Pubdate: Tue, 04 Jun 2013
Source: Sun Journal, The (NC)
Copyright: 2013 Freedom Communications, Inc.
Author: Shirin Scotten


The Sun Journal recently published an opinion entitled, "Tobacco, pot
are on different paths". The opinion piece stated how acceptance of
tobacco use is in a decline as compared to marijuana. Coastal
Coalition for Substance Abuse Prevention (CCSAP) is concerned with the
social acceptance marijuana is gaining. States legalizing marijuana
can show us what might happen if North Carolinians began seeing
marijuana as an acceptable drug.

The most common reason given to support less restricted marijuana use
is "for medical purposes." The Colorado Department of Health and Human
Services has published several studies on who is using marijuana for
medical purposes in their state. They found that, "the average
'medical' marijuana user is a 32-year old white male with a history of
alcohol, cocaine, and meth use, but NO history of a life threatening
illness." Furthermore, only 3 percent reported using marijuana for
cancer or HIV/AIDS. "The vast majority (94 percent) reported 'severe

Using marijuana for pain management brings up the same problems we
have with prescription opioids: keeping drugs in the hands of those
who were prescribed it. Back in Denver, Colo., 74 percent of kids in
treatment for addiction reported getting their pot from medical
marijuana card holders. Not surprisingly, a national 2011 study found
that states using medical marijuana had an increase in pot use not
seen in other states and those states had the highest levels of drug
addiction and abuse among 12-17 year olds (SAMHSA). Simply stated by
the Institute of Medicine, "There is no scientific basis for using
smoked marijuana as a medicine."

Some say that taxing marijuana rather than using money to enforce it
as a crime would generate much-needed revenue rather than an
expenditure. If you look at the other socially used drugs, alcohol and
tobacco, evidence shows otherwise. The cost of alcohol use and abuse,
including lost productivity, health, and related crime, is $235
billion. Federal and state alcohol taxes raise only $14.5 billion - 6
percent of the cost. For tobacco, federal and state taxes raise $25
billion - 13 percent of $193 billion tobacco-related costs on society.

Not only is marijuana use a societal cost issue, it is a societal
safety issue. A national roadside survey of nighttime drivers in 2007
found 8.6 percent of drivers positive for marijuana - nearly 4 times
the number of drivers with Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.8 or
more. Marijuana is the most prevalent illegal drug detected in
impaired drivers, fatally injured drivers, and motor vehicle crash
victims (NHTSA).

Finally, there is debate that using marijuana as a teenager sets the
stage for adulthood. A child who begins using marijuana by age 13
reports less education than non-users, they usually don't go to
college, and they are more likely to report lower income as adults,
according to a 2005 NIDA study. Another study in the Journal of
Abnormal Child Psychology showed that students who use marijuana
before age 15 are three times more likely to leave school by age 16.
Following Colorado's legalization of marijuana for recreational
purposes, Colorado drug testing companies report that now they have to
perform drug tests at schools weekly rather than monthly. They also
have had to bring in new tests to see how high students are. They are
seeing students with enough of the drug in their system to qualify as
daily users.

CCSAP agrees with the Sun Journal that marijuana is gaining
acceptance. North Carolina, however, has an opportunity to set
expectations about marijuana use, using scientific fact from other
states to show the potential harm. For questions or comments to CCSAP,
please visit or call 252-649-1615.

Shirin Scotten, MPH

Media coordinator, Coastal Coalition for Substance Abuse Prevention
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