National Public Radio: “Do Looser Laws Make Pot More Popular? Not So Far”

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director June 14, 2010

    For decades, proponents of marijuana prohibition have argued that the enactment of cannabis decriminalization or legalization — or in some cases, just the mere act of talking about legalization — will adversely impact the public’s use of marijuana or young people’s attitudes toward it.

    In fact, over time the allegation that ending prohibition will inevitably increase marijuana use and societal harms has become our opposition’s primary talking pointeven though there exists no evidence of this supposed cause-and-effect scenario anywhere in the world!

    In March I published a white paper, Real World Ramifications of Cannabis Legalization and Decriminalization, summarizing the bulk of this evidence — gleaned from studies published in America and throughout the world. Included among them was the recent World Health Organization paper that concluded that the United States possesses the highest levels of illicit drug use among any nation in the world, while simultaneously imposing some of the globe’s harshest drug law penalties and enforcement.

    Nonetheless, opponents of sensible marijuana law reform — such as those leading the charge against the passage of California’s 2010 Control and Tax Cannabis Initiative — continue to publicly make this false claim.

    That is why it is refreshing to see National Public Radio, in their latest in an ongoing series of stories on the marijuana movement, take John Lovell — a lobbyist for California police chiefs — to task for claiming that passage of this November’s statewide initiative would inevitably increase use. It will not — and John Lovell knows it.

    And now the rest of America knows it too.

    Do Looser Laws Make Pot More Popular? Not So Far
    via NPR

    Marijuana use is not on the rise.

    At least, that’s the gist of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health done every year by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In 2008 — the most recent data available — 6.1 percent of Americans 12 and older admitted using marijuana in the previous month.

    In absolute terms, that number is probably low; after all, this survey asks people to admit to using illegal drugs. But the real significance of the number is that it’s steady — it’s been hovering right around 6 percent since 2002. Drug researchers say the real percentage may be higher, but it’s probably holding steady, too.

    And yet, during those same years, marijuana has been edging toward legitimacy. States with medical marijuana laws have made it possible for thousands of people to buy pot over the counter, in actual stores. Some police departments have started de-emphasizing marijuana arrests.

    Critics of liberalization believe this inevitably leads to greater consumption.

    “It’s axiomatic,” says John Lovell, a lobbyist for California police chiefs. He’s also helping to organize the campaign against an initiative in California to make marijuana legal for adults.

    “Anytime you take a product — any product — from a less convenient sales forum to a more convenient sales forum, use increases,” Lovell says.

    But cities where marijuana have been liberalized have not seen a spike in consumption, so far. In 2003, voters in Seattle made marijuana the “lowest law enforcement priority” for city police. Researchers tracked the results. Caleb Banta-Green studies drug use trends at the University of Washington’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute. He says self-reported consumption and pot-related emergency room visits remained flat, before, during and after the initiative went into effect.

    Banta-Green says he gets similar reports from drug researchers in other cities.

    “I’m not hearing stories on a regular basis that, ‘There was liberalization in marijuana policies, and soon afterwards, usage rates increased dramatically,’ ” he says.

    Read the full story here.

    44 responses to “National Public Radio: “Do Looser Laws Make Pot More Popular? Not So Far””

    1. The Oracle says:

      Given the fact that the survey results are, as mentioned, probably low for all the usual and logical reasons, when prohibitionists like these law enforcement officers and government types use the argument that cannabis use will rise compared to current usage rates, well, first they have no reliable use benchmark other than it’s really something higher than the 6% who report, and second what they view as an increase is probably only going to turn out to be the real number of people being seen openly engaging in activities that they have been engaging in for quite a long time, and it’s just that they don’t have to hide in the closet and in the shadows anymore.

      They get away with this argument alot, too damn much.

    2. Don_M says:

      I think that if MJ were to be legalized that, initially, there may be a spike in it’s usage. Right now I know there are people that would be interested in trying it if it was not illegal. But, long term, I don’t think there would be any significant increase in overall usage.

      Anyone can get it now if they so choose. The problem is that you often must deal with people you’d rather not deal with. Further, you’re never sure of the quality or potency of what you’re getting. These concerns would disappear almost immediately if only it were legalized and treated in a manner similar to alcohol and tobacco.

      Personally, I’m sure I’d smoke it a bit more often if I could trust the quality and not have to be concerned about getting busted. Also, I’d probably drink less alcohol since MJ typically lessens my desire for it.

    3. Scott says:

      “‘It’s axiomatic,’ says John Lovell…

      ‘Anytime you take a product — any product — from a less convenient sales forum to a more convenient sales forum, use increases,’ Lovell says.”

      Mr. Lovell,

      1. Please solidly prove that the CSA has created a “less convenient sales forum”.

      People who want marijuana can get it. Kids can get it easier than alcohol, because drug dealers do not ask for I.D.

      2. Please learn economics 101. The market is driven by supply and demand. There is no axiom concluding that a market expands forever, and no evidence proving the reduction of marijuana-related penalties increases use (noting zero ‘conclusive’ evidence proving moderate marijuana use causes ‘any’ harm at all even if it did).

      Bottom Line:

      No prohibitionist has ever provided a cost/benefit analysis proving marijuana prohibition works at all.

      Marijuana is not some virus, and it is not an automatic ‘feel good’ drug. Just like riding a roller coaster, there are people who enjoy it and those who do not, and that will always be the case.

      It is arguable that the market for marijuana is saturated.

      Stores provide marijuana users a higher quality product at a lower price in a safer environment, but stores do not automatically translate into more customers.

      By your “axiom”, I can open up any store with any product and that convenience alone will translate into sales. Many business owners fail by believing your “axiom”.

      Ending marijuana prohibition is the right thing to do and you have literally no solid evidence to support the contrary.

      And do not get me started on the ridiculous “connection” between the CSA and our Constitution. The Commerce Clause, Mr. Lovell? Come on. Let us end this disastrous prohibition once and for all.

    4. re??is says:

      The “Do Looser Laws Make Pot More Popular? Not So Far” link is borked.

    5. jedi for cannabis says:

      what is the title trying to say? That they think we are losers ????

      wtf mate

    6. I would like to extend my thanks to the Nation Public Radio for their continued reporting on Cannabis!

      Keep up the good work NPR!

    7. Bill says:

      The one problem that is going to happen though… is right now they are surveying people on use of something that is illegal, so the numbers will be lower than the actual use is. When the use of that something becomes legal, those folks who were already using it, but denying it due to fears, will now be able to admit it, which would cause the number of people reporting that they use marijuana to increase, even though the actual number of people using marijuana may not have increased.

    8. Bill says:

      Jedi… it’s looser not loser. Not sure if you were trying to be funny, but they’re NOT calling us losers.

    9. Kathryn says:

      jedi for cannabis: The word in the title is “looser” as in more loose, less tight. 😉

    10. John says:

      Scott from comment #3:

      Nice post with some very good points. However you used a Three Letter Acronym (TLA) which I am not familiar with.

      That would be “CSA”, I don’t see any other reference to it here, what is CSA?