SAM Releases Comprehensive Report on Impact of Marijuana Legalization

Today, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), the leading nonpartisan organization dedicated to offering a science-based approach to marijuana policy, released its third annual Lessons Learned Report, a comprehensive study of the data outcomes in ‘legalized’ marijuana states. This study, validated by researchers from institutions such as Harvard and Johns Hopkins University and used as primary source material by international, federal, state, and local officials, as well as countless community organizations, finds that states that have legalized marijuana are witnessing rising use rates, thriving black markets, and harms among disadvantaged communities.

“As a handful of states are considering relaxing their marijuana laws, this report will continue to serve as an eye-opener for lawmakers and slow the rush to legalize,” said Dr. Kevin Sabet, president of SAM and a former senior drug policy advisor to the Obama Administration. “The commercialization of marijuana has been profitable for the industries such as Big Tobacco, yet tax revenues are falling short and serious, costly consequences abound. It is time to admit that marijuana legalization is a failed policy.”

While rates of almost every other drug are decreasing among youth, marijuana use remains stubbornly high. According to the University of Michigan Monitoring the Future survey of American youth, between 2017 and 2018, the percentage of 8thand 10thgraders who report “vaping” marijuana has increased 63%. The percentage of youth aged 12-17-years-old using marijuana in states where marijuana is “legal” was 8.9%, versus 6.4% in non-legal states.

Legal states are also dealing with overproduction problems which are fueling the massively expanding black market. The Oregon Secretary of State found that the volume of marijuana produced in the state is seven times greater than its local consumption. California produced 15.5 million pounds of the drug in 2018 but only consumed 2.5 million pounds.

Legalization proponents across the country are pushing the claim that marijuana commercialization is a social justice effort, but the data proves otherwise. In 2017, the marijuana-related arrest rate for African-Americans in Colorado was nearly twice that of whites. Juvenile marijuana-related marijuana arrests increased 114% between the three years before and after legalization in Washington, D.C. In Los Angeles, the majority of dispensaries have opened in primarily African-American communities.

“This report makes a world of difference in a legislative environment where all lawmakers hear is spin from marijuana industry lobbyists and profiteers,” said Illinois State Representative Marty Moylan, a Democrat. “This credible, nonpartisan, science-based report provides all the facts I need to make educated policy decisions on marijuana legalization.”

“These data should be included in every news story pertaining to efforts to legalize marijuana,” said Dr. Aaron Weiner, PhD, Director of Addictions at Linden Oaks Behavioral Health. “We must do more to push back against this industry and protect the health of our kids and the safety of our communities.”