Ten Reasons Why Marijuana Should Not Be Legalized!

August 8th, 2014

SAM_ad_full_page_NYT_11.55x21_31Jul14_FINAL-1Disregarding the science, the New York Times recently came out in support of marijuana legalization. Here are 10 reasons to oppose legalization:

1. Marijuana legalization will usher in America’s new version of “Big Tobacco.”

  • Already, private holding groups and financiers have raised millions of start-up dollars to promote businesses that will sell marijuana and marijuana-related merchandise.
  • Marijuana food and candy, with names such as “Ring Pots” and “Pot Tarts,” are being marketed to children and are already responsible for a growing number of marijuana-related ER visits. [i]
  • Marijuana vending machines, containing products such as marijuana brownies and candies, are popping up across the country. [ii]
  • The former head of Strategy for Microsoft has said that he wants to “mint more millionaires than Microsoft” with marijuana and that he wants to create the “Starbucks of marijuana.” [iii]

    2. Marijuana use will increase under legalization

    • Because they are accessible and available, our legal drugs are used far more than our illegal ones. According to recent surveys, alcohol is used by 52% of Americans and tobacco is used by 27% of Americans. Marijuana is used by 8% of Americans. [iv]
    • When RAND researchers analyzed California’s 2010 effort to legalize marijuana, they concluded that the price of the drug could plummet and therefore, marijuana consumption could increase. [v]

    3. Marijuana is especially harmful to kids and adolescents.

    • Marijuana contributes to psychosis and schizophrenia. [vi]
    • 1 in 6 kids who try marijuana will become addicted to it. [vii]
    • Heavy marijuana use in adolescence leads to an average IQ loss of 8 points later in life. [viii]
    • According to data from the 2012 National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse, alcohol and cigarettes were the most readily accessible substances for youth 12 to 17, with 50% and 44% reporting that they could obtain them within a day, respectively. Youth were least likely to report that they could get marijuana within a day; 45% reported that they would be unable to get marijuana at all. [ix]

    4. Today’s marijuana is NOT your Woodstock weed.

    • In the 1960s and ‘70s, THC levels of smoked marijuana averaged around 1%, increasing to just under 4% in 1983, and almost tripling in the subsequent 30 years to around 11% in 2011. Some marijuana concentrates today contain 95% THC. [x]

    5. Marijuana legalization will increase public costs.

    • For every $1 we collect in alcohol and tobacco tax revenues, we lose $10 in social costs. [xi]
    • Current alcohol-related arrest rates are over three times higher than marijuana arrest rates.[xiii]

    6. People are not in prison for small time marijuana use.

    • Statistics on state-level prisoners reveal that 0.3% of all state inmates were behind bars for marijuana possession only (with many of them pleading down from more serious crimes). [xiv]
    • 99.8% of federal prisoners sentenced for drug offenses were incarcerated for drug trafficking. [xv]
    • The risk of arrest for each joint smoked is 1 in 12,000. [xvi]

    7. Drug cartels and the black market will continue to thrive under legalization.

    • A recent RAND report showed that Mexican drug trafficking groups earn only 15-25% of their revenues from marijuana. For them, the big money is in human trafficking, kidnapping, extortion, piracy, and other illicit drugs. [xvii]
    • Under legalization, a black market will still sell tax-free marijuana to adults and youth.

      8. Neither Portugal nor Holland provide any successful example of legalization.

      • Independent research reveals that in the Netherlands, where marijuana was commercialized and sold openly at “coffee shops,” marijuana use among young adults increased almost 300%. [xviii]
      • There are signs that tolerance for marijuana in the Netherlands is receding. They have recently closed hundreds of coffee shops.
      • Today Dutch citizens have a higher likelihood of being admitted to marijuana treatment than citizens of nearly all other countries in Europe. [xix]
      • In Portugal, drug use levels are mixed, and despite reports to the contrary, they have not legalized drugs. In 2001, Portugal started to refer drug users to three-person “panels of social workers” that recommend treatment or another course of action. As the European Monitoring Center’s findings concluded: “the country does not show specific developments in its drug situation that would clearly distinguish it from other European countries that have a different policy.” [xx]

      9. Marijuana has medicinal properties, but we shouldn’t smoke the plant in order to derive those benefits, just like we do not smoke opium to get the benefits of morphine.

      • In states with medical marijuana laws, the average medical marijuana user is a male in his 30′s with no terminal illness and a history of drug abuse. [xxi]
      • Less than 3% of users have cancer or AIDS. [xxii]
      • Residents of states with medical marijuana laws have abuse and dependence rates almost twice as high as states with no such laws. [xxiii]
        • Research should be conducted to produce pharmacy-attainable, non-smoked medications based on marijuana.

        10. Experience from Colorado is not promising.

        • Two independent reports released in August 2013 document how Colorado’s supposedly regulated system is not well regulated at all. [xxiv]
        • Currently, the marijuana use rate among Colorado teens is 50% above the national average. Marijuana has been widely available in stores since 2009 (to Coloradans 18+ with a medical card). [xxv]
        • Since 2009, drug-related referrals for high school students testing positive for marijuana has increased. [xxvi]
        • Medical marijuana is easily diverted to youth.[xxvii]
        • While the total number of car crashes declined from 2007 to 2011, the number of fatal car crashes with drivers testing positive for marijuana rose sharply.[xxviii]


        [i] Alface, I. (2013, May 27). Children Poisoned by Candy-looking Marijuana Products. Nature World News.  Retrieved from; Jaslow, R. (2013, 28 May). Laxer marijuana laws linked to increase in kids’ accidental poisonings CBS News. Retrieved from

        [ii] Gruley, B. (2013, May 9). Medbox: Dawn of the Marijuana Vending Machine. Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved from

        [iii] Ex-Microsoft exec plans ‘Starbucks’ of marijuana. (2013, May 31). United Press International. Retrieved from

        [iv] NSDUH, Summary of National Findings, 2012. Retrieved from

        [v] Kilmer, B., Caulkins, J.P., Pacula, R.L., MacCoun, R.J., & Reuter, P.H. Altered State? Assessing How Marijuana Legalization in California Could Influence Marijuana Consumption and Public Budgets. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2010.

        [vi] Andréasson S, et al. (1987). Cannabis and Schizophrenia: A longitudinal study of Swedish conscripts. Lancet, 2(8574).

        [vii] Anthony, J.C., Warner, L.A., & Kessler, R.C. (1994). Comparative epidemiology of dependence on tobacco, alcohol, controlled substances, and inhalants: Basic findings from the National Comorbidity Survey. Experiential and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 2. 

        [viii] Meier, M.H. (2012). Persistent cannabis users show neuropsychological decline from childhood to midlife.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

        [ix] Adapted by CESAR from The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA), National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XVII: Teens, 2012. Retrieved from

        [x] Mehmedic, Z., et al. (2010). Potency Trends of D9-THC and Other Cannabinoids in Confiscated Cannabis Preparations from 1993 to 2008. The Journal of Forensic Sciences, 55(5).

        [xi] Updating estimates of the economic costs of alcohol abuse in the
 United States: Estimates, update methods, and data. Report prepared
for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Retrieved from; Urban Institute and Brookings Institution (2012, October 15). State and local alcoholic beverage tax revenue, selected years 1977-2010. Tax Policy Center. Retrieved from displayafact.cfm?Docid=399; Saul, S. (2008, August 30). Government
gets hooked on tobacco tax billions. The New York Times. Retrieved
from html?em&_r=0; for Federal estimates, see Urban Institute and Brookings Institution (2012, October 15). State and local tobacco tax revenue, selected years 1977-2010. Tax Policy Center. Retrieved from www.; Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (n.d.). Toll of tobacco in the United States of America. Retrieved from

        [xii] Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2004). Data collection: Survey of inmates in state correctional facilities (SISCF). Retrieved from http://

        [xiii] Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2011). Persons arrested. Retrieved from

        [xiv] Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2004). Data collection: Survey of inmates in state correctional facilities (SISCF). Retrieved from http://

        [xv] Ibid.

        [xvi] Kilmer, B., et al. “Altered State? Assessing How Marijuana Legalization in California Could Influence Marijuana Consumption and Public Budgets”. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2010.

        [xvii] Kilmer, B, Caulkins, J.P, Bond, B.M. & Reuter, P.H. “Reducing Drug Trafficking Revenues and Violence in Mexico: Would Legalizing Marijuana in California Help?” Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2010.

        [xviii] MacCoun, R. & Reuter, P. (2001). Evaluating Alternate Cannabis Regimes. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 178.

        [xix] MacCoun, R. (2010). What can we learn from the Dutch Cannabis Coffeeshop experience? RAND Drug Policy Research Center. Retrieved from

        [xx] European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug and Addiction. (2011). Drug Policy
Profiles-Portugal. Retrieved from­‐policyprofiles/portugal

        [xxi] O’Connell, T.J. & Bou-Matar, C.B. (2007). Long term marijuana users seeking medical cannabis in California (2001–2007): demographics, social characteristics, patterns of cannabis and other drug use of 4117 applicants. Harm Reduction Journal, 4(16).

        [xxii] Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. (2011)

        [xxiii] Cerda, M., et al. (2012). Medical marijuana laws in 50 states: Investigating the relationship between state legalization of medical marijuana and marijuana use, abuse and dependence. Drug & Alcohol Dependence, 120(1-3).

        [xxiv] Colorado Office of the State Auditor. (2013). & City of Denver Office of the Auditor. (2013).

        [xxv] NSDUH, Summary of National Findings, 2012. Retrieved from

        [xxvi] Rocky Mountain HIDTA. (2013). Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact. Retrieved from

        [xxvii] Salomonsen-Sautel, S., et al. (2012). Medical marijuana use among adolescents in substance abuse treatment.Journal of American Academic Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 51(7).[xxviii] Rocky Mountain HIDTA. (2013). Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact. Retrieved from

        *this information was taken from, an initiative of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (Project SAM), a nonpartisan alliance of lawmakers, scientists and other concerned citizens, co-founded by former Congressman Patrick Kennedy. The initiative is supported by a number of prevention, treatment, and medical groups.

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