Arrests Drive Spike In “Marijuana Treatment” Admissions, Study Says

Rockville, MD: The majority of individuals admitted to drug rehabilitation for marijuana are referred there by the criminal justice system, according to a new report published by the Drug and Alcohol Services Information System (DASIS).

Fifty-eight percent of those entering drug treatment for marijuana in 2002 were referred by the criminal justice system, the report found, up from 48 percent in 1992. Referrals from schools and health care/drug abuse care providers comprised another 15 percent of all admissions. By comparison, only 38 percent of those admitted to treatment for alcohol and only 29 percent of those admitted to treatment for cocaine were referred by the criminal justice system.

“Contrary to the Bush Administration’s claims, it is marijuana prohibition – not the use of marijuana itself – that is driving up rates of marijuana ‘treatment’ admissions,” NORML Senior Policy Analyst Paul Armentano said. “The record increase in the number of individuals now seeking ‘treatment’ for cannabis is due to a proportional increase in the number of those arrested by law enforcement for marijuana violations and subsequently referred to drug treatment by the criminal justice system. Primarily, these are young people arrested for minor pot possession offenses, brought before a criminal judge or drug court, and ordered to drug rehabilitation in lieu of jail or juvenile detention.”

According to a previous 2002 DASIS report, since 1995 the proportion of marijuana treatment admissions from all sources other than the criminal justice system has actually declined, Armentano said. “At a time when tens of thousands of Americans are being denied access to drug treatment due to a lack of bed space or federal funding, it is unconscionable that these clinics are bursting at the seams needlessly housing marijuana smokers,” he said.

For more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Senior Policy Analyst, at (202) 483-5500. The DASIS report, “Differences in Marijuana Admissions Based on Source of Referral: 2002,” is available at: