New CASA Report Parrots the ONDCP with More

Press Release June 17, 2008
Media Contact

Tony Newman at (646)335-5384

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) released a misleading report today that parrots the ONDCP’s “reefer madness.” The report relies on hysterical headlines and ignores the real story behind the numbers.

The report makes the vague claim that the marijuana of today is “not your parent’s pot.” CASA warns that marijuana potency is up 175 percent. The report also purports a 492 percent increase in teen treatment admissions for marijuana abuse or dependence. However, there is more to the story than the numbers indicate.

Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance released the following statement.

“Anyone who smoked marijuana in the 1970s and 1980s can well recall getting high from a single puff or two. That’s because the marijuana back then was fundamentally the same as the marijuana people are consuming today.

“These claims of higher potency and newfound dangers are mostly about sustaining support for the three quarter of a million arrests made each year for nothing more than marijuana possession. But to the extent the claims have merit, it’s worth noting that higher potency can have positive consequences insofar as people smoke less to attain the desired effect, thereby reducing the respiratory and other health risks associated with smoking marijuana.

“As for the claims about growing numbers of marijuana users in drug treatment, they ignore the extent to which most of those users were coerced into “treatment” because they had been caught with a joint, or failed a drug test, NOT because they were addicted to marijuana. Fewer than one in five people enter drug treatment for marijuana voluntarily, and half were referred by the criminal justice system. Attending a marijuana “treatment” program is what’s required to avoid expulsion, dismissal or incarceration.

“It’s time for the drug czar’s office and their non-governmental collaborators to focus greater attention on the various harms that flow from arresting so many people — mostly young and poor and increasingly black and brown — for nothing more than using marijuana: jobs lost, property seized, scholarships withdrawn, and even freedom denied.

Marijuana can be a problematic drug for some people, but no evidence to date would reverse the conclusion of DEA’s former administrative law judge, Francis Young, who wrote in 1988: ‘Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man…;. In strict medical terms, marijuana is safer than many foods we commonly consume’.”

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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