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

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 thoughts

  1. 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. 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. “‘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. 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.

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

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

  7. 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?


  8. @Jedi LOL
    Looser, as is loose. Like loose lips sink ships.
    The title of the article is asking if less restrictive laws on marijuana would cause an increase in the herb’s use.

  9. I definitely agree with you Scott. They need to get educated on the subject. And Jedi for cannabis I think they do but yet we come from all walks of life.(lawyers,cops, trades, etc.) Hopefully they will someday soon get educated on Marijuana

  10. OOOOh NOOO you wouldn’t smoke more because it still cost money but you could smoke it without getting busted if it were legalized and you’d contribute to saving your State financially. Makes sense to me and especially if the majority vote it in.

  11. My major concern with legalization is not increase of use, but the protection of the dispenseries and growers who have been the back-bone of the “extremely profitable industry of tomorrow”. There needs to be protection included within the bill protecting small buisness owners and growers, just for the reassurance we aren’t smoking poor quality brand name grass like how our hamburgers are with McDonalds, beer is with Budweiser, and your tobacco with Marlboro.

  12. what are they saying that all smokers are losers so all the doctors ,laws and yes even judges are also losers
    i would like to thank norml for helping me find my calling and everyones voice counts

  13. Holy Smokes. I thought LE only enforced the laws. By the looks of those leading the charge “opponents of sensible marijuana law reform — such as those leading the charge against the passage of California’s 2010 Control and Tax Cannabis Initiative” they are not enforcing the laws but also have an agenda to keep the laws. This is the “We only enforce the law, now place your hands behind your back, you can tell it to the judge” “You scum bag, Hippie Freak.” “Don’t take our gravy train away! Just more of the same lies and deceptions.

    The Rev.sLeezy
    ULC of the Holy Smokes

  14. Looser laws will not encourage under age use, as stated above it will curtail it. Take the Dutch as an example. They have a decreased under age usage due to their looser laws and by regulating it. It’s not out in the public and done quite discreetly. As a matter of fact the under age usage dropped there with the looser laws in place.

  15. I just watched a you tube video entitled Biodiesel from Hemp. If the fact that feral hemp is NOT being used for automobile fuel, doesn’t enrage your adult voting mind, then I don’t know what would. The video mentioned 300 gallons of feral hemp oil per acre, far more than the other plant oils. In Iowa, I understand that some multi-million dollar bio fuel plants have shut down because the current LEGAL bio fuel ingredients do NOT convert as much oil per acre into fuel. I submit this information to you all, (during the BP oil crisis), and wonder why there isn’t a million man march on the White House, to end marijuana prohibition underway currently.

  16. #20 Rick,

    The reasons, “WHY,” hemp in any form has not changed for years. Corporate and Political groups are addicted to the money they’ve been making for years via prohibition and no one is going to break their addiction to the money made as a result of prohibition. It can’t be done till the hemp majority, “The LOSERS,” win at the polls.

    These damn computers don’t help anyone in legislative efforts to legalize MJ in any form. To get respect, you’ll have to visit Senators and Congressmen personally with signed petitions from your community. That’s the way it’s done my friends short of declared war and that will never happen cause most people can’t do a damn thing without a PC. Computers are a “LOSER’S,” communications tool! Wake up, “PC LOSERS,” your a joke and the world is laughing at you.

  17. Basically opponents of the California initiative are grasping at straws. Everything they throw out there can be corrected and debated, yet, they don’t allow debate because they know without a shadow of a doubt how wrong they are.
    Our time has come and their time is done.

    Surely hope California pulls this off, I’m sitting on pins and needles waiting for November.

  18. Actually, it would be welcome news if cannabis consumption increased in the 18 and up demographic; particularly if the increase came at the expense of alcohol consumption. Marijuana is safer than alcohol.

  19. We’ve seriously got to organize a march to Washington DC to educate our fellow representatives about the viability of renewable hemp oil and cellulose ethanol. Just think, if only that oil in the gulf right now were made of hemp oil there’d be no ecological disaster whatsoever! It’s both biodegradable and renewable. Switchgrass? WHAT? Mister President please have another toke, TAKE A SEAT AND LISTEN. It wouldn’t be impossible to stop plundering the earth and start growing our own oil. It’s called Biodiesel and has been around since the invention of the Diesel Engine in 1893. There’s no such thing as the “Free Market” if an entire industry is OUTLAWED. Who needs an electric car if all your oil was grown in America? JUST F@%$IN RE-LEGALIZE IT ALREADY.

  20. Funny that prohibitionists use the talking point of ‘if we legalize it, everyone will start using it’.. Looking at prohibition of alcohol, demand of alcohol went WAY DOWN after it was no longer illegal. Their own point destroys any credibility they may have.

    Everyone I’ve ever spoken too that believes that statement has NO OTHER argument. Once they are given proof that prohibition doesn’t work, they try to deface it as ‘just a bunch of drug addicts justifying themselves’ or take it as a personal attack towards them.

    So sure, legalizing marijuana MAY allow people who otherwise wouldn’t have smoked it to get their hands on it, but it is in the same boat as alcohol is today — provide education on it’s cons and long term effects, then provide our children with the free will to choose for themselves, as they would with alcohol, cigarettes, or any other mind altering substance in public use today. Hell, you can purchase nitrous capsule and ‘poppers’ at the age of 18, which are KNOWN to cause the death or hindrance of all sorts of things in your body.

    I don’t see police bashing down people’s doors and raiding businesses, terrorizing their families and killing their pets over sitting on their couch consuming whippets or booze, so why in the world would we prosecute people that sit on their couch and smoke marijuana, do cocaine, or whatever? We need to stop prosecuting innocent people that don’t hurt anyone and continue to prosecute people that commit CRIMES, PERIOD.

    If you want to shoot up and pass out on your couch for 4 hours on heroin, so be it.. But if you go and rob/kill someone to get more heroin, then you should be charged with the crimes you commit and punished accordingly. It shouldn’t be about the SUBSTANCES, it should be about the ACTIONS.

  21. The United States will never legalize cannabis nor will they end the wars, stop destroying the environment nor help working class people. America just can’t break out of it’s right wing totalitarian police state vibe. Obama hasn’t changed much.

  22. The same corporations that started the prohibition are still strong lobbies in DC today. And hemp was the target of the Marijuana Tax Act.
    Now those lobbies against hemp legalization are joined by
    a multitude of organizations and industries that have come about since the WoD was invoked by Nixon,against marijuana becoming legal,including an army of government employees and bureaucrats created for the WoD and whose budgets and wages depend on marijuana remaining illegal.
    It is such a strong coalition that even with the overbearing proofs of marijuana being a medicine,it remains a schedule 1 drug.
    With 14 states and our nations capitol,all the polls showing over 70% of Americans supporting marijuana as a medicine and even medicines being produced from derivatives of marijuana,they still keep marijuana as a schedule 1 drug,with neither scientific proof of great harm or danger from using marijuana.
    They are not only keeping it schedule 1, they are maintaining a level of ignoring the issue in our federal legislature that is amazing to say the least.
    There are not even any bills being debated or commissions being paneled to investigate or recommend the rescheduling of marijuana that I know of.
    That is a lot of money and power.
    That is why we will have to take back our right to use marijuana one state at a time.
    Come on Nov,lets get this game started.

  23. Rick #20

    I second that.. and this is a prime example of what we need to be doing.. attack ALL angles of the ENVIRONMENT that prohibition has created… social environments… the planet’s environment… the environment of lies and corruption those on their “moral high horse of booze and tobacco” have created… the environment of righteous disrespect for law enforcement and politicians… etc.

  24. The legalization of marijuana will not result in increased use by kids. If anything, it will go down because weed will be harder, not easier, for them to get. Booze is easy for kids to get but since it’s legal it’s only sold in stores. Most adults will not sell kids their bottle of 151 or Jack Daniels. Booze is not expensive enough to sell for an appreciable amount of money. Weed, on the other hand will always be worth it to sell, say, a dimebag or an eighth. That’s why it’s so readily abailable and kids know that they only have to have $40 or so.

  25. Just a quick question to Gov. Haley Barbour, Glen Beck, that guy with the video of him cussin somebody out on his show, how much should the limit on a lawsuit be against a huge oil company worth billions of dollars? Should this limit include everyone on the gulf coast? I have been told that there should be a limit on a lawsuit if someone loses their life on an operating table. Just curious if they have a set amount I would like to hear it.

    Marijuana should come with a set amount of time that the crime loses its severity. If I get arrested smokin weed there is no interesting story about I tried it I didnt like it. It wasnt for me. Say the story goes I tried weed once and I got caught. No interesting story about how I go on to be president, human resource leader in a big company(please pee in the cup while I pay someone to watch you). The crime is no different if you tried it once and didnt like it or if you tried it and hmmmmm you like it. The only difference in moving on with your life is you didnt get caught. How many people ended up in jail for tryin pot once? Dont look at me and lock me up for a crime you admit to but didnt get caught commiting.

    The story about the cup earlier got me thinkin if people with nothin to worry about would still like to pee in a cup infront of someone for a job. Would you like to think that your employer knows you dont do Drugs like crack,herion,meth, large amount of legal drugs(prescription medicine). We cant control LEGAL DRUGS but we do expect to reduce ILLEGAL DRUGS 15% this year.

    Really you cant lock me up for something you admit to. You did what I got caught doin. Our crimes are the same. no separation of one act over another. My crime is your interesting story to seem heap to the MTV generation.

    Look at your peers in the courthouse. I am willing to stand up and confess my crime but I want everyone else who commited this crime to share my fate my punishment my despair. If I rob a bank I will not stand up confess my crime and ask for anyone else who like me saw a bunch of people doin it and it looked like fun. I only robbed one bank I didnt like it.

    Ask Bush#1 how many years did Americans spend in jail for the crimes your son confessed to. Tried pot once, real low-grade coke once. I didnt feel anything. I didnt use drugs I didnt feel any different. Good defense for a bank robber. I intende to rob the bank but I wasnt very good at it. I tried to use drugs but I wasnt very good at it. How can you mess up a bong?

  26. To former VP Al Gore thanks for this internet its awesome.

    Say I got on this post and gave out my social network info. Come be friends with me and bring a hole bunch more. Say the 1st one to hit 1million friends gets interviewed then 5 million then 10 million. See if we could get a couple liberal news outlets to cover someone say they won a contest to see who will start the discussion about legalizing my after work cocktail, my zanax, my way to enjoy my life in the privacy of my home. Sounds like the pursuit of my happiness deal I read somewhere.

    Come on someone give me a reason to join facebook. 1st one to a million contact NORML and let them know. See how many people in America would like to see the discussion opened. If things got all REFER MADNESS we could always change the law back. Just give weed a chance. That would be a great name of a song’Just give weed a chance’. I would be honored if Robert Plant could sing it. You had your chance to enjoy life help us enjoy ours. It will help your sales. There is no finer tunes than Zepplin(funny story I looked on my Ipod for the spellin wasnt sure and wasnt right)Zeppelin.( when the levee breaks’ right now). I always said it the way I spelled the 1st time. Try both which sounds better.

  27. #23 Dave: I agree totally. Pot is way safer. Anheuser-Busch does NOT want to compete with a safeer, more pleasant legal alternative to their poison

  28. Prohibitionists’ live in a world of their own creation filled with lies, hate and fear. They are not able to deal with reality on its own terms, and therefore must fabricate “facts” to justify the self-ordination they believe qualifies them to run the lives of others. Prohibitionists are most afraid of God’s will for people to live in liberty with freedom, as acknowledged and cited in the Constitution of the United States. In the end prohibitionists never win, and that is why eventually cannabis will be re-legalized.

  29. the real problem with leagelizing pot is unemployment
    judges,procuters (all they do is cut deals),bailifs.court reporters,clearks ,prision guards,bail bondsmen,and the list goes on and on

    100,000,000,000.oo dollers buys a lot of jobs and votes

  30. Las Vegas Lawyer enters the Norml blog site, makes an anti-pot comment, and then leaves a link to his firm? We should all Email him about his comment and ask him to provide sources to his statements.

  31. Re Scott P, post 26,

    Hey Scott, I agree with much of what you say. However, I do believe that one of these days–how many years in the future, I can’t say–MJ will become legal. I honestly believe it’s inevitable.

    The demographics aren’t in our favor–yet. The oldies, those people older than 65, are the most anti-MJ, and they’re usually amongst the most diligent voters.

    But, once they’ve passed the torch, and the oldest people are the ones who came of age in the 1960s, then things will begin inevitably to change in our favor. From that point on, every generation will have smoked MJ-the Generation X bump notwithstanding. It will still take a few years, but, my friend, it WILL happen! (I just hope I’m still alive!)

    It also seems that the younger generation today is less anxious for war, and less anxious to destroy the environment for the sake of the almighty dollar. Those are great trends. Hang in there pal.

  32. 37 Las Vegas Lawyer,

    It sounds like a personal problem. I hope you don’t represent anyone in court with that philosophy. They surely would have a fool for an attorney. Remember –
    in Vegas we know what talks – and – we know bullshit walks.

  33. A MILLION MAN MARIJUANA MARCH Let’s set it for 2012. Let’s be realistic. It can be done! We get the word out start in Ca and work our way to DC. A big peaceful protest,

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