Friday, September 17, 2010

The California Marijuana Initiative - Stimulus that Might Actually Work


Since California is the first state to vote on legalizing marijuana in the Midterm election I thought I would outline the truth about drugs in America and give you an overview of what is beig debated.  The subject is marijuana use in America and the facts are this; over 100 million Americans have tried marijuana and 14.8 million use it monthly. Over 40% of all high school age kids have tried it.

Now for comparison purposes, there are three recreational drugs in America, alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs including marijuana.

The most recent studies have shown a continued increase in the use of all type of drugs in America with marijuana use up about 9% the past year.  Results from the most recent comprehensive study, the 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, tells the following story.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
Office of Applied Studies (OAS)


Slightly more than half of Americans aged 12 or older reported being current drinkers of alcohol in the 2007 survey (51.1 percent). This translates to an estimated 126.8 million people, which was similar to the 2006 estimate of 125.3 million people (50.9 percent).

More than one fifth (23.3 percent) of persons aged 12 or older participated in binge drinking (having five or more drinks on the same occasion on at least 1 day in the 30 days prior to the survey) in 2007. This translates to about 57.8 million people, similar to the estimate in 2006.

In 2007, heavy drinking was reported by 6.9 percent of the population aged 12 or older, or 17.0 million people. This rate was the same as the rate of heavy drinking in 2006. Heavy drinking is defined as binge drinking on at least 5 days in the past 30 days.

In 2007, among young adults aged 18 to 25, the rate of binge drinking was 41.8 percent, and the rate of heavy drinking was 14.7 percent. These rates were similar to the rates in 2006.

The rate of current alcohol use among youths aged 12 to 17 was 15.9 percent in 2007. Youth binge and heavy drinking rates were 9.7 and 2.3 percent, respectively. These rates were essentially the same as the 2006 rates.


In 2007, an estimated 70.9 million Americans aged 12 or older were current (past month) users of a tobacco product. This represents 28.6 percent of the population in that age range. In addition, 60.1 million persons (24.2 percent of the population) were current cigarette smokers; 13.3 million (5.4 percent) smoked cigars; 8.1 million (3.2 percent) used smokeless tobacco; and 2.0 million (0.8 percent) smoked tobacco in pipes.

The rate of current use of any tobacco product among persons aged 12 or older decreased from 29.6 percent in 2006 to 28.6 percent in 2007, but the rates of current use of cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, cigars, and pipe tobacco did not change significantly over that period.

Between 2002 and 2007, past month use of any tobacco product decreased from 30.4 to 28.6 percent, and past month cigarette use declined from 26.0 to 24.2 percent. Rates of past month use of cigars, smokeless tobacco, and pipe tobacco were similar in 2002 and 2007.

The rate of past month cigarette use among 12 to 17 year olds declined from 13.0 percent in 2002 to 9.8 percent in 2007. However, past month smokeless tobacco use was higher in 2007 (2.4 percent) than in 2002 (2.0 percent).

Illegal Drugs

In 2007, an estimated 19.9 million Americans aged 12 or older were current (past month) illicit drug users, meaning they had used an illicit drug during the month prior to the survey interview. This estimate represents 8.0 percent of the population aged 12 years old or older. Illicit drugs include marijuana/hashish, cocaine (including crack), heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants, or prescription-type psychotherapeutics used nonmedically.

The rate of current illicit drug use among persons aged 12 or older in 2007 (8.0 percent) was similar to the rate in 2006 (8.3 percent).

Marijuana was the most commonly used illicit drug (14.4 million past month users). Among persons aged 12 or older, the rate of past month marijuana use in 2007 (5.8 percent) was similar to the rate in 2006 (6.0 percent).

In 2007, there were 2.1 million current cocaine users aged 12 or older, comprising 0.8 percent of the population. These estimates were similar to the number and rate in 2006 (2.4 million or 1.0 percent).

Hallucinogens were used in the past month by 1.0 million persons (0.4 percent) aged 12 or older in 2007, including 503,000 (0.2 percent) who had used Ecstasy. These estimates were similar to the corresponding estimates for 2006.

There were 6.9 million (2.8 percent) persons aged 12 or older who used prescription-type psychotherapeutic drugs nonmedically in the past month. Of these, 5.2 million used pain relievers, the same as the number in 2006.

In 2007, there were an estimated 529,000 current users of methamphetamine aged 12 or older (0.2 percent of the population). These estimates were not significantly different from the estimates for 2006 (731,000 or 0.3 percent).

Among youths aged 12 to 17, the current illicit drug use rate remained stable from 2006 (9.8 percent) to 2007 (9.5 percent). Between 2002 and 2007, youth rates declined significantly for illicit drugs in general (from 11.6 to 9.5 percent) and for marijuana, cocaine, hallucinogens, LSD, Ecstasy, prescription-type drugs used nonmedically, pain relievers, stimulants, methamphetamine, and the use of illicit drugs other than marijuana.

Did you really check out the statistics? Alcohol was used by 126.8 million people 12 and over, tobacco was used by 70.9 million people 12 and over, and illegal drugs were used by 19.9 million Americans 12 and over. Of the latter 14.4 million used marijuana. Over time 100 million people have used marijuana.

The cost of illegal marijuana is staggering with a study by Jon Gettman, Ph.D. indicating that Americans spend nearly $113 billion annually on the drug. We also spend $10.7 billion in law enforcement to control the drug before the stimulus and new drug enforcements efforts by the Obama Administration. In other words our government loses nearly $31.1 billion in lost tax revenue to illegal marijuana and spends $10.7 billion trying to stop it, about $42 billion a year.

That is only the beginning of the cost however. The majority of the drug is grown in South America and Asia and smuggled into the states. Along the Mexican border over 6,000 Mexicans have been murdered in drug wars in the past year alone. Tens of thousands of people in other countries have been murdered over the years supplying the US with pot.

Yet the effects of marijuana are nearly insignificant compared to the physical and psychological damage inflicted on us from legal drugs sanctioned in America, alcohol and tobacco. If you threw in the abuses in the prescription drug use here you would find billions more in wasted money. We know all these legal drugs kill and cost us billions of dollars in medical costs.

So why not legalize marijuana? The benefits now substantially outweigh the risk. Marijuana is the only natural drug of the three recreational categories. Where it has been legalized in places like the Netherlands, the use by the public has dropped significantly below the rate in America. In fact in Columbia where it is grown the drug use is a fraction of the American use.

Not only would legalization eliminate the $10.7 billion in law enforcement costs, money that could be better used chasing the criminals in suits whose actions cost us trillions of dollars in losses, but the $31.1 billion in lost tax revenues could pay for a lot of deficits in states and a lot of new initiatives nationally.

Marijuana could be grown in America putting tens of thousands of acres into productive, tax generating use, land currently sitting idle and generating no property tax revenue. States that lost significant property taxes with the loss of tobacco crops would have a way to recover the losses. Thousands of lives in Mexico would be saved every year by eliminating the drug smuggling and drug wars involved in distribution.

Note these three most recent US Presidents have all admitted to using marijuana.

When we tried to prohibit the sale of alcohol in America it backfired and we should have learned our lesson. We allow the sale of tobacco which has hundreds of chemicals added to it to make us addicted to it and the government still can't stop 126.8 million people from using it. The last three presidents of the United States have all admitted to using marijuana and all three attended Ivy League schools. There would be a great sigh of relief from all the countries trying to stop the flow of marijuana into America and we would be saving thousands of lives a year. How about we use common sense and finally legalize it and put billions of dollars to work for us?

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