WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a press conference this morning, representatives from the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced the release of the latest results of the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health. As is their custom, the federal officials used the event — and the survey itself — as an opportunity to decry the use of marijuana in the United States and focused on perceived risk as a driving factor for increased use. Marijuana use has slightly increased in the past year, while alcohol use has declined.
“Once again, the federal government is trying to blame attempts to reform our marijuana laws for increases in use, completely ignoring the facts that arresting people for marijuana is obviously not stopping anyone from using it, and that education, not arrest, is responsible for decreases in alcohol use over the past year,” said Morgan Fox, communications manager for the Marijuana Policy Project.
“If we treat marijuana as a public health issue and stop wasting resources arresting adults for using something that is demonstrably safer than alcohol, we might be able to see the same effects. It is unfortunate that the Obama administration and ONDCP Director Gil Kerlikowske adamantly refuse to consider rational policy alternatives that don’t involve criminal penalties.”
“If we are realistic as a society about the risks of marijuana use compared to other drugs, and about the effectiveness of education and treatment instead of arrest and incarceration, we can do a much better job at decreasing abuse and addiction,“ Fox continued. “Mr. Kerlikowske has consistently stated that we cannot arrest our way out of this problem, so why do we keep trying?”
Other than marijuana, past month drug use has declined nearly across the board, suggesting possible correlations that could include substitution of marijuana for alcohol and harder drugs. Allowing adults to legally use and obtain marijuana in a controlled, taxed, and well-regulated system could be a useful tool in decreasing the health and social costs of using more dangerous drugs.