Drug Policy Book

PROVIDED BY THE INDIANA DRUG ENFORCEMENT ASSOCIATION

DRUG POLICY SOURCE BOOK

National Narcotic Officers’ Associations’ Coalition NNOAC
Executive Summary 2011

Approved and Funded by the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute

MESSAGES REGARDING THE DRUG LEGALIZATION MOVEMENT

As is becoming more and more evident to law enforcement today and even to the general public, the drug legalization movement is becoming stronger year after year across our great country. Recent political changes at all levels of government have spurred promoters of the legalization movement to become increasingly bold in their actions and to promote themselves and their cause as
being a legitimate political interest. Proponents of drug legalization have aligned themselves with those in a position to sell their lies to the younger generation of Americans as a way to generate tax revenue, decriminalize society and reduce the prison population, just to name a few. The movement’s promoters have approached and sold their ideas to persons with access to huge sums of cash and other forms of support to drive the movement even deeper into our communities.

These same people would seek to diminish the minds of our future generations with mind altering chemicals like those found in marijuana, and they do it under the guise of so-called freedoms when it is actually motivated by pure greed and profit.

This Drug Policy Source Book is a counter-legalization tool which was unanimously endorsed by the membership of the Indiana Drug Enforcement Association at our 25th annual training conference in Indianapolis in February of 2011. It is our hope that this document will serve as a “wake up call” and an action guide to those who are willing to take up the counter-legalization struggle and stand
alongside us in opposing the legalization of marijuana and other drugs in the Great State of Indiana. Please use this document to arm yourselves against the legalization effort in our State.

Tom McKay and Gary Ashenfelter

As a 36 year law enforcement veteran and a father of two, I am alarmed by the dramatic increase in efforts to legalize or de-criminalize powerful and dangerous drugs including marijuana. And I am appalled at the suggestion by some that legalizing and taxing marijuana is a smart way to close government budget gaps. I have yet to hear a convincing argument that marijuana legalization is a healthy policy choice – physiologically, economically, or socially.

Legalization advocates claim that current drug policy has failed. This is patently false. According to the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future survey, marijuana use by teens has declined 25% since 2001. . That is not a failure of policy – it is a success generated by a balanced policy focused on preventing use, enforcing laws, and treating those suffering from the disease of addiction.

Legalization advocates portray marijuana as a benign drug. That message is not only reckless, it is dangerous. It is time to dispel the myth that marijuana is not dangerous or addicting. By treating marijuana as a joke, the pro-legalization lobby is using our kids as pawns in a dangerous political game. The research is clear: because teen brains are still developing, young people that use
marijuana are at greater risk of developing dependence, depression, attention deficit disorder, and even schizophrenia.

According to Dr. Paula Riggs, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Director of Adolescent Services at the University of Denver, marijuana use by teens cause acute neurotoxicity. It “impairs cognitive functioning…And if you’re a kid who smokes regularly, you won’t progress developmentally at the same rate as kids who aren’t smoking.”

Today’s marijuana is much more powerful and addictive than in years past. THC – the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana now averages 10%, up from 4% since 1983 and many samples tested between 20 and 37%. If that does not convince you, consider that marijuana is the number one drug for which Americans kids between the ages of 12 -18 seek treatment. More that 65% of all teens in treatment are there for marijuana dependence with another 11% in treatment for alcohol and drug dependence together, many of whom are using pot with alcohol. In another disturbing trend, hospital emergency room admissions involving marijuana tripled between 1994 and 2002 and now surpass ER admissions involving heroin. And drugged driving accidents – many involving marijuana – kill more than 8,000 and maim another 500,000 every year.

The bottom line is: efforts to legalize drugs including marijuana and attempts to change America’s abstinence-based drug policy to one of harm reduction – in other words, a policy where we teach people to use harmful drugs safely – put kids and communities at risk. Ask almost any cop, paramedic, ER doctor or schoolteacher if they think legalization is a good idea and you will hear a resounding “no”. It is clear that drug use and the disease of addiction threaten America’s health and economic stability.

The National Narcotic Officers’ Associations Coalition (NNOAC) is proud to join with the Indiana Drug Enforcement Association, our other coalition members as well as: law enforcement, drug prevention, treatment and medical associations to oppose any attempt to legalize or decriminalize marijuana. Please use this publication to begin your own research and help us stop the dangerous and
fraudulent movement to portray marijuana as a safe drug. I also invite you to visit the NNOAC’s website, www.natlnarc.org to learn more about our organization.

Thank You,

Ron Brooks, President NNOAC

 

December, 2010

Dear Colleague,

The drug policy debate in America has reached an inflection point. Supporters of abstinence-based, balanced, and protective drug policies are watching with grave concern as advocates of permissive and destructive drug policies wage well-funded legalization
campaigns across the nation. The vast majority of Americans know that the legalization of narcotics is not a healthy policy alternative. The vision of an America with dramatically increased availability of addictive narcotics is not a desirable one. It is extremely difficult to understand how increased drug use, abuse, and addiction lead to the development of a healthier, happier, and more productive society. Yet this is exactly what advocates of drug legalization are selling. In order to better inform the debate, a broad coalition representing the prevention, recovery, medical, and law enforcement communities has led an effort to gather and summarize the most relevant, accurate, and effective drug policy facts, statistics, and arguments. Along with the National Narcotic Officers’ Associations’ Coalition, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Drug Free America Foundation, the National Sheriffs Association, the American Society of Addiction Medicine, the National Troopers Coalition, the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Association of
Drug Court Professionals, and several other organizations contributed information and sources for compilation.

Thousands of individual sources were reviewed and over 800 were summarized to produce a comprehensive “Source Book”. This draft executive summary includes key points from a handful of these sources. The full Source Book –over 1,000 pages in length –is organized for easy reference and contains helpful summaries of each section. The full Source Book will be made available electronically to stakeholders for use in drafting talking points for media appearances, letters to the editor, testimony before legislative bodies at the local, state, and federal levels, and every-day conversations with friends, coworkers, and neighbors. I want to thank all of our coalition partners for contributing resources and feedback on this project. We will continue to work together to refine the Source Book and its executive summary and make it widely available. It has never been more important to have a real understanding of the facts about drug policy. I hope the Source Book will be helpful in creating that understanding.

Ronald E. Brooks – President National Narcotic Officers’ Associations’ Coalition

Introduction

Over the past fifteen years the debate over America’s illegal drug policies has become more visible. Anti-legalization and pro-legalization advocates alike have captured the attention of the American public and policy makers while engaging each other at the federal, state, and local levels more frequently than ever before. Both sides have their arguments, their statistics, and their resources. However in recent years, the pro-legalization and decriminalization movement has become more vocal. This dangerous and troubling trend has been met by strong but relatively uncoordinated resistance from a wide range of supporters of a strong,
abstinence-based drug policy.

The expansion of the legalization movement has been aided by several factors. First, large scale political change at all levels of government in the 2008 elections emboldened promoters of legalization. This factor, coupled with the massive influx of cash, advocacy, and material support from supporters of drug legalization has allowed some legalization supporters to shed their
“counter-culture” image and rebrand themselves as a legitimate political interest group.

One of the most powerful tools the legalization advocates have is a unified, media-savvy approach to public relations. Their increased financial support and political access has given groups such as the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), the Marijuana Policy Project, and the Drug Policy Alliance an unprecedented springboard to promote their ideals. Unfortunately, the
response to these developments by the mainstream majority and by stakeholder policy organizations they represent has been severely under-resourced and not as well-coordinated.

The Drug Policy Source Book was created to address this problem. Never before has the counter-legalization movement had a single comprehensive resource to assist in turning back decriminalization efforts. The project aims to promote collaboration among a working group of like-minded organizations, and provide a compilation of the most relevant and powerful facts, statistics, and arguments
against pro-drug policy proposals. The Source Book is a summary of nearly 1,000 primary sources that can be utilized to align objectives and ideals in both long and short term advocacy efforts.

The Source Book is intended to be a continually updated resource that will be the first option for counter-legalization advocates preparing their messages for national and local media appearances, policy debates, legislative discussion, and most importantly, public outreach. The Source Book will help counter-legalization advocates overcome the challenge of inaccurate and subjective information that is widely distributed and promoted by the other side.

The core material of the Source Book comes from the close analysis of over eight hundred individual sources. This includes large scale academic research, expert position papers, domestic and international media sources, and arguments from the all sides of the debate.

The aim of this project is to allow opponents of legalization to quickly and easily access the most recent and relevant material
available pertaining to their topic of interest. By referring to authoritative resources, the anti-legalization community will be able to craft their messages around a set of facts and opinions in a more organized way.

As more groups and individuals contribute new authoritative resources over time, the Source Book’s usefulness will increase. This simple organization of relevant facts and stories should improve the quality of the anti-legalization community’s arguments for a safe and abstinence-based drug policy in the United States.

Drug Legalization –Economic Arguments

While many critics of drug legalization approach the topic from a qualitative or subjective angle, significant economic and quantitative research has provided ample reason for the consumption of illegal drugs to remain a criminal act. Studies have shown that the economic costs of increased drug use in society would offset any potential benefit argued by proponents of drug taxation or other revenue generating efforts. These hard facts, combined with the powerful moral and subjective arguments, serve as the backbone for the continuation of a balanced yet clear drug policy.

For example, in 2004 the Office of National Drug Control Policy released a report that reviewed the economic costs of drug abuse in the United States over the decade 1992-2002.1The findings illustrate the staggering costs drug use place on the American economy and individual citizens. One of the most noticeable trends is that the costs of drug abuse increased at an average of 5.3% per year from 1992-2002.2This was slightly above the average percentage increase (5.1%) of the country’s gross domestic product over the same time period. The report calculated the economic costs in healthcare, crime, lost productivity, and early death related to drug abuse and reported that in 2002 use of illegal substances cost the country $180.9 billion.3 Most notably, this figure relates strictly to illegal substances, ignoring the enormous costs suffered from legal products such as alcohol and tobacco, both of which kill thousands of Americans every year.

Still, many proponents of drug legalization argue that taxes placed on available drugs could offset many of the costs listed above. Jeffery Miron, a senior lecturer in Economics at Harvard estimates that by taxing legalized marijuana the
government could earn an additional $6 billion in revenue.4If all drugs were legalized, the gains could increase to $10 billion. Likewise the ONDCP estimates that legalizing marijuana could save the country between $2 billion and $10 billion a year in enforcement costs.5 A simple calculation demonstrates that this is a mere drop in the bucket in comparison to the 2002 total costs estimated by the ONDCP–the difference amounts to more than $140 billion.

Furthermore, these costs fail to account for the widely anticipated spike in drug use among American citizens and the subsequent increase in healthcare costs and lost productivity. In Denmark the decision to decriminalize marijuana in 1976 led to a doubling in usage among 18-20 year olds from 1984-1992 as the drug became increasingly prevalent among young people.6 As the country that has long been considered the “poster child” for drug legalization this disturbing trend should serve as a significant red flag for anyone arguing for domestic drug policy reform in America. Even more troublesome is the fact that the Dutch are only moderate users among the European community and trail well behind the United States according to the World Health Organization.7

Similar spikes in drug use were witnessed in the United Kingdom, which made the controversial decision in 2004 to downgrade
cannabis from a “Class B” drug to “Class C.”8 Although penalties for dealing the drug increased, the move essentially legalized individual possession and consumption. In three years following the change in drug policy, the number of patients receiving treatment for cannabis abuse more than doubled. Over the same period, cases involving children increased by a third.9

If the United States were to suffer a similarly drastic increase in drug abuse following a change in drug policy the potential for skyrocketing costs could become real and economically catastrophic. Rosalie Pacula, director of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center has done extensive studies on potential legalization efforts and says that while the eventual outcome is difficult to discern, based on the effects of tobacco and alcohol abuse, drug legalization would be “very, very risky.”10 Evidence of the impact of loosened drug policies in other countries and even locally in the U.S. can be studied to determine possible impact.

The most recent study released by the RAND corporation: “Altered State?: Assessing How Marijuana Legalization in California could Influence Marijuana Consumption and Public Budgets” reveals that legalizing the production and distribution of marijuana could sharply lower the price of the drug by as much as 80 percent and increase consumption. The RAND study cautions that the revenue from taxing legal marijuana could be much higher or lower based on a number of factors such as the level of taxation and the response by the federal government. Research has revealed that marijuana consumption goes up when prices go down, however the magnitude of the consumption increase cannot be studied as prices would likely fall to levels below those ever studied. Consumption also might rise due to non-price effects such as advertising or a reduction in stigma. This research makes clear that the economic benefits claimed by supporters of marijuana legalization are unfounded –the costs clearly outweigh any economic benefits.

The inherent risks of drug legalization in America are crystallized by the data presented in this section. While many argue that drug legalization is simply “wrong”, the economic costs that loom behind such a decision are often less discussed but far more compelling.

Drug Legalization –Moral and Subjective Highlights

While statistical analysis and economic studies provide convincing evidence of the futility of drug legalization, moral and subjective arguments against the legalization and use of illegal narcotics are often more personally compelling. These arguments vary along a spectrum of highly researched intellectual arguments to the personal testimony of former addicts. However, whether based in fact or in sentiment, the conclusions drawn from both arguments are the same: that drug legalization is the wrong choice for America.

One of the most popular arguments in favor of drug legalization is that personal use, particularly the smoking of marijuana, differs little from the legal use of tobacco or alcohol. Others take the analogy farther and claim that drug use can be equated to eating fatty foods
and their consumption places similar strain on individual health and economic costs.11Proponents claim that if users are educated regarding the risks associated with drug use than it is their prerogative to decide whether or not to undertake them.

Unfortunately this position drastically undermines the harm caused by drug use, abuse, and addiction. While consuming fatty foods certainly exposes the consumer to negative health risks, the foods themselves do not cognitively impair the consumer, like marijuana does. As the world has witnessed with alcohol abuse, substances that alter the user’s behavior often project the negative consequences on to their peers.12 Parents who neglect their children due to drug addiction and victims of drugged driving accidents are clear examples of the extension of harms across society.

Some of the most powerful critiques of efforts to legalize narcotics come from former addicts or family members associated with drug addicts. In 1999, New Mexico’s Republican Governor Gary Johnson considered proposing the legalization and subsequent
taxation of drugs in his state. The position drew strong disapproval, even from the younger age groups that typically take a more progressive stance on the issue. As David Medina, a 17-year old high school student put it, “Maybe he’s never had a family member or neighbor that has overdosed…we’ve just grown up with it.” This same sentiment can be applied across the country in urban areas
or other regions with significant drug consumption problems.

There are numerous moral and subjective arguments connected to the issue of drug use and addiction. These strong and thought provoking arguments can be most effectively used to supplement those rooted in scientific research and statistical analysis.

Drugs, Crime, and Prison Statistics

A central issue when considering the relaxation of American drug laws is the role
that narcotics play in criminal activity. Drug addiction among current prison
inmates is growing and the number of crimes committed while under the influence
of drugs has been well-known for years. The hard statistics associating drug
abuse and criminality provide a strong rationale for anyone looking to defend
abstinence-based drug policy in the United States. The bottom line is that
narcotics fuel both personal and community destruction. A report released in
2008 showed that half of America’s two million incarcerated citizens qualify
for drug dependence or abuse under the standards described in the latest
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV).13 Another recent study
of ten U.S. counties surveyed arrested persons on their long and short term
drug use while also testing them for various substances.14 In all ten sites the
percentages of individuals testing positive for one illegal substance at the
time of arrest ranged from 49% (Washington, DC) to 87% (Chicago, IL). Further
testing demonstrated that 15-40% of the subjects had evidence of more than two
illegal substances in their systems when arrested. These staggering percentages
further demonstrate the role that drug related impairment has on criminal
activity throughout the United States.15 Unfortunately, this is a developing trend,
studies conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at
Columbia University have shown that similar figures exist for individuals in
the juvenile justice system.16 Four out of every
five youths sent into the system were either under the influence of drugs or
alcohol when committing their crimes, test positive for drugs or alcohol, are
arrested for drug or alcohol related offenses, or admit to suffering from
substance abuse.17Of the 2.4 million
youths arrested for crimes, over 1.9 million were involved in substance abuse
or addiction. This chronic issue provides an even more powerful message when
the types of crime are examined.18The
report noted that drug or alcohol abuse is implicated in 64% of violent
offenses, 72% of property offenses, and more than 81% of assaults, vandalism,
and disorderly conduct. This data clearly demonstrates that juvenile
delinquency is strongly associated with substance abuse and the consumption of
illegal drugs.19In addition, the myth
that there are large numbers of people sitting behind bars for nothing more
than simple possession of marijuana has gained considerable currency in recent
popular opinion. The idea is that “thousands of people languish in jails and
prisons across America, serving long sentences for nothing more than simple
possession of marijuana.”20However the facts
reveal a different story. There port “Who is really in Prison for Marijuana?”
produced by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) reveals that in
2001, of all drug defendants sentenced in federal court for marijuana crimes,
the overwhelming majority were convicted for trafficking, according to
the U.S. Sentencing Commission. Only 2.3 percent—186 people—received sentences
for simple possession, and of the 174 for whom sentencing information is known,
just 63 actually served time behind bars.
Drug use harms the user and it harms the community, and because of this,
criminal penalties have been put in place to control the possession and use of
illicit substances. Built into the criminal justice system is an appropriate
measure of discretion that responds to the gravity of the offense. Those who
persistently violate the country’s drug laws face criminal penalties, which may
include time behind bars. For offenders whose involvement in lawbreaking is
minor, the sanctions are slight and often involve a referral to treatment
rather than incarceration. 21 Despite
these statistics, a false characterization continues to be promoted that
depicts the criminal justice response to marijuana violations as unduly harsh,
exclusively punitive, and disproportionate. This characterization must be
countered by the truth, which is this: Americans are not routinely being sent
to prison in large numbers just for possessing small amounts of marijuana. Our
criminal justice system, on the whole, is fair and equitable, and despite
frequent claims to the contrary, there is very little chance that anyone in
this country, particularly a first time offender, will be sent to prison for
merely puffing a “joint.”22
The role
illegal drugs play in American criminal activity is disturbingly high. Given
the rates at which criminals are also involved in drug taking, the prospect of
increasing access to currently illegal substances would serve to exacerbate
this growing concern. With the excessively high connection between drug abuse,
addiction, and criminality, the arguments for decriminalization of illegal
narcotics are clearly short-sighted.

 

Environmental
Impact of Drugs

In
a society that is placing increased emphasis on environmental conservation
initiatives, an often forgotten issue associated with the illegal drug industry
is the devastating effect it can have on the environment. The waste produced
from covert growing operations and drug production is often carelessly disposed
to hide the nature of the operation. The resulting impact has proved to be a
major concern for environmentalists and drug prevention advocates alike.
Marijuana growing operations in particular have proved harmful to the
environment. In California, a 90,000 acre forest fire known as the La Brea fire
was started by a marijuana growing operation deep in the forest.23 The only area spared from the disaster was
the space where 30,000 marijuana plants were being constantly irrigated. Over
the past year law enforcement agents have seized over 2.7 million marijuana
plants being grown illegally. Of those seized, more than 80% of those
discovered were being grown on federal or state land.24 Aside from clearing
federal land for the purpose of growing marijuana, the operations themselves
place a negative impact on the environment. Streams are often diverted for the
purpose of irrigation; fertilizers and pesticides used on the crops are washed
into water sources; and growers often use traps or poisons to keep indigenous
wildlife away from the operation.25In one particular California growing
operation, despite being indoors, may have caused over $1 million in
environmental damage. When the operation was raided, police discovered that the
men involved had been dumping hundreds of gallons of diesel fuel into a pit
near their operation, uphill from the Eel River.26
Outside
the United States, drug production efforts have a detrimental effect on
environmental conservation. The Colombian government estimates that four square
meters of rainforest have to be cleared to produce a single gram of cocaine.
Over the past twenty years, drug production has led to the destruction of 2.2
million hectares (5.44 million acres).27 This devastating impact to one of the world’s
most rich ecosystems, a haven to thousands of plant and animal species,
provides a compelling argument for governments to fight against this severe
threat to the environment. Proponents of legalization will likely point to
these statistics and argue that if marijuana or other drugs could be cultivated
in a legal manner then proper measures could be taken to ensure safe and
sustainable growth. However, careful regulation of production by the federal
government will require significant costs and offset any revenue gained through
the taxation of drug sales. Aside from
the major societal effects on public health, safety, and the economy, the
continued growth of the illegal drug trade is a major detriment to some of the
country’s most fragile ecosystems. Alongside the criminal nature of drug
trafficking and the violence it directly supports, the destruction of these
precious ecosystems is yet another reason why drug traffickers and those who
run illicit growing operations must be prosecuted to the full extent of the
law.

 

 

Marijuana
Research –Behavioral Studies

Aside
from the long and short term health consequences of smoking marijuana, scientific
research and extensive experience have shown that cannabis abuse leads to
several negative behavioral changes. By definition, a drug is used to alter the
user’s mental or physiological state. Drugs of the legal variety that have been
carefully vetted and approved by proper regulatory bodies can yield tremendous
benefits for those who truly require them. On the other hand, use of illegal
drugs such as marijuana, heroin or cocaine can lead to extremely detrimental
side effects despite being described as the “most harmless” of all illegal
drugs, extensive use of marijuana can lead to disastrous long term
consequences, in large part due to its ability to alter user behavior. For
example, despite the pro-legalization argument that marijuana is not an addictive
substance by nature, several research efforts have shown that this may not be
the case. This is especially relevant as levels of THC – the psychoactive
chemical in marijuana – continue to rise dramatically. In the 1970s average THC
content was less than 3%. Average potency has skyrocketed to near 10% today,
and in some cases is as high as 30%. Studies compiled by Cambridge University
have demonstrated that over 3% of marijuana users develop addictive behavior
within the first two years of trying the drug.28 Additionally, approximately 10% of all users
will eventually become addicted to the substance. Other studies by the
University of Maryland’s Center for Substance Abuse Research demonstrated that
since 2003 the number of adults seeking treatment for marijuana addiction more
than doubled, rising from 7% in 2003 to 16% in 2006.29 Over the same three
year period, individuals seeking treatment for alcohol abuse dropped from 57%
to 41%. Even among all illegal drugs only the highly addictive opiates such as
heroin were cited more often than marijuana by adults seeking drug abuse
therapy.30
Long
term studies of marijuana users have also revealed disturbing trends regarding
changes in user behavior. Academic research has revealed a strong correlation
between marijuana use and clinical depression. For example, a 15- year long
study published in 2001 showed that cannabis use increased reported depression
four times more often than those who abstained.31 In addition to depression, drug use as also
strongly associated with increases in suicidal thoughts and the condition of
anhedonia (being unable to derive pleasure from activities that are typically
considered pleasurable).32
Other
potential side effects of long term marijuana use include loss of memory and
short term learning capacity. In a clinical study conducted by the University
Hospital of Patras, Greece, Dr. Lambros Messinis studied learning, memory, and
behavioral patterns among marijuana users. He divided a group of 64 drug users
into long and short term users and compared them to a control group who had
used marijuana in the past, but sparingly.33Dr. Messinis’ experiment tested the users on
verbal fluency, memory, and learning and revealed that long term users, those
who smoked marijuana on a daily basis for approximately ten years, tested
poorly in comparison to those who were not regular users of the drug. 34Other behavioral
concerns for marijuana use exist in the short term as well. Following the
United Kingdom’s controversial decision to downgrade marijuana from a Class B
drug to Class C, studies revealed disturbing trends about the activities drug
users were willing to undertake after using the substance. The study examined
the behavior of 100 regular users and 90 casual users of cannabis.35The study, conducted
by Britain’s Economic and Social Research Council found that 74% of users
surveyed had driven after using the drugs and 25% had attended work. The study
also found troublesome statistics regarding sexual activity.36Over 10% of those
surveyed admitted that if engaging in sexual activity after drug use, they were
less likely to use a condom or other contraceptives. Finally, over 40% of the participants agreed
that use of marijuana made them more likely to use other substances such as
cocaine or ecstasy.37As demonstrated by
the facts presented above, the use of marijuana can lead to dangerous and
debilitating behavioral consequences in both the long and short term. The
scientific data clearly shows that users of marijuana can develop addictive
behaviors to the drug or suffer from memory loss and decreased learning
capacity in the long term. Additionally, the use of marijuana has been linked
to depression, suicidal thoughts. These affects are compounded by the societal
risks posed by drug users driving or attending work while under the influence
of illegal substances. When considering life in a country that severely
struggles to live with its two legal and equally dangerous, substances of
alcohol and tobacco, the risks posed by decriminalized marijuana present a
clear danger to American citizens. The behavior altering properties of smoked
cannabis have no defined medicinal benefit and only serve to jeopardize the
health and well being of those who choose to avoid the illegal and dangerous
use of drugs.

 

Marijuana,
Mental Illness and Health – Adults

As
mentioned in the previous section, the use of marijuana leads to a host of
medical problems. There is overwhelming evidence that marijuana is harmful to
health in a number of ways. Some opponents of the war on drugs argue that
alcohol is more harmful to one’s health yet the reality is that we don’t know
the full extent of the effects of marijuana on the human body. Research
scientists studying the effects of marijuana often conclude that there needs to
be more experimental studies into the effects of marijuana to determine
precisely how harmful it is. Research correlates marijuana use and adverse
health effects, including a strong association between chronic smoking of
marijuana and abnormalities of cells in the respiratory system, increased risk
of cancer, lung damage, chronic bronchitis and increased risk of pulmonary
disease.38
Additionally
studies suggest that cannabis has been linked to the onset of cancer. In one
study, 26 percent of testicular cancer patients smoked marijuana (15 percent
who used daily or weekly) at the time of diagnosis, compared with 20 percent of
men without cancer (10 percent who used daily or weekly). Marijuana users had
2.3 times the risk of having a type of testicular cancer known as a nonseminoma
as those who were not.39
In
addition, there is evidence that smoking marijuana may be just as bad if not
worse than smoking cigarettes in terms of contracting bladder cancer.40 Furthermore, it has
been found that marijuana increases the likelihood of heart attacks. The risk
of a heart attack jumps nearly fivefold during the first hour after smoking
marijuana, posing a particular threat to middle-aged users of the drug,
according to a study released in 2001. The likelihood of suffering a heart
attack was 4.8 times greater in the first hour after smoking marijuana when
compared to periods of non-use of the drug. In the second hour after smoking
the drug the risk was 1.7 times greater.41 It has been found that the use of marijuana
affects fertility in both women and men. Women who smoked marijuana during the
year before a fertility procedure had 25 percent fewer eggs and about one fewer
embryo transferred, compared with women who did not smoke marijuana during that
year, according to research published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and
Gynecology. Similarly, marijuana smoking by men during the year before the
procedure was associated with approximately one less embryo transferred, the
report indicates.42
In
addition, cannabis has a detrimental effect on the immune system. Forty five researchers
found that cannabis smokers had fewer immune-enhancing natural killer cells and
lymphocytes, and higher levels of a protein that may promote tumor growth.43One of most worrying
effects of smoking marijuana is on mental health and well-being. Numerous
studies have pointed to the fact that the chemical compounds or cannabinoids in
marijuana lead to mental health illnesses ranging from depression to psychosis
to schizophrenia. The British Medical Journal in its January,2005 issue
revealed that smoking cannabis once or twice a week almost doubled the risk of
developing psychotic symptoms later in life.44A major study conducted in Australia indicated
that women who use cannabis daily run seven times the risk of suffering depression
and anxiety.45Additionally, a
British study found that a staggering80%of patients newly diagnosed with
schizophrenia and other psychiatric illnesses are heavy users of cannabis.46Theresults from
another study published by the American Psychology Association provide evidence
for early-stage sensory processing deficits in cannabis use. This finding,
along with the observed increased rates of schizotypy in cannabis users,
strengthens support for a cannabinoid link to schizophrenia spectrum disorders.47The health effects of
marijuana are not fully known but what is known clearly shows that is harmful
to health in a number of ways. The absurdity of marijuana legalization becomes
clear when considering the impact on personal health and the healthcare system
in general.

 

Marijuana,
Mental Illness and Health –Children

There
is a strong indication that marijuana use during pregnancy has a damaging
effect on the fetal brain which continues to affect the child’s learning
abilities in later life. Marijuana is the most widely used drug among women of
a reproductive age. Studies have found that children of marijuana-smoking
mothers more frequently suffer from permanent cognitive deficits, concentration
disorders, hyperactivity, and impaired social interactions than non-exposed
children of the same age and social background.48 A study in rats suggests that children born
to mothers who use marijuana during pregnancy may suffer a host of lasting
mental defects. As well as affecting memory and learning, exposure to marijuana
during pregnancy has a strong effect on visual mapping and analysis in human
children. According to another study, natural marijuana-like chemicals may
direct key brain cells to make improper connections while in the womb, according
to a new study. Researchers report that the molecules, called cannabinoids,
serve as guideposts for young cells in the attention and decision-making parts
of fetal mouse brains. The finding may help explain studies showing that the
children of mothers who smoked marijuana during pregnancy are slower to process
information than their peers. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient
in marijuana, might knock the cell-guiding machinery off course by
over-stimulating the brain.49 In
addition to the mental health effects on the fetus, there is evidence that
maternal recreational drug use and marijuana use during pregnancy were
associated with increased risk of neuroblastoma in offspring.50 Neuroblastoma are a
type of malignant cancerous tumor that develops from nerve tissue that occur in
infants and children. This evidence further demonstrates the danger associated
with increased marijuana use through the relaxation of drug laws.

 

Marijuana,
Mental Illness and Health – Adolescence

The
scientific literature points to the fact that there is an irrefutable link
between the consumption of cannabis and the mental and physical health of
teenagers. In addition to the numerous effects on physical and mental health,
the use of cannabis in late adolescence and early adulthood emerged as the
strongest risk factor for later involvement in other illicit drugs.51In terms of the
physical effects on teenagers, it has been discovered that drug use in general,
including marijuana use, has increased the risk of having astroke.52The adolescent brain
is particularly vulnerable as it undergoes some of the most critical stages in
development. The use of marijuana during these development stages can have a
detrimental effect on the teenage brain ranging from cognitive impairment to schizophrenia.
Research shows cannabis may precipitate psychosis, anxiety and schizophrenia in
vulnerable people. There is compelling evidence that cannabis may aggravate
depression and increase the risk of suicide, especially for adolescent girls.
As mentioned previously, regular marijuana users experience higher rates of
aggression and violence than others.53Chronic, heavy marijuana use during
adolescence is associated with poorer performance on thinking tasks, including
slower psychomotor speed and poorer complex attention, verbal memory and
planning ability. Moreover, recent
findings suggest females may be at increased risk for the neurocognitive
consequences of marijuana use during adolescence, as studies found that teenage
girls had marginally larger prefrontal cortex (PFC) volumes compared to girls
who did not smoke marijuana.54Research
has shown that teenagers who smoke cannabis daily are more than 150 per cent
more likely to develop schizophrenia than those who do not.“It’s past the
bounds of theory now, there’s enough evidence to indicate that marijuana use in
young people has a causal role in the development of schizophrenia,” said
Professor Vaughan Carr, the head of the Neuroscience Institute of Schizophrenia
and Allied Disorders at Newcastle University.55This research concurs with another study in Pittsburgh:
heavy marijuana use, particularly in adolescence, appears to be associated with
an increased risk for the later development of schizophrenia, and the course of
illness is worse for people with schizophrenia who use marijuana,” said David
A. Lewis, M.D., corresponding author of the study and UPMC Endowed Professor in
Translational Neuroscience, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic,
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.56 According to another study carried out by Dr.
Gabriella Gobbi, a psychiatric researcher from the Research Institute of the
McGill University Health Centre, daily consumption of cannabis in teens can
cause depression and anxiety, and have an irreversible long-term effect on the
brain. “Teenagers who are exposed to cannabis have decreased serotonin
transmission, which leads to mood disorders, as well as increased
norepinephrine transmission, which leads to greater long-term susceptibility to
stress.”57
It is
evident that the use of marijuana can have damaging effects on a young person’s
life. In one study the researchers found that the Early High Users lagged
behind all other groups in earnings and education when resurveyed at age 29.
Early High Users and Stable Light Users did not usually go to college, while
Steady Increasers completed on average one year of college, Occasional Light
Users almost two years of college, and Abstainers, almost three years of
college. “The bad news is that if you start marijuana use by age 13, even if
you eventually decrease your usage, you are likely to have a lower income and
lower level of schooling by age 29,” said Dr. Ellickson who led the study.58 The evidence is quite
clear that the effects of marijuana use on vulnerable adolescent brains are
detrimental to their physical, mental, long and short term well being.

 

Marijuana
Research – Toxicology Studies

Numerous
academic studies highlight the toxicity of marijuana. Research has shown that
smoking marijuana is more toxic than smoking cigarettes. Marijuana is also is
far more potent than it was twenty years ago, and despite the fact that many
have argued that it helps to relieve pain, research has shown that it has been
ineffective in treating pain. In addition the health effects of marijuana
discussed above, chronic cannabis use is associated with psychiatric,
respiratory, cardiovascular, and bone effects. It also has oncogenic,
teratogenic, and mutagenic effects all of which depend upon dose and duration
of use.59
Compared to smoking cigarettes, according to
research published in France, smoking three cannabis joints will cause you to
inhale the same amount of toxic chemicals as a whole pack of cigarettes.60Researchers in Canada
concur that marijuana smoke contains significantly higher levels of several
toxic compounds –including ammonia and hydrogen cyanide –than tobacco smoke
and may therefore pose similar health risks. The scientists found that ammonia
levels were 20 times higher in the marijuana smoke than in the tobacco smoke,
while hydrogen cyanide, nitric oxide and certain aromatic amines occurred at
levels 3-5 times higher in the marijuana smoke.61In terms of the chemicals in marijuana,
tetrahydrocannabinol (“THC”), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, was
found to be at its highest concentration level ever –8.5 percent –in
2006, according to the University of Mississippi Potency Monitoring Project, a
research program funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (“NIDA”).The
2006 THC level was the highest since annual analysis began in 1976and more than
three times higher than the THC level recorded in 1986 (2.8 percent).62Many have claimed
that smoking marijuana has helped to relieve chronic pain. However, an authoritative study has shown
that marijuana is ineffective in treating pain. “From comparisons with previous
clinical data, the lack of pain relief from the cannabis dosage and oral
administration in this study cannot be considered the result of inadequate
dosage or insufficient gastrointestinal absorption,” said Dr. Kraft, lead
researcher in the study.“The high levels of THC detected in the blood of our
subjects as well as the occurrence of typical THC side effects argue for
sufficient availability, and thus we draw the conclusion that THC was not
effective in treating acute pain.”63While research continues in this area, and
while some companies have successfully isolated helpful cannabinoid compounds,
it is clear from studies that the combination of chemicals in smoked marijuana
is harmful and not helpful. Despite
claims to the contrary, the medical and scientific fact is that crude marijuana
is NOT medicine. The American Society of Addiction Medicine, whose members are
medical doctors in clinical practice and research settings, officially rejects
“smoking as a means of drug delivery since it is not safe.”64

 

Support
for Balanced Drug Policies – Moral and Subjective Arguments

There
is a wealth of economic, medical, scientific and environmental arguments for
why marijuana should be illegal for health reasons. When moral and subjective
arguments combine with the scientific facts, only one conclusion becomes clear.
One thing to consider is that even if drugs are legalized, where do addicts
turn when they want to quit? Not the doctor to whom they are now linked, like
the addict to the street dealer. It is easy to think of how we might better get
the drugs to the addict, but much harder to think how we might help users off
them when they have had enough.65 Another concern is
that marijuana will become commercialized in the way that alcohol and tobacco
are. Does the world really want to create a Philip Morris for weed? An RJR for
cocaine? Do we want cigarette companies that by their own admission seek
“replacement smokers” for those who die or quit smoking, seeking “replacement
drug addicts” for those who shake their habit?66 In addition, analogies with the Prohibition
era, often drawn by those who would legalize drugs, are false and inexact: it
is one thing to attempt to ban a substance that has been in customary use for
centuries by at least nine-tenths of the adult population, and quite another to
retain a ban on substances that are still not in customary use, in an attempt
to ensure that they never do become customary.67 Former drug users argue that legalization
won’t stop addicts’ risky behavior. “If they’re giving it to you, you’re still
going to find a way of sharing a cook or a needle,” said one ex-user. “Or
unprotected sex. That’s not going to
stop that,” said one former addict. They also worried that legal purveyors
might increase addiction through advertising or boosting potencies.68 Others argue that decriminalizing marijuana
will only hamper our efforts to close the achievement gap between rich and
poor, and would harm the physical health, intellectual development and the
personal safety of our young people.69

 

Support
for Balanced Drug Policies –Statistical Arguments

The
statistics of the effects of drugs on American society provide some of most
powerful arguments against the pro-legalization movement. This section contains
some of the most compelling statistical arguments that show why an abstinence-based
and balanced drug policy is critical. One
of the most staggering facts is that according to the Centers for Disease
Control, 3,000 Americans die monthly from drug overdose. An estimated 2,800 die
weekly if drug-related causes are included.70Moreover, as previously discussed; it appears
that crime and the use of drugs are inextricably linked. In early 2003, Florida
had a total of 88 inmates in state prison for possession of marijuana out of an
overall population of 75,236 (0.12 percent). And of those 88, 40 (45 percent)
had been in prison before. Of the remaining 48 who were in prison for the first
time, 43 (90 percent) had prior probation sentences and the probation of all
but four of them had been revoked at least once.71In one state alone, a study estimates the
economic cost of alcohol and drug abuse in Maine was $618 million in 2000.Lost
productivity from substance abuse was estimated at $97.4 million in the study. Medical
care costs attributable to substance abuse were set at $113 million in the
study, and another $19.3 million was identified as the cost of providing
substance abuse treatment in 2000.The cost to the criminal justice system was
estimated at $128.4 million. More than a third of all the assault arrests in
2000 were related to alcohol or drug abuse.72 If all the arguments
against permissive drug use are not compelling enough, we cannot ignore
history. The drug-tolerant era (1960-1980) in America brought a doubling of the
murder rate, a 230% increase in burglaries, a ten-fold increase in teen drug
use, and a 900% rise in addiction rates. The peak years for teen drug use and
murder were the same years that drug incarceration rates hit an all-time low
point. From 1980 through the end of the century (with tougher drug laws),
Murder rates fell by over 25 percent, burglary rates dropped 41 percent, teen
drug use reduced by more than a third, and heavy cocaine and heroin use levels
fell.73 As previously
discussed, legalizing drugs would generate some revenue since we would be able
to tax more goods. However, when looking at the cost to benefit ratio of drugs
that have already been legalized (alcohol and tobacco), we can clearly see that
legalization does more harm than good. Despite any revenue made, “in 2004 and
2005, 39% of all traffic-related deaths were related to alcohol consumption and
36% of convicted offenders ‘had been drinking alcohol when they committed their
conviction offense’… When it comes to cigarettes, adult smokers ‘die 14 years
earlier than nonsmokers.’” 74 There
is strong evidence that legalizing drugs that cognitively impair has a
detrimental effect on society. On a positive note, in recent decades, tougher
stances on drugs have reduced usage and therefore the demand for drugs, 840,000
fewer teenagers are using illicit drugs now than they were 5 years ago.75 The numerous
authoritative studies, facts, statistics, and arguments put forward in this
paper thoroughly demonstrate why the United States should not permit the
loosening of illegal drug policies. If we as a society now spend so much energy
and so many resources persuading people to stop smoking, why would we now send
a signal that smoking marijuana is acceptable?76

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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