Over the past several years, states that have legalized marijuana have suffered from a wide array of unintended consequences. States with legal marijuana continue to see a thriving black market, increases in youth drug use, a rise in fatal drugged driving crashes, and more.
As special interest groups march forward in their push to put profits ahead of health, the evidence regarding the harm caused by legalization continues to mount. Just this week, three new key pieces of information have emerged that should give politicians and regulators pause as they consider how to move forward.
First, a key study published in the Journal of Primary Prevention examined the association between medical marijuana patients and licensed growers in Oregon. According to the study, increases in youth marijuana use are associated with the proliferation of medical marijuana dispensaries in the state:
“Results of multi-level analyses indicated significant positive associations between rates of marijuana patients and growers per 1000 population and the prevalence of past 30-day marijuana use, controlling for youth demographic characteristics. The marijuana patient and grower rates were also inversely associated with parental disapproval of marijuana use, which decreased from 2006 to 2015 and acted as a mediator. These findings suggest that a greater number of registered marijuana patients and growers per 1000 population in Oregon counties was associated with a higher prevalence of marijuana use among youth from 2006 to 2015, and that this relationship was partially attributable to perceived norms favorable towards marijuana use.”
Second, in a sign that does not bode well for the marijuana industry, an NIH-funded study out of Denver found that legal pot shops are linked to higher rates of property crime in surrounding areas. The study found that the density of marijuana businesses was positively related to property crime in nearby areas, as well as marijuana-specific crime. According to the lead author of the study Bridget Freisthler:
“Over time, as marijuana grows in popularity, densities of marijuana outlets may increase, resulting in higher crime…There are definitely negative public health consequences [of legalization], including increased crime.”
Third, a new analysis out of Canada notes that marijuana legalization will have a negligible effect – if any – on alcohol consumption, despite promises made by advocates of marijuana legalization that users will switch. According to the Globe and Mail, analysts project a less than 1 percent change in alcohol sales. As we’ve warned for years, the story includes an admission by an industry analyst that the profitability of this addictive industry relies on hooking users early:
“Analyst Vivien Azer of U.S.-based research firm Cowen and Company is anticipating the alcohol industry could be under substantial pressure over the next decade if young people continue to take a pass on drinking.
In a report released last month, Azer said just under 82 per cent of 18- to 29-year-olds in Ontario consumed alcohol in 2015, down 5.5 percentage points since 2008, while marijuana use has been steady at around 34 to 36 per cent.
‘Our focus on these younger consumers reflects our belief that the experimenter of today is the leading consumer of tomorrow,’ said the report by Azer who also covers Canopy Growth.”
Every week, more evidence comes out pointing to the serious health and safety harms that come with legalizing marijuana. Local pot shops are spurring more crime, marijuana industry special interests are openly targeting adolescents, and youth marijuana use is rising in areas with medical marijuana businesses as more kids perceive pot as safe. It’s time for our elected officials to stop and ask if we’re moving in the right direction on marijuana. We can be ‘smart on crime’ by reforming our nation’s criminal justice system without commercializing a drug we know to be harmful.
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