The potency of marijuana has increased over 151 percent since 1983. But Coloradans still say, “Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.”
A study released yesterday by the Office of National Drug Control Policy indicates that Colorado ranks in the top 10 for states with the highest current marijuana use. At least 7.6 percent of Coloradans smoked weed in the past month.
Also, contrary to arguments made by pot proponents, the 2008 Marijuana Sourcebook revealed that less than one half of 1 percent of inmates in state prisons are serving time for marijuana possession only. Marijuana still accounts for two out of five drug violation arrests nationwide.
Drug Czar John Walters said that while marijuana use among teens has continued to decrease, convincing adults to stop using the drug has remained a problem.
“Baby Boomers have this perception that marijuana is about fun and freedom. It isn’t,” he said. “It’s about dependency, disease and dysfunction.”
The Marijuana Sourcebook was released one day before Congressman Barney Frank, D-Mass., is expected to hold a news conference today in Washington announcing plans to introduce legislation that would remove federal penalties for personal marijuana use. The resolution would eliminate federal penalties for the adult possession of up to 100 grams of marijuana, and for the not-for-profit transfer of up to one ounce of the drug.
“The Drug Czar must be truly scared of the federal marijuana decriminalization bill that is moving through Congress,” said Denver pot proponent Mason Tvert. “It appears his office spent more time preparing this one marijuana ‘report’ than it has ever spent actually helping people with substance abuse problems receive treatment.”
Tvert is an advocate of legalizing marijuana. He ran a successful campaign in Denver in 2005 that legalized the adult possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. A second successful campaign last year instructed the Denver Police Department to make marijuana its lowest enforcement priority. The campaign was launched after Denver marijuana arrests increased despite the decision by voters in 2005.
Tvert said that while few marijuana users are thrown in prison, the fact that they’re arrested in the first place is a significant problem.
“They are permanently branded as criminals with drug convictions just for using a drug less harmful than alcohol,” he said. “If the Drug Czar is so thrilled with how states are handling those arrested for marijuana possession, he should support the bill introduced by Rep. Barney Frank that simply leaves marijuana enforcement up to the states.”
Second-Most Used Illicit Drug
Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug next to psychotherapeutics like anti-anxiety medications, according to the Marijuana Sourcebook report. In addition to Colorado, northern California, Alaska, Hawaii, parts of Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico, most of the Northeast and northern Florida are all experiencing high marijuana usage rates. In California, over 4.9 million marijuana plants were destroyed last year.
Approximately 2 million people started using marijuana in the past year, according to the report. Fifty-three percent of people scored weed for free and 43 percent bought it. Seventy-eight percent of marijuana users got it from their friends. And 55 percent used pot inside their own homes, while 22 percent smoked it at an outside public area.
There are about 25.4 million people smoking marijuana in the United States, according to the report. Users spent an estimated total of $11 billion in all to obtain the drug.
Walters believes strongly that there are serious consequences to smoking marijuana, including emotional and physical tolls.
“Too many of us are in denial and it’s time for an intervention,” he said.
Tvert, however, said regardless of pot’s potency, it’s still less harmful than the legal alternative — alcohol.
“Alcohol use alone is the nation’s third leading preventable cause of death, whereas there has never been a single death in history attributed solely to marijuana use,” he said. “Why on earth would the Drug Czar prefer adults use a more deadly drug?”
Denver Daily News (CO)
Peter Marcus, DDN Staff Writer
Published: Wednesday, July 30, 2008