Texas: Seventy Percent Of All ‘Marijuana Treatment’ Admissions Stem From Arrest, Study Says

Austin, TX: Nearly seventy percent of all adults referred to Texas drug treatment programs for cannabis are “legally coerced” into treatment, according to data published online in journal BMC Public Health.

Investigators at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of New South Wales (Sydney, Australia) reported that of the 27,198 adults entered into drug treatment for cannabis between 2000 and 2005, 69 percent of them were referred by the criminal justice system. By contrast, authors reported that only 20 percent of adults voluntarily admitted themselves into treatment, and only six percent were referred to treatment by friends or by members of their family.

Authors concluded, “Some 69% of cannabis admissions were involved with the criminal justice system, including those who had a legal status (awaiting trial, diverted to treatment, on probation, parole, or in jail) and those referred to treatment from a criminal justice source (probation, parole, police, or courts).”

Investigators noted that adults legally coerced into treatment were “less impaired” upon entering the program than those who entered treatment voluntarily, and were also more likely to complete the program.

The study’s state-specific data mimics national statistics indicating that the majority of individuals admitted to drug rehabilitation for marijuana are referred there by the criminal justice system.

“Contrary to claims by the Drug Czar’s office, it is the dramatic rise in ‘potent’ marijuana law enforcement – not any increase in the prevalence or alleged dangers of so-called ‘potent’ pot – that is driving America’s rates of marijuana ‘treatment’ admissions to record levels,” NORML Senior Policy Analyst Paul Armentano said.

He added: “Few of the individuals in drug ‘treatment’ for cannabis are there because they or their families believe that their marijuana use is adversely impacting their lives. Rather, most of these individuals are arrested for possessing minor amounts of pot and are referred to drug treatment by the courts as either an alternative to jail or as a requirement of their probation. 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 minor marijuana offenders.”

According to US FBI data, approximately 95 percent of all marijuana arrests in Texas are for misdemeanor possession.

For more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Senior Policy Analyst, at: paul@norml.org. Full text of the study, “Cannabis treatment outcomes among legally coerced and non-coerced adults,” is available online from BioMed Central at: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/7/111/abstract.