I oppose legalization of marijuana for many reasons. One of the primary reasons is that marijuana hurts so many people, and worse, it hurts the poor and minorities worst of all. Those who are concerned about growing income inequality, the high incarceration rate of African Americans, and bigotry in general should stand up against legalized marijuana.
JAMA Psychiatry just published a study on the “Prevalence of Marijuana Use and Disorders in the United States” (“Prevalence of Marijuana Use Disorders in the United States Between 2001-2002 and 2012-2013”, published online October 21, 2015). The study found that not only did marijuana use and DSM-IV marijuana use disorder nearly double during the decade ending 2013, but this disorder grew by a larger percentage among black individuals and those with the lowest income.
In other words, legalizing marijuana may affect African Americans and the poor more than other populations. What follows are quotes from the study. I added the underlining.
“The prevalence of marijuana use more than doubled between 2001-2002 and 2012-2013, and there was a large increase in marijuana use disorders during that time. While not all marijuana users experience problems, nearly 3 of 10 marijuana users manifested a marijuana use disorder in 2012-2013.”
How many Americans are experiencing marijuana use disorder?
“In 2012-2013, 9.52% of US adults used marijuana in the past year, and 2.9% had a diagnosis of DSM-IV marijuana use disorder. Thus, nearly 3 of every 10 marijuana users had a diagnosis of a marijuana use disorder (approximately 6,846,000 Americans).”
What demographic groups are most affected?
“The prevalence of DSM-IV marijuana use disorder increased significantly between 2001-2002 (1.5%) and 2012-2013 (2.9%), nearly doubling between the 2 surveys (Table 2)…. Groups in which the magnitude of increase was most notable included those aged 45 to 64 years (0.4% vs 1.3%); black individuals (1.8% vs 4.6%); Hispanic individuals (1.2% vs 2.8%); those with the lowest income (2.3% vs 5.4%); and those in the South (1.0% vs 2.6%).”
What are the risks of marijuana use?
“[U]se or early use of marijuana is associated with increased risk for many outcomes, including cognitive decline, psychosocial impairments, vehicle crashes, emergency department visits, psychiatric symptoms, poor quality of life, use of other drugs, a cannabis-withdrawal syndrome, and addiction risk. Further, marijuana use disorders (abuse or dependence) are associated with substantial comorbidity and disability and are consequently of substantial public health concern."