Kurt A. Gardinier: What Is Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini Smoking?

marijuanaWhat is Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini smoking? In her recent editorial (posted here) she claims that the bill signed by former Gov. Jon Corzine last week, which allows seriously ill patients with certain qualifying conditions to use medical marijuana, “will lead to a certain and significant increase in marijuana use in New Jersey.” That is simply not true. Assemblywoman Angelini bases her thesis from the 2009 study performed by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which showed, among other things, a slight increase in teen marijuana use, but she failed to look at past NIDA studies to make an informed conclusion on the subject.

In 1996, the last NIDA survey taken before any state legalized medical marijuana, 11.3 percent of eighth graders reported current (past 30 days) marijuana use. For 10th graders the figure was 20.4 percent, and for 12th graders it was 21.9 percent. In 2009, after 13 plus years of medical marijuana laws, the figures for current use are 6.5 percent for eighth graders, 15.9 percent for 10th graders and 20.6 percent for 12th graders.

The pattern is the same for lifetime use: In every age group, marijuana use is down, not up, since the medical marijuana debate hit the national stage.

Moreover, official state government surveys of teen drug use (compiled at mpp.org/teenuse) have found that no state with a medical marijuana law has experienced an increase in youth marijuana use since its law’s enactment. In fact, all medical marijuana states have reported overall decreases, many exceeding 50 percent in some age groups.

It’s quite a shame some of our politicians continue to repeat unfounded propaganda rather then address the reality that teen access to marijuana isn’t caused by laws that let sick and dying patients use it, it’s caused by a failed policy of prohibition that prevents the sort of sensible regulation we apply to tobacco and alcohol.

Ms. Angelini is also troubled that the “Legislature and not trained scientists will now decide which medicines are safe treatments for chronic diseases,” but that is not the case. The Legislature will not be deciding anything for New Jersey’s chronically ill patients, their doctors will be and that’s the way it should be.

Assemblywoman Angelini needs to start doing what she was elected to do, represent her constituents, the vast majority of whom support medical marijuana laws. A 2006 poll conducted by “the polling company, inc.,” revealed that 86 percent of New Jersey voters say “seriously ill patients should have access to marijuana for medical purposes if a physician recommends it.”

Nationally, a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll revealed that 81 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana for medical use.

Assemblywoman Angelini is clearly on the wrong side of this issue.

Kurt A. Gardinier is the director of communications at the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project, the nation’s largest marijuana reform organization.

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