The nation’s so-called ‘drug czar’, Gil Kerlikowske, convened a press conference last week to release new government data on drug use in America. The major talking points for the presentation were two fold:
*Insist that cannabis is linked to crime
*The public sentiment in favor of legalization is an unfortunate attraction to ‘bumper sticker solutions’
One could write a doctoral thesis on Mr.Kerlikowske’s supposition and claims, but suffice for space and time, let’s let the now much more watchdog media on the issue of ending cannabis prohibition better describe what they’ve figured out about ONDCP propaganda, data and the intellectual crime of omission. (Boy, do I have a book recommendation for them…)
Slate reported on the ONDCP’s well established proclivity to throw out data and insinuate causality…using squishy terms like ‘linked’:
On Thursday, Gil Kerlikowske, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, announced the results of a study that—at least according to him—demonstrated a link between marijuana use and crime. The study analyzed data collected via the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring program (ADAM II), which took urine samples from arrestees in five cities over a 21-day period last year. “Marijuana remained the drug most often detected in ADAM II arrestees in all five sites in 2012, ranging from 37 percent of ADAM II arrestees testing positive in Atlanta to 58 percent testing positive in Chicago,” the study reported. “In three of the five sites, over half of the adult male arrestees tested positive for marijuana.”
Kerlikowske, who opposes marijuana legalization, said in a speech Thursday that the study showed that America needs to “acknowledge and come to grips with the link between crime and substance use.” But correlation is not causation. Just because a high percentage of arrestees tested positive for marijuana does not mean that smoking marijuana made them commit crimes. Here are other things that over half of the adult male arrestees probably had in common: pants, food in their stomachs, a mother who loves them, an impoverished background, an affinity for one or more of the local sports teams.
Now, Kerlikowske only said that drug use and crime were linked, not that drug use causescrime. But still, the implications are obvious. Kerlikowske is not a stupid man, and he’s not actually a terrible drug czar. He has argued that drug abuse needs to be treated as a public health issue, not just a matter of criminal justice, and I couldn’t agree more. In his speech, Kerlikowske mentioned the need to move the drug policy reform debate beyond “bumper stickers.” One good way to do that is to move beyond studies that don’t necessarily say anything at all.
Reason’s Mike Riggs (a prolific and resourceful blogger about criminal justice matters) took the ONDCP to task one step further by busting the office for omitting alcohol related data and not informing the public more accurately about the most problematic and abused drug for incoming criminal defendants: alcohol
The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy released a study last week that found the majority of arrestees in five metropolitan areas tested positive for marijuana at the time they were booked, and that many other arrestees tested positive for harder drugs. There was one drug missing from the report, however, and it appears it was omitted intentionally. That drug is alcohol.
When I wrote up the 2012 annual report on the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program II, I noticed that the methodology section contained a list of “data domains”; basically, a guide to the questions researchers asked each arrestee. Every question listed had a corresponding chart in the findings section of the report, save one: The data that researchers collected about alcohol consumption–how often arrestees had consumed five or more alcoholic drinks in a single session over the last three, seven, and 30 days, as well as in the past 12 months–was omitted from the report.
[Editor's note: This post is excerpted from this week's forthcoming NORML weekly media advisory. To have NORML's news alerts and legislative advisories delivered straight to your in-box, sign up here.]
The enactment of state laws allowing for the limited legal use of cannabis by qualified patients has little to no causal effect on broader marijuana use, according to data published online in the journal Annals of Epidemiology.
Investigators at McGill University in Montreal obtained state-level estimates of marijuana use from the 2002 through 2009 US National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Researchers used difference-in-differences regression models to estimate the causal effect of medical cannabis laws on marijuana use, and simulations to account for measurement error.
Authors reported: “Difference-in-differences estimates suggested that passing MMLs (medical marijuana laws) decreased past-month use among adolescents … and had no discernible effect on the perceived riskiness of monthly use. … [These] estimates suggest that reported adolescent marijuana use may actually decrease following the passing of medical marijuana laws.”
They concluded, “We find limited evidence of causal effects of medical marijuana laws on measures of reported marijuana use.”
Previous investigations by researcher teams at Brown University in 2011 and Texas A&M in 2007 made similar determinations, concluding, “[C]onsistent with other studies of the liberalization of cannabis laws, medical cannabis laws do not appear to increase use of the drug.”
The findings are in direct conflict with public statements made by Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske, who in recent years has frequently alleged that the passage of medical cannabis laws is directly responsible for higher levels of self-reported marijuana consumption among US teenagers.
Full text of the study, “Do Medical Marijuana Laws Increase Marijuana Use? Replication Study and Extension,” can be read online here.
Now streaming on NORMLtv is the latest episode of “This Week in Weed.”
This Week: a congressman calls upon Drug Czar Kerlikowse to reschedule marijuana, per se THC limits for drugged driving stall out in Colorado, and the biggest marijuana rally on the east coast is about to commence.
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New England Remains The Regional Leader In Pot Use — What The Northeast’s Affinity With Cannabis Says About The Viability Of ProhibitionAugust 8, 2011
The federal government has once again released its state-by-state estimate of self-reported licit and illicit substance use. You can download the full report here.
Once again, the northeast leads the nation in self-reported marijuana use in practically every measurable category.
Among states reporting ‘marijuana use in the past year among persons aged 12 and older,’ Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont all rank in the top percentile. (Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, and Oregon round out the list.) Among states reporting ‘marijuana use in the past year among youths age 12 to 17,’ Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont top the list (along with Alaska, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and Oregon).
The totals in the category ‘marijuana use in the past year among persons age 18 to 25‘ is even more New England-centric, with every northeast state (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont) all included in the top percentile (along with Alaska, Colorado, New York, and Oregon). In the category, ‘marijuana use in the past month among persons age 26 or older‘ Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont top the list (along with Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, and Oregon).
The findings are notable because they are consistent from previous years and provide plenty of fodder for combating numerous drug warrior myths and stereotypes (such as the notion that high rates of illicit drug use — yes, the New England states lead in this broader category too — are typically relegated to poorer, urban, more racially diverse areas).
They also call into question the notion that marijuana use among the general population is in any way influenced by the legal status of marijuana. State criminal penalties for cannabis vary widely across the New England states. For instance, Maine’s decriminalization law (possession of up to 2.5 ounces is a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine) is among the most liberal in the country. Conversely, New Hampshire (up to one year in jail) and Rhode Island (up to one year in jail and a six month driver’s license suspension) maintain relatively strict penalties. Yet regardless of state law, marijuana use remains similar throughout the region.
Likewise, nationally, Mississippi and Nebraska — which enjoy some of the most liberal marijuana laws (simple possession is a summons and a civil violation, respectively) — also rank among the lowest rates of self-reported cannabis use.
You can review the state-by-state maps for yourself here.
One final note, it should be noted that despite the prevalence of medical marijuana states in these rankings, the authors of the report acknowledge that there is no evidence that the implementation of medi-pot laws is increasing the use of cannabis or other illicit drugs. As noted in the study’s press release:
“Current illicit drug use dropped among adolescents aged 12 to 17 in 17 states between 2002-2003 and 2008-2009 — no increases in current illicit drug use occurred in any state in this age group over this time period.”
This is a point that NORML has made repeatedly, most recently in response to Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske’s false claims. The Marijuana Policy Project also has a newly updated report thoroughly rebuking this claim here.
Latest White House Drug Strategy Report Affirms Our Government Has Virtually No Interest In Actually Studying MarijuanaJuly 12, 2011
The White House yesterday, with little fanfare, issued its annual (and long overdue) 2011 National Drug Control Strategy report.
As usual, the White House’s official justification for the ongoing multigenerational drug war was light on facts and heavy on rhetoric, particularly as it pertained to the federal government’s fixation with criminalizing cannabis. Here are just a few examples (all of which are excerpted from a section of the report, entitled ironically enough, ‘The Facts About Marijuana‘) of your government on pot.
“[C]onfusing messages being conveyed by the entertainment industry, media, proponents of ‘medical’ marijuana, and political campaigns to legalize all marijuana use perpetuate the false notion that marijuana use is harmless and aim to establish commercial access to the drug. This significantly diminishes efforts to keep our young people drug free and hampers the struggle of those recovering from addiction.”
“Marijuana and other illicit drugs are addictive and unsafe. … The science, though still evolving in terms of long-term consequences, is clear: marijuana use is harmful. Independent from the so called ‘gateway effect’ — marijuana on its own is associated with addiction, respiratory and mental illness, poor motor performance, and cognitive impairment, among other negative effects.”
“The Administration steadfastly opposes drug legalization. Legalization runs counter to a public health approach to drug control because it would increase the availability of drugs, reduce their price, undermine prevention activities, hinder recovery support efforts, and pose a significant health and safety risk to all Americans, especially our youth.”
You get the idea.
Of course, none of these allegations represent anything new for this (or previous) administrations, and NORML has responded in detail to most of the Drug Czar’s claims previously. I did, however, take notice of this particular paragraph in the report, which appears under the title ‘Medical’ Marijuana.’
“In the United States, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has approved 109 researchers to perform bona fide research with marijuana, marijuana extracts, and marijuana derivatives such as cannabidiol and cannabinol. Studies include evaluation of abuse potential, physical/psychological effects, adverse effects, therapeutic potential, and detection. Fourteen researchers are approved to conduct research with smoked marijuana on human subjects.”
Only in an environment of absolute criminal prohibition can the administration imply, with a straight face, that allowing a grand total of 14 legally permitted scientists to study a substance consumed by tens of millions of Americans for therapeutic and/or recreational purposes is somehow to be construed as ‘progress.’ That total doesn’t even legally allow for one scientist per medical marijuana state to actively assess how cannabis is impacting that state’s patient population.
Moreover, this acknowledgment comes from the very same administration that on Friday flat out rejected the notion of even allowing hearings on the question of marijuana’s schedule I classification because, in their opinion, “there are no adequate and well-controlled studies proving efficacy.” Of course, with only a dozen or so scientists in the whole county even permitted to interact with pot and humans can there be any wonder why such studies aren’t more prevalent?
(By the way, remember the results last year of the series of FDA-approved ‘gold standard’ clinical trials assessing the safety and efficacy of inhaled cannabis in severely ill patients? Apparently neither does the DEA. Nor are they aware of these ‘well-controlled’ studies of medical cannabis. Or these.)
Interestingly, according to the DEA’s 2010 white paper on cannabis (no longer online), last year there were a total of 18 scientists licensed by the government to work with marijuana in a clinical setting. Perhaps next year there will only be ten. If the DEA and NIDA have there way perhaps by 2013 there will be zero.
As for the other 95 US scientists legally authorized by the federal government to assess the efficacy of ‘marijuana extracts and marijuana derivatives’ in animals, most of them were here last week — at the annual meeting of the International Cannabinoid Research Society. But even these ‘chosen few’ acknowledge that their work has next to no influence on the very administration that authorizes it.
Marijuana Researchers Meet At Pheasant Run
Researchers from around the world studying the effects of marijuana and exploring possible medical uses meet each year to compare notes and share their findings
About 250 scientists from around the world have gathered this weekend at Pheasant Run Resort sitting through seminars titled “Endocannabinoid Signaling in Periimplantation Biology,” and “Cannabinoids and HIV Pathogenicity,” to name a few, for the 21st Annual Symposium of the International Cannabinoid Research Society.
ICRS members meet once a year to compare notes on research studying how cannabinoids, compounds from the cannabis plant (more commonly known as marijuana) or from the brain called endocannabinoids, affect the body and how it functions.
While most attendees are scientists, many are graduate students or training scientists as well as physicians interested in learning how these chemicals might be useful in treating human disease.
“We are all around the world working on our own projects,” said Cecilia Hillard, ICRS executive director, professor of pharmacology and director of the Neuroscience Research Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin.
“That’s why it’s so wonderful for us to get together once a year so we can really share things that we learn,” she said.
For example, she said someone may be studying how bone is formed, and she is studying how the brain works.
“I learn a lot by learning how the bone is formed, and they learn about how neurons work,” Hillard said. “It’s really a lot of what we call a ‘cross-fertilization’ of ideas.”
While the society is not political, Hillard says the type of research that is done on the controversial topic of medical and personal use of marijuana is nonetheless important.
“We’re carrying out scientific investigations trying to understand what these molecules do,” Hillard said. “What we try to contribute to the debate is the reality.”
She said scientific investigation is done in a very neutral way, trying to understand what these molecules do.
“The mass appeal is, ‘is there a good use for this in the treatment of human disease?’” Hillard said. “Most of us really have a passion for looking at these molecules because there is a lot of potential for treatment of human disease.”
The findings of this research are published in scientific journals so that the information is available to anyone. She said sometimes “you have no idea the impact your work is having.” Hillard said part of the mission of the ICRS is to educate the public.
“I wish the politicians would (look at the data) but I don’t think they do,” she said.