Report: Criminal Justice Referrals Still Driving Marijuana ‘Treatment’ Admissions

Over half of all people admitted to drug treatment programs for marijuana-related issues over the past decade were referred there by a criminal justice source, according to a report published this month by the US Department of Health and Human Services.

In the years 2003 through 2013, 52 percent of people in drug treatment for marijuana as their ‘primary substance of abuse’ were referred by the criminal justice system. Of those, almost half (44 percent) entered treatment as a component of their probation or parole.

Only 18 percent of marijuana treatment admissions were based upon self-referrals. Primary marijuana admissions were less likely than all other drug-related admissions combined to have been self- or individually referred to treatment.

The data mirrors those of previous federal reports finding that only a small percentage of those entering treatment for marijuana perceive that they are abusing cannabis or have even used the substance recently.

12 thoughts

  1. “Drug Treatment” earns a lot of money; some of that money serves as campaign contributions to help elect candidates who vote for laws assuring abundant criminal justice referrals. Revolving door?

  2. 52% seems very low actually. 52% court referrals, 18% self-referrals… Where did the other 30% come from?

    [Paul Armentano responds: See Table 2.6 of the report: Table 2.6. Treatment referral source and detailed criminal justice referral among admissions aged 12 and older, by primary substance of abuse: Percent distribution, 2013]

  3. This is sick. corts and judges still fully invested in the war-o-drugs to offer forced teatment, instead of jail time, is just a false imposed alternate sentance over what should be a very minor civil offence at the most. This is a smoke screen to meaningful policy and law reform that the prohibitionists use to cling to in order to avoid the entire subject of drug policy reform. This is a lame dodge of the entire reform approache.

    Albert Einstien’s definition of insanity is alive and well, unfortunatley.

  4. The self-help group AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) is often misunderstood by outsiders and insiders alike. The principles of recovery are strictly voluntary: nobody in AA is trying to MAKE you stop drinking. It’s all in the Blue Book… see if you can get your hands on a copy if you want one, they are often found at AA meeetings, buy one with a donation. You don’t have to join, or anything you don’t want to do. (You might have to smoke outside.) In that book, it will tell you: go ahead and drink! Yep, drink up, all you want… until you’ve had your fill. And when you’re ready to quit, c’mon back, we’ll be waiting for you. (That’s a pharaphrase.)

    And so, my point is, court-ordered drug treatment for alcohol is misguided, if well-intended.

    I suspect the same is true for cannabis (although, as a recovering alcoholic who is also a self-identified stoner, I find it difficult to imagine why anyone would want to quit weed! Where’s the problem? But I support their decision, if that’s what they feel they need to do.) But no one should be subjected to mandatory “treatment” for marijuana use. Not only is it misguided in terms of benefit to the cannabis user, it is wasteful and pointless if the point is protect society. From what? An illegal smile, like the song says?

  5. I wonder out of all these referrals (criminal justice, family and friends or self referral) how many are because people believe cannabis is bad and therefore must be to blame for anything. I live in the UK and if cannabis use is found to be part of any medical or police incident it is automatically assumed that cannabis caused the problem. We still have politicians and healthcare professionals saying that a high percentage of mental health patients have used cannabis therefore their mental health issues are caused by cannabis. No such assumption is ever made for alcohol, cigarettes, coffee or eating cheese but these things all appear in the life styles of people who fall ill or get into trouble with the law.

    A few years ago I heard 2 women discussing their teenage children who had been on a drunken weekend where several of their friends had been admitted to hospital for alcohol poisoning (presumably they would have died from liver failure without medical intervention). The reaction was that they were glad their children had gone to this event and not a music festival because “at least they were not taking drugs”. This attitude still prevails in my country and probably will until the USA legalises in all states – then we might start to see the truth.

  6. Recap of my post on the weekly legislative round up:

    Solution: Use revenue from fairly taxed marijuana and the CSAct on REAL Forensics Training, Crime Lab and Teacher Certification, Peer Based Review of REAL criminal and DNA evidence and a closure of all the loop holes that allow police departments, prisons prosecutors and forensic scientists to police and review themselves. Think about it; publically funded peer based review, not just something someone found on wikipedia… (Heeeey, I use wikipedia…) This revenue would not only reduce the dependency of the DOJ on self-serving prosecutors and Drug War lobbies, but would simultaneously address the lack of Congressional oversight by funding policy reform through consumer-scrutinized, (and therefore Congressionally represented) marijuana sales tax.

    The new DOJ plan is more foxes in charge of the hen house;

    Let’s replace the Drug Enforcement Agency with the Drug Education Agency and the Controlled Substances Act with the Certification Services Act.

  7. The war on drugs is rich in creating jobs,cash and confiscated property for law enforcement greed. Our elected officials drag their feet so the money machine keeps making money for law enforcement at the expense of our people. Here in PALM BEACH COUNTY our county commissioners voted to decriminalize small amounts of pot and that the officer can use discretion as to arrest or not. The county sheriff RICK BRADSHAW boldly announced that he was to continue to arrest regardless of the commissioners vote. THE SHERIFF DOES NOT WANT TO GIVE UP THE CORRUPT MISGUIDED RACKET THEY HAVE CREATED. I GUESS THEY ARE SHOWING US PALM BEACH VOTERS THAT THEY ARE WILLING TO FIGHT FOR THE RIGHT TO KEEP ARRESTING US! STOP PRIVATIZED PRISONS FOR PROFIT AND PROBATION FOR PROFIT. IT JUST REAKS OF INJUSTICE ON OUR SHINING CITY ON A HILL.

  8. The othet half are from employment drug testing – in order to become re-employable, again. This affects much more than the Transportation Industry – which is mandated by DOT/Congress, to require 6 months of self-admitted marihuana addiction treatment, for any metabolites discovered. NORML, how do we become certified to offer this addiction treatment? Seriously!

  9. Prohibitionists (Kevin Sabet in particular) argue that the large number of people who go through drug treatment programs for marijuana is proof that marijuana is harmful and addictive. However, they (dishonestly) fail to mention that most of them had the choice of going to jail or treatment! The truth is that (I believe) the majority of those going through one of these programs did not have any problem with marijuana beyond getting caught with it somehow.

    When someone is basically forced to enter one of these treatment programs it is a complete waste of time and money for everyone involved. The treatment center makes money but the person who is there for a non-existent problem with marijuana will almost certainly use it again once they are out of sight.

  10. I was made to go through this bullshit by court order after i was caught with a one hitter. They sent me to countless probation meetings and therapy assesments wasting multiple hours of time and hundreds of dollars, even my therapist knew it was pointless, she told me that i clearly had nothing wrong with me except that i enjoyed getting high every once in a while. She ended up telling them i was good to go but they wouldnt accept it they made me go to 2 more therapists that also cleared me with the exact same belief before i was left alone. Overall is was terribly pointless and a waste of tax dollars. This corrupt fucked up system needs to change!! Im not a criminal! I am a normal person who likes to relax and smile with the help of this amazing herb

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