|Own your ow legal marijuana business||
Your guide to making money in the multi-billion dollar marijuana industry
|The Drug Legalization Debate|
Drug Legalization: Myths and Misconceptions - US Dept. of Justice
Chapter One: Addiction Rates And Drug Legalization
I. Their Argument
Proponents of drug legalization argue that legalizing drugs would decrease addiction rates for two reasons. First, they maintain, people use drugs because they are illegal - that is, people get a thrill breaking a social taboo. Legalize drugs and the incentive to take them will go away. Second, proponents of legalization argue that if drugs were legalized, we could spend the money that we presently spend on the criminal justice system on treatment of addicts.2
II. Our Argument
Before addressing the particular merits of the legalization debate, it is useful to describe just what is an addiction. Addictions are either physical or psychological. Physical addiction occurs when the body becomes dependent upon chemicals or drugs not normally found in the human body and requires such chemicals in order to sustain basic bodily functions. Take, for instance, cocaine addiction. Cocaine alters the means by which brain cells communicate with one another. Usually, nerve cells (neurons) send signals to one another through chemical neurotransmitters such as dopamine. Dopamine flows from one neuron to the other, delivers its message, and returns to the original neuron. Cocaine, however, blocks the dopamine from returning to the first cell, and the first cell just keeps firing away. This explains why cocaine produces such feelings of pleasure; for lack of a better description, cocaine locks all of the user's neurons into an "On" position. The problem occurs when all of the cocaine has been metabolized by the body. As Professor James Q. Wilson explains, "[w]hen the exaggerated high produced by cocaine-influenced dopamine finally ends, the brain cells may (in ways that are still a matter of dispute) suffer from an extreme lack of dopamine, thereby making the individual unable to experience any pleasure at all."3 This is a very simplified model, of course, and different drugs affect the body in different ways, but a simple fact remains - physical addiction is biochemical in nature and is independent of social, political, or psychological causes.
There is another type of addiction, however, that being psychological addiction. Unlike physical addiction, which basically is a medical condition, psychological addiction occurs when the individual user feels or is of the opinion that drugs are necessary for his or her life. This is not to suggest that psychological addiction is easily dismissed; indeed it can have a profound influence on how addicts live their lives. Such especially is the case when addicts live in a culture that continually reinforces the desirability or necessity of drug use.
Let us examine addiction specific to two drugs: cocaine and marijuana. Although rough, estimates suggest that there are between 650,000 and 2.4 million cocaine addicts in the United States.4 "Cocaine is a much more addictive drug than alcohol. If cocaine were legally available the number of cocaine abusers would probably rise to...perhaps 20-25million."5 Mitchell Rosenthal, President of the Phoenix House drug-rehabilitation program states that cheap available drugs would increase addiction; only 10% of drinkers become hooked, while an estimated 75% of regular drug (crack) users could become addicts.6 Scientific studies agree, noting that when given unlimited access to cocaine, laboratory animals will consume increasingly greater amounts until they die.7 That cocaine is harmful to one's health likely will come as a surprise to no one. Dr. Frank H. Gawin, director of stimulant abuse, treatment and research at Yale University concludes that cocaine causes depression, paranoia, and "violent psychotic behavior."8 What is worse, there is presently no effective, permanent treatment for cocaine addiction.9
Almost everyone would agree that cocaine is a dangerous, addictive drug, but many would be surprised to find that the same is true of marijuana. Although it is very difficult to determine the precise number of marijuana users and addicts in the United States, one fact is clear: marijuana has become much more potent over the last twenty years. Cannabis delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly known as "THC," is the active ingredient in marijuana and other cannabis such as hashish. The THC content in marijuana during the days of Woodstock was something less than 1%. In 1974, the average THC content of illicit marijuana was 0. 36% and by 1984 had increased to 4.40%.10 In 1992 in Alaska, marijuana was discovered that had a THC content of 29.86%.11 Now stop and think about that for a minute. Today's marijuana may be between thirty to sixty times as potent as were the joints of the 1960's.
This observation gives one pause when we realize that THC is both dangerous and habit-forming. Marinol, a prescription drug that is very occasionally used in the treatment of nausea associated with chemotherapy, is chemically synthesized THC. Most people are familiar with the information sheets that come with prescription drugs - the pieces of paper that detail the indications and usage of the drug in question, its potential side-effects, its chemical composition, etc. The information sheet that comes with Marinol states verbatim, "MARINOL is highly abusable and can produce both physical and psychological dependence .... Patients receiving MARINOL should be closely observed."12 The company that produces Marinol goes on to explain that its THC may cause "changes in mood ... decrements in cognitive performance and memory, a decreased ability to control drives and impulses [and] . . . a full-blown picture of psychosis (psychotic organic brain syndrome) may occur in patients receiving doses within the lower portion of the therapeutic range."13
Such warnings should not surprise the scientists who have for many years maintained that the THC contained in marijuana is dangerous. First, in the late 1960's Dr. Robert Heath, then chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Neurology at Tulane Medical School, found that marijuana affects brain waves and destroys brain cells.14 Second, a study conducted by Dr. Ethel Sassenrath at the University of California at Davis between 1974 and 1978 found that THC increased the rate of fetal loss (in utero, fetal death) in monkeys by over 300%, while at the same time decreasing the birth weights in those babies born alive.15 Third, a study by Dr. Susan Dalterio, at the University of Texas found that marijuana decreased testosterone and impaired sexual development in male mice.16 Finally, a study by Dr. Albert Munson found that injections of THC suppressed the immune systems of mice and made them 96 times more susceptible to the herpes virus.17
Dr. Charles R. Schuster, former Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse said, "The fact that there are over 77,000 admissions a year to treatment programs for marijuana use and that annually almost 8,000 persons require emergency hospital care for marijuana use is sufficient evidence of the drugs dangerousness"18
Clearly, drugs such as cocaine and marijuana are, both addictive and dangerous. The legalizers likely would admit this, but counter by saying that if we legalized them we would have less of a problem. This is untrue.
Recall from above that legalizers claim that people use and become addicted to drugs because of the excitement of breaking the law - it is the fact that drugs are illegal that causes people to try them. The data disagree. Robert E. Peterson, Former Deputy Attorney General of Pennsylvania notes, "70% of high school students in New Jersey and about 60% of the students in California said that fear of getting in trouble with the law constituted a major reason not to use drugs."19
The legalizers' argument that we should legalize drugs and spend the money we now spend on criminal prosecution on treatment and rehabilitation also fails. Both proponents and opponents of legalization are in agreement that legalization almost certainly would decrease the price of drugs as they became more available. However, basic economic theory states that as the price of a commodity declines, demand for the commodity will increase. But whereas the reverse usually also is true (increase price and demand decreases), it is not so with addictive substances. That is, drop the price of a gram of cocaine by 50%, and you will see an increase in use as demand for the product increases. Increase the price of cocaine by 50%, and you will not see an equal decrease in demand because addicts will pay the price to sustain their addictions. In technical economic terms, the demand for addictive drugs is elastic with respect to price declines, but inelastic with respect to price increases.
Expert opinion supports this hypothesis. Dr. Herbert D. Kleber of the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, Columbia University, suggests that legalization of cocaine would result in a five- to six-fold increase in cocaine use.20 Dr. Robert DuPont, former director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse agrees, stating that legalization would increase the number of users of cocaine and marijuana to between fifty and sixty million, and the number of heroin users to around ten million.21 Dr. DuPont concludes that when one takes into account the health effects of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana, legalization could result in between 100,000 and 500,000 drug induced deaths each year.22 Further, you cannot legalize cocaine and control the crack epidemic, for users could easily turn the former into the latter.
History also supports the fact that legalization would increase addiction rates. When opium was legal in the United States at the turn of the century, we had proportionately between two and three times the number of addicts than we do presently.23 Furthermore, Dr. Richard Schwartz, Professor of Pediatrics at Georgetown University School of Medicine, notes that Alaska and Oregon, the states that traditionally have had the most lenient drug laws, also have the highest marijuana addiction rates in the United States double the national average.24
Finally, foreign countries that have relaxed drug laws have seen an increase in addiction rates [see Chapter Three].
In short, cocaine, heroin, and marijuana are dangerous and highly addictive substances. Scholarly opinion, historical evidence, and common sense suggest that if these drugs are legalized, then the rates of addiction will skyrocket, leading to misery and death.
2 See Chapters Two and Four for additional discussion of whether legalizing drugs would indeed allow us to shift resources from criminal prosecution to treatment and rehabilitation.
3 James Q. Wilson, "Against the Legalization of Drugs," Commentary, February 1990.
4 David T. Courtwright, "Should We Legalize Drugs? History Answers," American Heritage, February/March 1993.
5 Herbert D. Kleber, "Our Current Approach to Drug Abuse - Progress, Problems, Proposals," The New England Journal of Medicine, February 1994.
6 George Church, "Thinking the Unthinkable," Time, May 30, 1988.
7 Peter Kerr, "The Unspeakable is Debated: Should Drugs be Legalized?" New York Times, May 15, 1988.
9 John W. Ladenburg, "Should We Legalize Drugs?" Policy Statement of the Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney.
10 "Quarterly Report #10 Potency Monitoring Project," Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Mississippi, 1984.
11 "1992 Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program", Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Dept. of Justice, December, 1992.
12 Information Sheet for Marinol, Published by Roxane Laboratories, Inc., Revised August 1989.
14 Robert G. Health, "Cannabis Sativa: Effects on Brain Function," Biological Psychiatry, Vol. 15, No. 5, 1980.
15 Government's Supplemental Sentencing Memorandum Re: Health Effects of Marijuana, U.S. v. Greyshock, United States District Court for the District of Hawaii, 1988.
18 Alaskans for Drug-Free Youth Newsletter, Winter 1993/94
19 Robert E. Peterson, "Stop Legalization of Illegal Drugs," Drug Awareness Information Newsletter, July 1988.
20 David Corcoran, "Legalizing Drugs: Failures Spur Debate," New York Times, November 27, 1989.
21 Morton M. Kondracke, "Don't Legalize Drugs," The New Republic, June 27,1988.
23 Ethan A. Nadelmann, "Should We Legalize Drugs? History Answers," American Heritage, February/March 1993.
24 Richard Schwartz, "Sabotage and the War on Drugs," Drug Awareness Information Newsletter.
Chapter One Summary Sheet: Addiction Rates and Drug Legalization
If they say...
It is the fact that drugs are illegal that makes people want to use them.
Then you say...
Studies conducted on senior high students in California and New Jersey prove that the illegality of drugs discourages their use. [Robert E. Peterson, "Stop Legalization of Illegal Drugs," Drug Awareness Information Newsletter, July 1988].
If they say...
Cocaine is not addictive.
Then you say...
Cocaine is a much more addictive drug than alcohol. [Herbert D. Kleber, "Our Current Approach to Drug Abuse - Progress, Problems, Proposals," The New England Journal of Medicine, February 1994]
Cheap available drugs would increase addiction; only 10% of drinkers become hooked, while an estimated 75% of regular drug (crack) users could become addicts. [George Church, "Thinking the Unthinkable," Time, May 30,1988.]
In laboratory tests, animals will consume increasing dosages of cocaine until they die. [Peter Kerr, "The Unspeakable Is Debated: Should Drugs be Legalized?" New York Times, May 15,1988.]
Presently in the United States there are between 650,000 and 2.4 million cocaine addicts. [David T. Courtwright, "Should We Legalize Drugs? History Answers," American Heritage, February/March 1993].
If they say...
Marijuana is not addictive.
Then you say...
THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, encourages both physical and psychological dependence and is highly abusable. [Information Sheet for MARINOL (synthetic THC), Roxane Laboratories, Revised 1989].
77,000 persons each year are admitted to treatment programs for marijuana use. [Dr. Charles R, Schuster, Alaskans for Drug-Free Youth Newsletter, Winter 1993/94].
If they say...
Marijuana is not harmful.
Then you say...
Marijuana in the 1960's had a THC content of less than 1%. Today, the THC content is as high as 29.86%. [1992 Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program, Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Dept. of Justice, December 1992 and "Quarterly Report #10 Potency Monitoring Project," Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Mississippi, 1984].
THC causes mood changes, loss of memory, psychosis, impairment of coordination and perception, and complicates pregnancy. [Information Sheet for MARINOL (synthetic THC), Roxane Laboratories, Revised 1989].
Marijuana causes increased risk of schizophrenia, disturbs brain wave patterns and erodes brain cells, impairs the immune system, and complicates pregnancy. [Government's Supplemental Sentencing Memorandum Re: Health Effects of Marijuana, U.S. v. Greyshock, U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii, 1988].
Annually, almost 8,000 persons require emergency hospital care for marijuana use. [Dr. Charles R. Schuster, citation above].
If they say...
Legalization will not increase the rate of addiction.
Then you say...
According to basic economic principles, increasing availability and decreasing price will increase the demand for a commodity.
Dr. Herbert Kleber of Columbia University suggests that legalizing cocaine would increase use five to six fold. (David Corcoran, "Legalizing Drugs: Failures Spur Debate," New York Times, November 27, 1989].
Dr. Robert DuPont holds that if drugs were legal, we would have 50 to 60 million regular users of cocaine and marijuana and 10 million users of heroin. [Morton M. Kondracke, "Don't Legalize Drugs," The New Republic, June 27,1988].
When opium was legal in the U.S. at the turn of the century, the addiction rate was proportionately two to three times what it is now. [Ethan A. Nadelmann, "Should We Legalize Drugs? History Answers," American Heritage, February/March 1993].
Alaska and Oregon, which have the most permissive drug laws,
have the highest rates of addiction - double the national
average. [Richard Schwartz, "Sabotage and the War on
Drugs," Drug Awareness Information Newsletter].
Contents | Feedback | Search | DRCNet Home Page | Join DRCNet
DRCNet Library | Schaffer Library | The Drug Legalization Debate
Schaffer Library of Drug Policy
Major Studies of Drug and Drug Policy
Marihuana, A Signal of Misunderstanding - The Report of the US National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse
Licit and Illicit Drugs
Short History of the Marijuana Laws
The Drug Hang-Up
Congressional Transcripts of the Hearings for the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937
Frequently Asked Questions About Drugs
Basic Facts About the Drug War
Charts and Graphs about Drugs
Information on Alcohol
Guide to Heroin - Frequently Asked Questions About Heroin
LSD, Mescaline, and Psychedelics
Drugs and Driving
Children and Drugs
Drug Abuse Treatment Resource List
American Society for Action on Pain
Let Us Pay Taxes
Marijuana Business News
Reefer Madness Collection
Medical Marijuana Throughout History
Drug Legalization Debate
Legal History of American Marijuana Prohibition
Marijuana, the First 12,000 Years
DEA Ruling on Medical Marijuana
Legal References on Drugs
GAO Documents on Drugs
Response to the Drug Enforcement Agency
|Drug Information Articles|
Taking a drug test:
How To Pass A Drug Test
Beat Drug Test
Pass Drug Test
Drug Screening Tests
Drug Addiction Treatment