Marijuana Arrests Continue To Drive Drug ‘Treatment’ Boom

[Editor’s note: This post is excerpted from this week’s forthcoming NORML weekly media advisory. To have NORML’s media advisories delivered straight to your in-box, sign up for NORML’s free e-zine here.

You can also read my previous commentary on the subject, “The Feds Are Addicted to Pot — Even If You Aren’t,” available from here.]

Nearly six out of ten people admitted to drug ‘treatment’ for marijuana are referred there by the criminal justice system, according to a just-released report by the US Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association (SAMHSA).

In 2008, 57 percent of persons referred to treatment for marijuana as their ‘primary substance of abuse,’ were referred by the criminal justice system. For adolescents, nearly half (48 percent) were referred via the criminal justice system.

By contrast, criminal justice referrals accounted for just 37 percent of the overall total of drug treatment admissions in 2008.

“Primary marijuana admissions were less likely than all admissions combined to be self-referred to treatment,” the study found.

Since 1998 the percentage of individuals in drug treatment primarily for marijuana has risen approximately 25 percent, the report found. This increase is being primarily driven by a proportional rise in the percentage of criminal justice referrals. According to a previous federal study, the proportion of marijuana treatment admissions from all sources other than the criminal justice system has been declining since the mid-1990s.

Commenting on the study, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “These statistics make it clear that it is not marijuana use per se that is driving these treatment admission rates; it is marijuana prohibition that is primarily responsible. These people for the most part are not ‘addicts’ in any true sense of the word. Rather, they are ordinary Americans who have experienced the misfortune of being busted for marijuana who are forced to choose between rehab or jail.

According to federal figures compiled by SAMHSA in 2009, some 37 percent of the estimated 288,000 thousand people who entered drug treatment for cannabis in 2007 had not reported using it in the 30 days previous to their admission. Another 16 percent of those admitted said that they’d used marijuana three times or fewer in the month prior to their admission.

Full text of the report, “Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) 1998-2008: National Admissions to Substance Abuse Treatment Services,” is available online here.

55 thoughts

  1. I was reefered to Marijuana anonymous at 52 years old by a drug court. Then remanded for talking to much about medical marijuana & forced to take Viox and Motrin (NSAID’s) in jail or face solitary confinement in a cold dark cell for not taking”necessary” medication. taking NSAID’S about 1 year later I had a full blown heart attack from taking NSAID’S like Viox and Celebrex and have never recovered fully.

  2. It is with great interest that I read this article about Marijuana Arrests Continue To Drive Drug ‘Treatment’ Boom. I am a medical marijuana user in Colorado and have all my legal documents and what not. I did not get aressted, however, after failing a random drug test at work, and fighting it for nearly a month I now have to attend monthly drug abuse treatment for two years as well as suubmit to random, observed UA’s. I also had to complete six hours of drug abuse treatment before they would let me come back to work. All of this is being paid out of my own pocket. Fortunately I was allowed to keep my job. I suffer from chronic migraines and am on so many prescription meds that half the time I don’t know if I’m coming or going. I’m still trying to get my work to allow me to use my marijuana but it has been a slow process.

  3. Those statistics don’t even include people like me and five of my co-workers who were forced into treatment for failing a drug test at work. I can’t smoke weed anymore for fear of losing my job. I just don’t see why the company I work for can terminate someones job for smoking an herb but then turn around and serve alcohol for free at the company’s annual open house, Christmas party and Husker football tailgate parties. They don’t even seem to mind people driving home drunk after these parties. Hypocrites if you ask me.

  4. I am one of those individuals that have been affected by this system, (the 14th Judicial system of Colorado in particular) and it is corrupt, unorganized, and is controlled by people who are mostly biased against Cannabis–opinions formed mainly due to the people that use this medicine in a unethical manner! I think the increase Cannabis rehab patients are due to many reasons besides the laws now in effect: The profit that can be made by rehab clinics, keeping tax dollars from being spent on jailing Cannabis users/possessors, (most of who happen to be forthright and noble individuals) and by bigots that feed of the demonization of Cannabis i. e. the DEA, Police, and people way behind the progression of marijuana. Those percentages are disheartening yet we must heed to this evidence of fascism in our country, and not allow the true victims of prohibition be left to carry this burden alone. There is call to those that want to see Marijuana become more acceptable, appreciated, and protected by the people that cherish it fully–write to your statesmen and urge them to see that Cannabis is a gift to folk, and not the harmful street drug.
    Here is a brand new challenge for us all. Lets not let this get swept under the rug!

  5. A lot of people have to go to a substance abuse program after failing a urine test for having a CDL (commercial drivers license). And that is also a go or get fired choice.What a joke, its been proven Cannabis consumers are SAFER drivers.Getting off the subject a little. We need a imparement test for Cannabis, like alcohol’s breathalyzer,that will tell if you are impared at the time of the test.A Blood, saliva or urine test cannot tell if you are impared at the time of the test. We need a minimum allowable rate and an impared rate,like alcohol’s .05 or.08 rate.Failing a piss test and NOT being high at the time of the test is just total BS. We need a test that checks for THC levels not metabolites.Innocent otherwise law abiding citizens should not be penalized for choosing the SAFER allternative.

  6. Could this be done by those employed in the Pharmaceutical / Alcohol Industry & they are fighting back ?
    Montana — The vandals struck in the middle of the night, hurling Molotov cocktails through the windows of two medical marijuana businesses and spray-painting “NOT IN OUR TOWN” just before the Billings City Council was supposed to take up a ban on any new pot shops.

    Montana and other states that have legalized medical marijuana are seeing a backlash, with public anger rising and politicians passing laws to slow the proliferation of pot shops and bring order to what has become a wide-open, Wild West sort of industry.

    They are looking to avoid what happened in California, which allowed the pot industry to grow so out of control that at one point Los Angeles had more medical marijuana shops than Starbucks _ about 1,000 by one count.

    “Yeah, it’s out of control _ and it needs control, if not extinction,” Montana Sen. Jim Shockley said Friday. “There’s no control over distribution. There’s no control over who’s growing it. There’s no control in dosage.”

  7. Most of the rest of those in treatment were likely referred as a result of random drug tests in the workplace. I am one of those unfortunates whose extremely moderate use landed them in a drug rehab on pain of losing their job.
    A lot is said about legalizing marijuana, but for many of us all the legalization and decriminalization won’t save us from being pummeled with religious 12 step programs and Substance Abuse Professionals (SAPs).
    Current methods of testing does not address workplace abuse which I am wholly against, but traps medicinal users, and even the most moderate of recreational use.
    Other countries (and some US workplaces)utilize a swab test for workplace and also at roadside random tests See South Australia’s drug site
    “The devices used are able to detect THC (active component in cannabis) for several hours after use. The exact time will vary depending on the amount and potency of the cannabis used and the individual metabolism. Inactive THC residue in the body of a driver from use in previous days or weeks will not be detected.”
    This detection method is immediate, more cost effective, and allows for medicinal use, as well it would DETECT DRUG USE IN THE WORKPLACE, what a concept!
    We need to lobby federal agencies and sympathetic politicians to stop the invasion of our privacy, unwarranted and invasive searches of our bodies, and criminalization of our personal behavior.

  8. a little something for you from a former Humboldt County resident .

    I doubt the first pot pioneers in Humboldt County, referred to as “back-to-the-landers” during the late 1960s, realized they might someday sow the seeds for an industry which could financially bail out the state of California.

    In a delightful, ironic twist, those intrepid pioneers who fled the establishment to seek a simpler way of life must now re-establish contact with the “man” if they want to survive legalization and maintain their way of life.

    Most fear legalization. They worry their profit margin will shrink so badly — from taxes and competition — they won’t be able to make a living. Some ask if growing for medical marijuana dispensaries will be enough to keep them in business.

    The good news is that growers, law enforcement officials, nonprofits and city governments are already holding public meetings to work out what happens here after legalization. One of the first meetings, held in Garberville (Southern Humboldt) in March, was covered nationwide.

    What’s After Pot (WAP) founder Anna Hamilton spoke during the Garberville meeting about the need to save the pot economy and prepare for legalization. She’s attempting to bring local growers together so they can adapt to paying taxes and becoming part of the system they ran away from 40 years ago.

    In preparation for legalization, a task force headed up by Humboldt County Supervisor Mark Lovelace was formed to define regulatory issues surrounding grows.

    The Humboldt
    Quantcast Quantcast
    Medical Marijuana Advisory Panel (HuMMAP) works to organize growers, businesses and employees of the cannabis industry. They held their second meeting on May 18 at the Garberville Civic Club.

    Humboldt County’s famous “killer buds” are already a brand name that can be utilized to encourage tourism by creating businesses that appeal to pot smokers.

    I suspect we’ve had tourists coming here for that covert reason ever since the word slipped out about strains like “Granddaddy Purple” and others that raised the bar in worldwide cannabis culture

  9. When will our government stop arresting it’s OWN citizens for possessing a PLANT. I mean this plant can make cloth like cotton and the seeds are used FOR BIRD FEED!
    What if tomorrow cotton and bird feed was illegal?
    First it would be rediculous, and second there would quickly grow a black market for cotton.
    “hey man, got any white fluffy stuff?”
    “ye 20 for rough stuff, and this shit right har is 75, its so fluffy u think its an from angel’s wings man.”
    “gimme the angel shit, sweet…”

  10. Cannabis is the Anti-Drug Drug, People can use cannabis to quit there addictions to hard drugs such as Prescription pills and or other opiates.

    This subject is worth writing about.
    pass the truth

  11. What pot prohibition is really about is oppressing and punishing those who dare to think for themselves and live a little differently. It is ironic that this policy of oppression has become institutionalized in a nation once born in personal liberty. If the founding fathers were here today, they would be buying ammunition

  12. I am a substance abuse counselor working at a parole and probation office that completes substance abuse evaluations for a living. The vast majority of assessments I do are on people arrested for marijuana possession, distribution or possession with intent. ( By the way neither of these offenses require actual possession of any substantial quantity of marijauna). I have come across only a handful of people that actually meet the criteria for cannabis dependence, and the ones meeting the criteria for cannabis abuse do so only becuse one of the criteria is “recurrent legal problems because of the drug”. ALL of these individuals are recommended to attend and complete substance abuse treatment. To top it off, if they are “actively using” marijuana at the time of the assessment, they are recommended to complete intensive outpatient treatment. This is 9 hour of treatment a week, three hours a day for three days!!! Outragious! It is an endless cycle of arrests, convictions, jail time and treatment. And the only logical reason for it that I can determine is to keep probation officers, counselors, and jail/prison employees in a job. The only solution I have come up with (other than the obvious and most effective one,legalization) is for all of you smokers out there to get smarter. Stop driving in your vehicles while you are smoking. Stop walking the streets with it on your person, stop buying it from people you are not 100% sure will not turn on you, stop selling to people you do not trust, stop having loud insane parties that disturb your neigbors and cause them to call the police, and for heavens sake, stop smoking while you are on probation/parole when you know you are getting tested. And in addition, stop buying and consuming alcohol!!! You are poisoning yourself, and keeping the main contributor to marijuana prohibition profiting big time off of you. Tell your friends, family, and neigbors. Vote!!! HAve a nice day…

  13. Suspicions confirmed. We are busting (mostly) teens, and they are entering “treatment” not because their lives are being wrecked by cannabis, but because the law allows them to opt out of jail by participating in a treatment charade.
    I guess playing games, while it can be expensive, is better than jail. Better still would be the application of reason.
    Doc Haux

  14. More Propaganda from ABC13 in Houston, TX, the US’ 4th largest city in the US.

    According to Jessica Wiley, the newscaster, she explains that this “new study” (2007) the doctor suggested that marijuana leads to emphazema and lung cancer. The study provides the opposite information saying it does not cause emphazma when smoked.

    The study is here

    The study was done in 2007; I feel they are trying to find and drag in everything they can find to make marijuana the worst drug in the world. The video starts out that, Marijuana is a lot worse than what we have been lead to believe. It’s BS!!!

  15. Come on Texas, don’t listen to the misleading propaganda. The studies suggest differently. Why ABC13 news is grabbing at straws trying to change everyone’s mind. This teenager is in drug treatment in the video. He likes the taste and he said he will not give it up because he likes it.

  16. #16 the drug abuse counselor.

    Well of course this is happening, this is the governments new 2010, to fight the war on drugs one pot smoker at a time, which couuld also mean raiding a house and shooting the dogs dead to find a marijuana smoker. It’s just such crap!

  17. I love this site.. But are they doing anything against the strict laws??
    I just came into the enjoyment of Mary Juana and I love it. Things that say were associal and so on are NOT true!! We have own organizations between our smoker circles. Everyone knows everyone and there are no squabblings.
    Politicians should just try Marijuana one time, because they need to see that Marijuana is a lower risk than alcohol.
    Greetings, the bean from SwItZeRlAnD! PEACe!

  18. Anything and everything the prohibitionists throw at the sane Legalize crowd can be debunked. So what do we do now? How do we get this BS revealed / exposed to reveal the true intent behind it?

    The prohibitionists are in extreme denial concerning cannabis. They’re the ones who need treatment.

    By the way, this isn’t the only thing that’ll come up in the following months. The drug czar, Kerlikowski is calling for more law enforcement measures.

  19. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again (this is in response to cannabischuck):


    If you can’t take aspirin/tylenol/motrin then you have to choose between tylenol (dangerous to the liver), opiates (addictive) or nothing. Medical Marijuana for NSAID intolerant patients!

  20. My 20-yr-old son was arrested for selling Marijuana. I am certain his addictions are to money and power, not marijuana. The standard courtroom drama, in order to possibly qualify for a reduced sentence, is attending an expensive treatment facility. There are many fingers in this pie…..Yet, when I hear of the “skyrocketing” numbers of people in treatment as a justification against legalization, this essentially mandatory treatment racket is never mentioned. The more this is exposed, the better. Thank you.

  21. what can a person say that hasn’t been said before. the goverment is just as crooked as the mob. all we the voters can do is vote the bumbs out of office. if you get a call from somebody in office ask them what there stand on the legalzation of pot is, then take that with a gran off salt. vote then out 9times out of 10 there lying and will say what you want to hear.

  22. well if you feel uncomfortable smoking marijuana, try to look up some facts on kava, I was doing kava research the other day and it helps with a number of different things look it up!!!!

  23. Ditto #27 (dave,) the only addicts are the justice system addicted to the money they make busting the public.

    Legalization is regression to poverty for government workers and they’ll never give up without fighting for their jobs. They prefer death over unemployment and doesn’t that describe war in it’s purest form? The apocalyptic systems are coming faster than you think!

    Government will always be against the people in many subjects to make money like a greedy company and the result is that people of the U.S. will rise against any government workers in the end, better know as the apocalypse.

  24. My solution, as always, is to refuse drug tests. I am sorry for those unable to live freely.

    My wife (doesn’t toke) works in a factory, and they’ve wasted thousands of dollars on drug testing her for every single fall.

    Same company that doesn’t put up “wet floor” signs in view, watches as two people fall in the same exact spot, my wife being one of them… with a bunch of tools on her…

    not seriously injured thank God but now on “modified” duty… and going to P.T. … and so what becomes of this? The next day there’s a bunch of wet floor signs out trying to cover it up (she works night shift) AND a meeting to tell employees to watch for wet floor signs… uhh wtf?! Nice try a$$holes, she has witnesses.

    Of course she MUST have smoking the devil weed to have fallen on a freshly painted floor in a factory with NO sign within 50 feet… must have been HER fault… shit, it wasn’t?! Mandatory meeting to cover it up!!!

  25. I had to do that fucking drug treatment last year through my age of 21, I am 22 now. I work my ass off in this life. They need to send people in treatment for smoking cigarettes if they are throwing them in for weed. in my opinion. legalize it please thx.

  26. Let’s just cut the crap and 1 to 3 shit or get off the Pot.

    1. Congress has provided that the states are FREE TO REGULATE in the area of controlled substances.
    2. The Supreme Court has ruled that states medicinal cannabis laws ARE NOT PREEMPTED BY FEDERAL LAW.
    3. The Supreme Court has ruled that the derivitive THC IS AS LEGAL AS ANY PRESCRIPTIVE DRUG under state law.
    4. Hemp food is as legal as any health food – and – IS THE MOST NUTRITIOUS FOOD KNOWN TO MAN.

    So! what the hell is preventing Health and Human Services from rescheduling cannabis from a schedule I substance to a schedule III substance, thereby making the substance [whole plant material] immediately legal.
    -but wait-
    that’s hemp! Hemp food is already legal! Maybe the FDA can answer this question – which came first, the cannabinoid or the cannabinoid receptor?

    So! why is law enforcement, its provocative actions, domestic aggression, and its impeding the law remotely involved. There’s a fly in the ointment – and – it stinks to high heaven. And – why can’t We the People sue the government for Intentional and Malicious Interferrence with a Doctor/p\Patient Relationship, Malicious Prosecution, and Abusive Governmental Authority, and so on, and so on, and so on.

    Prohibition goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man’s appitite by legislation and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A prohibition law strikes a blow at the principle upon which our government was founded.

    1 to 3

  27. i as well had to attend drug counseling after getting”caught dirty”at work…as soon as the woman learned that their was alcoholism in my family history…..that was all we discussed after that! even tho i explained that i only drank on occasion for the last thirty years because hell…..i had discovered lifes little green has been a great balance in my life. this last year has been the worst time in my life because of testing.cannabis for me has been the gift of balance.i broke the chain of alcoholism in my family thru consertive use of cannabis and now i suffer more than ever….

  28. P.S. ON 35

    For anyone – anyone at all – to say cannabis has “NO CUREENTLY ACCEPTABLE MEDICAL USE IN THE UNITED STATES,”
    is utterly ludicrous – and – is indicative of the commentor. It, without question, in the due course of medical treatment, cannabis[has]demonstrated “ACCEPTED SAFETY FOR USE UNDER MEDICAL SUPERVISION.” To say that it has “HIGH POTENTIAL FOR ABUSE” is a poor, if not fabricated, argument. These facts alone – and – by law – do not [allow] cannabis to remain in schedule I of the Controlled Substance Act – and – would immediately legalize it for medical purposes.

    It is an enigma! It’s beyond one’s ability to comprehend why. At any rate – government has annihilated the Data Quality Act and its guidelines for ensuring and maximizing the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information disseminated by federal agencies and individuals who participate in this roose. But – when you get a [direct order] to lie your ass off, what particular reason would there be to tell the truth.

    What if – We the People made it perfectly clear, in no uncertain terms, that we no longer have [any tolerance]
    for what prohibitionists/anti-cannabis proponents think or say. What if – We the People made it more justifiable by exposing the mendacious and untrustworthy acts of government; a sense of balance [might restore] our faith and trust – but – quite frankly, it has become evident, by the results of its actions, government doesn’t care enough to tell the truth.

  29. My daugher lost her 4 yr scholarship for U of Wisconsin she tested positive for pot. Now we are paying her way at a community college where she is a 4.0 student. The pot laws are really stupid. If people want change, they will have to just come out of the closet.

  30. #30. What are you talking about? All I said is that the advice stated as:

    “Stop driving in your vehicles while you are smoking. Stop walking the streets with it on your person, stop buying it from people you are not 100% sure will not turn on you, stop selling to people you do not trust, stop having loud insane parties that disturb your neighbors and cause them to call the police, and for heavens sake, stop smoking while you are on probation/parole when you know you are getting tested. And in addition, stop buying and consuming alcohol!!! You are poisoning yourself, and keeping the main contributor to marijuana prohibition profiting big time off of you. Tell your friends, family, and neighbors. Vote!!! Have a nice day…”

    Until cannabis becomes legal for all this is how you go about consuming. By the way of the medical route of cannabis I don’t see it becoming legal for all. So what do you do? This isn’t well received advice? Where did I say the govt. wasn’t a mob? If you can’t point to it then you don’t know what I’m implying! Don’t act like you know what’s going on in my head cause I can assure you don’t! I don’t disagree with your statement that the govt. is a mob.

    You must have me mistaken for a prohibitionist which is a wrong assessment.

    #31. So you think I’m Dave huh? Hate to break it to you but their are many who use the A handle on this site. No Dave here.

    Good day to you all.

  31. And by all I mean 21+ years of age or with a Doctors consent. Wanted to clear that up so no one thought I meant everyone.

  32. Things here in OHIO – Round on both ends but NOT HIGH in the middle finds another illegal forced entry over those darn plants. Of course, legitimate medical issues starting with seizures and dangerously high blood pressure. No pill has ever stopped or controlled husband’s seizures and the pills being taken for the blood pressure work at a less than minimum level, but without the magical combination, its not controlled. The cuffing, but no arrest landed him in the hospital the next day, after begging, and his feet BLUE, they uncuffed him, but by then the damage had been done with this constant restriction of flow!!!!!! Never found anything smoke-able anyway. Poor baby clones ripped from their neoprene plugs. Help is there even a chapter in Ohio, need advice cant have him in jail with his health, just like the comment about Viox and Celebrex, it would kill him, degenerative disk’s in back and rotor cuff issues, help me keep him free.

  33. goto jail and end up ass raped or goto some boring treatment programme, easy choice, no wonder weed accounts for most of the ppl in rehab, if this was anything else they would have been screwed over for fucking the figures, WE ARE WINNING PEOPLE

    we need a branch of NORML and LEAP in the UK

  34. No matter what the states say about medical marijuana the feds have the power. Remember if you are on any type of compensation paid from federal programs i.e. SSDI, you can be denied your benefits if tested and found positive for use. Like it or not the feds can step in anytime. From seizures of property and denial of benefit payments the government has allot of money they can keep. Think it couldn’t happen? Go ahead and rest in the warm arms of state law and piss-off a fed and see what happens.

  35. Hello Rebel,
    Nice to see you again. I could respond to many people on this board, because I agree and sympathize with virtually all of ’em. I don’t have the time to do that, but I will respond quickly to you, as we’ve corresponded before.

    Seems you and I are in agreement about the prohibition laws against MJ in the govt. It’s an out-dated law; should have never been enacted in the first place. Waste of money and peoples’ lives!

    My question to you: are you equally outraged at the private companies that continue to drug test? I only wonder, because I don’t think I’ve read one of your posts addressing THAT problem.

    It’s horrible that the govt continues to prohibit probably the safest drug out there; it’s equally outrageous that many private companies have opted to go along with that policy! It’s their CHOICE to drug test or not; those that do so are as slimy, IMO, as the prohibitionist govt.

    Have a great Mem. Day, Puffer

  36. Whats does the federal govt get out of busting people
    if city govt allows it then it should not be a problem.
    I seen it on the news that it’s going to have a up hill
    battle passing in California Im going to make sure that
    i vote for that to pass Thanks


  37. 46 LongTime Puffer

    Greetings and salutations,

    I have posted on this subject before, long ago. Hell no! I am completely and totally against drug testing for metabolites {which are not THC]. The only good thing about it is “Employers cannot discriminate against Qualified Patients after they are hired.” [unless] they are consuming on the job. It’s the Unless Clause. “You can’t do that [unless].”

    I will dig out my old post on this and respond later.
    Hope you had a peacefull Memorial Day. New month!!!
    One month closer to November in California. They’re starting to unionize the cannabis industry here. CAUTION; Unions get membership dues and have pention funds. More control. I’m for less control. Maybe government is tantlizing us. Perhaps someone thinks a union will have political clout. We shall wait, and we shall see.

    1 to 3

    Makes a cool T-shirt, don’t you think?

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