Press Release  | 05/04/2005

Warning: Marijuana Causes Drug Czar to Behave Irrationally, Act Paranoid and Waste Billions of Dollars

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New Report: Marijuana Main Focus of Drug War, 700,000 Arrested Annually, Collateral Consequences Include Loss of College Financial Aid, Access to Public Housing, Mass Incarceration
Drug Czar uses Scare Tactics to Justify Failed Policy

A report released by the Washington D.C. based think tank The Sentencing Project shows that marijuana users are now the primary targets of the U.S. government's war on drugs, and that since 1990, there has been a dramatic increase in total drug arrests, with a major increase in the number of marijuana arrests.

"The government has spent billions of taxpayer dollars locking our fellow citizens up, yet marijuana can still be found at any high school in America," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "They know they have failed, so they're trying to use scare tactics to build support for their failed and inhumane policies."

In addition to major increases in arrests and incarceration rates around marijuana use, the White House is prioritizing the demonization of marijuana in its rhetoric and propaganda. The White House frequently touts an increase in the number of people receiving treatment for "marijuana abuse," without mentioning that the vast majority of those people have been coerced, offered either a jail cell or treatment.

"It's a tragedy that 50% of people who want treatment can't get it because the criminal justice system is filling up much needed spots by coercing marijuana users into treatment," added Nadelmann. "They're misrepresenting the facts in order to justify a $40 billion failure--the war on drugs."

Past distortions of the facts include the idea that marijuana is a "gateway" to harder drugs, and just yesterday, the ONDCP launched a new ad campaign stating that marijuana use is linked to mental health problems, including depression.

"While a small percentage of marijuana smokers may be depressed, I'm sure marijuana prohibition causes much more depression," added Nadelmann. "You could be incarcerated, lose your job, your financial aid, and your access to public housing for marijuana, something that 50% of Americans between 18 and 50 have smoked."

Note: Ethan Nadelmann wrote a cover story for the leading conservative magazine National Review (July 2004) calling for an end to Marijuana Prohibition.

Background

  • Police make about 700, 000 arrests per year for marijuana offenses --roughly 87% of those are for nothing more than possession of small amounts.
  • Almost as many people are arrested for marijuana as for all other illicit drugs combined.
  • Enforcing marijuana laws costs an estimated $10-15 billion taxpayer dollars per year in direct costs alone.
  • More than 50% of Americans between the ages of 18-50 have tried marijuana at least once.
  • 72% of Americans favor decriminalization--applying a fine, not jail time,
  • 40% of Americans favor legalizing marijuana and treating it like alcohol, according to a 2003 Zogby poll.
  • Unlike alcohol and many other drugs, no one has ever died of a marijuana overdose.
  • Alabama locks up people convicted three times of marijuana possession for 15 years to life.
  • The federal Higher Education Act prohibits student loans to young people convicted of any drug offense; all other criminal offenders remain eligible.
  • More than 80% of high school students report that it's easy to get marijuana.
  • Every state ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana has been approved.
  • Though it publicly denies that marijuana has medical value, the federal government currently provides marijuana from its own production site in Mississippi to a few court-certified patients.
  • In Holland, where cannabis is decriminalized, it is no more popular than in the U.S.



Tony Newman at (212) 613-8026

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