• Debunking CADCA’s pathetic position paper on “medical” marijuana and legalization

    by  • August 11, 2012 • Blog, Russ Belville

    Thanks to NORML’s Paul Armentano who clued me in to this from the Community Anti-Drug Coalition of America (CADCA), entitled, “POSITION STATEMENT ON “MEDICAL” MARIJUANA AND MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION“.  Think of this as the playbook the prohibitionists are going to use in the face of three states attempting legalization (Colorado, Washington, Oregon) and four states attempting medicalization (Massachusetts, North Dakota, Arkansas, and Montana‘s referendum to restore medical marijuana).  So buckle up as I take you through the distortions, falsehoods, and scaremongering you’re going to see and hear for the next three months.  By the time we’re through, you’ll be shooting down these positions like Kim Rhode knocking down clay pigeons.

    There is a direct correlation between “medical” marijuana initiatives and decreases in perception of harm and social disapproval.

    In this talking point, the prohibitionists point out that 22.7% of US high school seniors think smoking pot occasionally presents a great risk of harm.  That is down from 2003, when 26.6% of seniors thought pot smoking was so risky.  Then they will follow up with a chart showing that when fewer teens find pot smoking risky, more teens smoke pot.

    But “direct correlation” is a pretty strong term.  Fortunately, you and I can access the entire catalog of the Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey, and not just the numbers from 2010 and 2003.  Let’s see what happened to teen perception of great risk from and social disapproval of occasional marijuana smoking as seventeen states and DC passed medical marijuana laws 1996-2012:

    Year MedMJ Passed Risk % Change Disapprove % Change
    1996 CA 25.9 +0.3* 62.9 -3.8*
    1998 WA, OR, AK 24.4 -1.5 64.4 +1.5
    1999 ME 23.9 -0.5 62.5 -1.9
    2000 NV, HI, CO 23.4 -0.5 65.8 +3.3
    2004 VT, MT 25.4 +2.0 65.4 -0.4
    2006 RI 25.9 +0.5 69.3 +3.9
    2007 NM 27.1 +1.2 70.2 +0.9
    2008 MI  25.8 -1.3 67.3 -2.9
    2010 NJ, AZ, DC 24.5 -1.3 62.0 -5.3
    2011 DE 22.7 -1.8 60.9 -1.1
    2012 CT ? ? ? ?

    * = change from previous year, other rows = change from previous row.

    So, for that “direct correlation“, when medical marijuana passed, sometimes perception of risk went up, sometimes it went down, sometimes social disapproval went up, sometimes it went down, and four times out of eleven, they went in opposite directions.

    Now, the prohibitionist may point out the overall trend – a decrease in risk perception of 3.2 points and a decrease in disapproval of 2 points – from 1996 to 2011, and that teen pot use has increased the past two years.  This is where we have to get to the heart of an uncomfortable matter – teens and pot smoking.

    Nobody wants teens smoking pot, but some will, and the prohibitionist that brings up these risk and disapproval numbers points out that as more kids find pot less risky, more of them smoke it.  This is where you must turn the tables and ask, “So, the way you propose to reduce teen pot smoking is to lie to them about the risk?”

    It is no surprise that teen perception of risk from pot smoking is declining, because they are beginning to learn the truth that smoking pot isn’t going to turn their brain into a fried egg, cause them to melt into a couch, or make their cartoon girlfriend leave them for an alien.  If you were avoiding eating Pop Rocks and drinking Coke because your stomach will explode, then later you read Snopes and learned that’s a lie, your perception of the risk of Pop Rocks & Coke would dramatically decline, wouldn’t it?  You might even try some!

    The pivot on this issue is to point out the numbers from those same surveys for teen alcohol and tobacco use.

    • With alcohol, we have a product that’s addictive, advertised, and celebrated in our culture, but with a 21 drinking age, strict ID carding, and responsible use messaging, 12th grade use of alcohol has declined from lifetime use rates in the ninety-percent range in the 1980s to an all-time low of 70% in the 2011 MTF.
    • With tobacco, fully one-third of those who try it get addicted and it is available to eighteen-year-olds, yet the 12th grade lifetime use rates have dropped from 75% in the mid-1970s to an all-time low of 40% in the 2011 MTF.
    • While lifetime marijuana use rates for 12th graders have risen in the past two years, they have risen only seven times in the sixteen years of medical marijuana (there was even a decline of six straight years from 2002-2007), they are still 4.1 points lower than the first year of California’s medical marijuana law, and they are 24.7 points lower than their peak in the late 1970s.

    We’ve discovered with dangerous and addictive drugs that they can be legal for adult recreational use, and through honest education, adult sales outlets, and ID carding, we can drastically reduce teen use.  Why wouldn’t that work with marijuana?

    What else is CADCA cooking up for the obfuscation of legalization?  More misapplication of correlation = causation, of course… read on…


    I am the host and producer of The Russ Belville Show - The Independent Voice of the Marijuana Nation at http://420radio.org - live from Portland, Oregon. I was the winner of The Search for the Next Great Progressive Talk Radio Star and a former host on XM Satellite Radio and Portland's AM 620 KPOJ. I was the Outreach Coordinator for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws from 2008-2012, which included lecturing all across America on marijuana legalization, writing political analysis for HIGH TIMES Magazine, and producing over 1,000 hours of video content for The NORML Network.


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