What do the Public Health experts say?

American Society of Addiction Medicine: “ASAM asserts that cannabis, cannabis-based products and cannabis delivery devices should be subject to the same standards that are applicable to other prescription medications and medical devices, and that these products should not be distributed or otherwise provided to patients unless and until such products or devices have received marketing approval from the Food and Drug Administration. ASAM rejects smoking as a means of drug delivery since it is not safe. ASAM rejects a process whereby State and local ballot initiatives approve medicines because these initiatives are being decided by individuals not qualified to make such decisions.”

American Cancer Society: “The ACS is supportive of more research into the benefits of cannabinoids. Better and more effective treatments are needed to overcome the side effects of cancer and its treatment. The ACS does not advocate the use of inhaled marijuana or the legalization of marijuana.”

American Glaucoma Foundation: “Marijuana, or its components administered systemically, cannot be recommended without a long term trial which evaluates the health of the optic nerve. Although marijuana can lower IOP, its side effects and short duration of action, coupled with a lack of evidence that its use alters the course of glaucoma, preclude recommending this drug in any form for the treatment of glaucoma at the present time.”

National Multiple Sclerosis Society: “Although it is clear that cannabinoids have potential both for the management of MS symptoms, such as pain and spasticity, as well as for neuroprotection, the Society cannot at this time recommend that medical marijuana be made widely available to people with MS for symptom management. This decision was not only based on existing legal barriers to its use but, even more importantly, because studies to date do not demonstrate a clear benefit compared to existing symptomatic therapies and because issues of side effects, systemic effects, and long-term effects are not yet clear.” — Recommendations Regarding the Use of Cannabis in Multiple Sclerosis: Executive Summary. National Clinical Advisory Board of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Expert Opinion Paper, Treatment Recommendations for Physicians, April 2, 2008.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) believes that “[a]ny change in the legal status of marijuana, even if limited to adults, could affect the prevalence of use among adolescents.” While it supports scientific research on the possible medical use of cannabinoids as opposed to smoked marijuana, it opposes the legalization of marijuana. — Committee on Substance Abuse and Committee on Adolescence. “Legalization of Marijuana: Potential Impact on Youth.” Pediatrics Vol. 113, No. 6 ( June 6, 2004): 1825-1826. See also, Joffe, Alain, MD, MPH, and Yancy, Samuel, MD. “Legalization of Marijuana: Potential Impact on Youth.” Pediatrics Vol. 113, No. 6 ( June 6, 2004): e632-e638h.

The American Medical Association (AMA) has called for more research on the subject, with the caveat that this “should not be viewed as an endorsement of state-based medical cannabis programs, the legalization of marijuana, or that scientific evidence on the therapeutic use of cannabis meets the current standards for a prescription drug product.”

John Knight, director of the Center for Adolescent Substance Abuse Research at Children’s Hospital Boston, recently wrote: “Marijuana has gotten a free ride of sorts among the general public, who view it as non-addictive and less impairing than other drugs. However, medical science tells a different story.”

Similarly, Dr. Christian Thurstone, a psychiatrist board-certified in general, child and adolescent and addictions psychiatry, who serves as an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado and as medical director of one of Colorado’s largest adolescent substance-abuse-treatment programs, said: “In the absence of credible data, this debate is being dominated by bad science and misinformation from people interested in using medical marijuana as a step to legalization for recreational use. Bypassing the FDA’s well-established approval process has created a mess that especially affects children and adolescents. Young people, who are clearly being targeted with medical marijuana advertising and diversion, are most vulnerable to developing marijuana addiction and suffering from its lasting effects.”

Dr. Ed Gogek, an addictions psychiatrist in Arizona wrote in the New York Times: “Indeed, marijuana activists use phony science, just as global warming deniers do. For years they claimed pot was good for glaucoma and never apologized when research found it could actually make glaucoma worse. They still insist weed isn’t addictive, despite every addiction medicine society saying it is. They’ve even produced their own flawed scientific studies supposedly proving that medical marijuana laws don’t increase use among teenagers, when almost all the evidence says just the opposite.”


Criminal justice outcomes for cannabis use offences in New Zealand, 1991–2008

Criminal justice outcomes for cannabis use offences in New Zealand, 1991–2008
International Journal of Drug Policy 2012
Background: There have been no changes to the statutory penalties for cannabis use in New Zealand for over 35 years and this has attracted some criticism. However, statutory penalties often provide a poor picture of the actual criminal justice outcomes for minor drug offending.
Aim: To examine criminal justice outcomes for cannabis use offences in New Zealand over the past two decades.
Method: Rates of apprehension, prosecution, conviction and related criminal justice outcomes for the use of cannabis in New Zealand (per 100,000 population) were calculated for 1991–2008. The same measures were calculated (per 1000 last year cannabis users) for 1998, 2001, 2003 and 2006. Trends were tested for using logistic regression with year predicting each measure outcome and with chi-square tests.
Results: The number of police apprehensions for cannabis use per year (per 100,000 population) declined from 468 in 1994 to 247 in 2008. The number of apprehensions for cannabis use per year (per 1000 cannabis users) also declined from 36 in 1998 to 21 in 2006. There were similar declines in prosecutions and convictions for cannabis use from 1991 to 2008. Those prosecuted for cannabis use in 2000–2008 were less likely than those prosecuted in 1991–1999 to be convicted and were more likely to be diverted away from the courts, ‘discharged without conviction’ and ‘convicted and discharged’.
Conclusion: There has been a substantial decline in arrests for cannabis use in New Zealand over the past decade and this lead to similar declines in prosecutions and convictions for cannabis use. The decline in convictions for cannabis use was further assisted by the expansion of police diversion to include cannabis use offences. Our findings underline the importance of examining the implementation of law, as well as statutory penalties, when characterising a country’s criminal justice approach to minor drug offending.


Demolishing 15 key arguments for the downgrading of cannabis laws

The Christian Institute (UK)

  1. “Cannabis use is so common that the current laws are unworkable”
  2. “Cannabis is a harmless drug. There is no need to outlaw it.”
  3. “Taking cannabis is a victimless crime. Using the law is unjustified.”
  4. “Cannabis is not a gateway drug”
  5. “Locking up cannabis users who are actually dependent on it is cruel and harsh. We should be giving them medical help, not criminalising them.”
  6. “Cannabis is nothing like as dangerous as tobacco or alcohol yet they are legal and cannabis is not.”
  7. “Criminalising cannabis is draconian and causes more harm than good.”
  8. “It is wrong to criminalise people who use cannabis for medical reasons.”
  9. “Legalising cannabis would eradicate the black market and the associated crime and so enable the Government to regulate the supply of cannabis.”
  10. “Under the current law young people who want cannabis have to go to dealers. This brings them into contact with suppliers of harder drugs. Legalisation would break this link.”
  11. “Our current drugs laws are simply not working. Young people need to be told about the risks of drugs and then left to make their own choices.”
  12. “The prohibition of cannabis actually encourages drug taking because the thrill of illegality attracts young people.”
  13. “Legalising cannabis would release the police to deal with more serious crimes and it would free up the courts and prisons. It would concentrate resources on the ‘real’ problem of hard drug dealers.”
  14. “The law is out of touch with public opinion. Most people are in favour of legalising cannabis.”
  15. “The use of cannabis has always been just as widespread as it is today. Even Queen Victoria used it.”