol.
In 2010, for example, there were approximately 189,000 emergency room visits by people under 21 for injuries and other conditions linked to alcohol, including accidental poisoning. While there have been reports of people being treated at the hospital due to discomfort after using too much marijuana, these are far outweighed by the number of alcohol-poisoning incidents. To this day, aside from one recent, unprecedented and widely contested conclusion about a cannabis-related death in the United Kingdom, there have been no reported deaths due to marijuana overdose in at least 10,000 years of human consumption.
On the other hand, just 10 times the recommended serving of alcohol can lead to death, a recreational drug study from American Scientist found. By contrast, a marijuana smoker would have to consume 20,000 to 40,000 times the amount of THC in a joint in order to be at risk of dying, according to a 1988 ruling from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
10. “Uhhh … But Don’t You Care About The Children?”
There are admittedly legitimate questions and concerns about adolescent marijuana use, including hotly debated claims about the effects of the drug on teens’ mental health. And the fact that marijuana studies so often show conflicting findings is a sign of how much more research is needed in this area and how important those answers are.
No one needs to encourage anybody, teenage or otherwise, to use marijuana. But if the drug warriors are to be taken seriously, they need to retire these shopworn arguments and update their playbook for a new century.
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