Press Release  | 06/28/2005

New Report: Majority of Americans in Treatment for Marijuana Are Coerced by the Criminal Justice System

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The drug czar consistently touts the increasing number of marijuana users in drug treatment to argue that marijuana is a dangerous drug which has increased in potency. Recent data proves otherwise. According to a new report from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 58% of all marijuana treatment admissions in 2002 were the result of referrals from the criminal justice system. This number increased ten percentage points from 48% in 1992.

A May 2005 report by The Sentencing Project found that marijuana arrests increased by 113% during the same ten year period. According to that report, marijuana arrests currently account for nearly half (45%) of the 1.5 million drug arrests annually.

"These reports offer concrete evidence that it's not marijuana itself that's responsible for escalating treatment rates: It's the government's misguided war on drugs," said Bill Piper, Director of National Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. "It's a tragedy that 50% of people who want treatment can't get it because the criminal justice system is filling up life-saving spots by coercing marijuana users into treatment."

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.
  • 72% of Americans favor decriminalization--applying a fine, not jail time.
  • The federal Higher Education Act prohibits student loans to young people convicted of any drug offense.
  • More than 80% of high school students report that it's easy to get marijuana.
  • 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.

Melissa Milam at (212) 613-8037 or Bill Piper at (202) 216-0035

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