Yesterday in Buzzfeed's report about the Trump administration's secret anti-marijuana committee, memos showed that the committee wanted federal agencies to send in negative trends about cannabis that would fight back against legalization arguments. And now one Washington Post columnist has tried (key word: TRIED) to accomplish that task.
Christopher Ingraham wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post about negative trends related to marijuana legalization. It should be noted that Ingraham's op-ed is a mostly fact-based op-ed and it's actually not clear if he supports or opposes legalization. He does point out several positives about cannabis in the article, such as how medical experts consider it far safer than most substances including alcohol and that it's impossible to overdose on it. However, the so-called "negative" trends he points out with marijuana still aren't very negative. Let's take a look.
1. Overall marijuana use is increasing
Wait, what?! Making marijuana legal has led to more people using marijuana? Unbelievable! It should also be noted that the statistic Ingraham cites shows that the number of Americans ages 12 and up who've used marijuana has increased from 6.2 percent to 8.9 percent, which really doesn't seem like that big of a deal.
2. Heavy marijuana use is increasing
This is really the same point as number one, but Ingraham also noted that the number of marijuana users who know use cannabis daily or almost daily has also risen. While Ingraham makes the argument that people who use marijuana frequently are more at risk to become dependent on the drug, the point is invalidated when he notes that the number of people with marijuana use disorder has actually decreased from 1.8 percent to 1.5 percent from 2002 to 2016. So people may be using it more frequently, but it's not becoming more of a problem.
3. Marijuana is getting stronger
This is one of those stats that probably would scare someone who knows nothing about marijuana, but an increase in average THC in cannabis doesn't seem like such a worrying stat. It would be like if someone pointed out the average alcohol percentage in beer has increased. It's also a little undercut when Ingraham's data shows the average THC level has actually decreased from 2012 to 2016.
4. In legalization states, more drivers are testing positive for marijuana
Ingraham's "strongest" argument is about people driving high. He notes the number of drivers involved in fatal car crashes who have tested positive for marijuana in Colorado has increased since legalization. But he also notes a big issue with this stat, which is that you can't tell when someone actually used marijuana. It's possible the driver who tested positive just smoked a joint before getting in the car, or they did it three days ago. So statistics like this are misleading because they can't prove whether or not marijuana caused any of these incidents.
5. Marijuana-related ER visits are on the rise
Ingraham noted that emergency room visits by teenagers related to marijuana in Colorado increased after legalization. But this is another statistic with misleading data. First of all, the number of marijuana cases increased from 1.7 per 1,000 emergency room visits to 4.5 per 1,000, which is still an incredibly small amount compared to literally anything else. Also the emergency room visit didn't have to be related to marijuana. If a teenager had a drug test that contained marijuana, they counted in these stats as well, even if their emergency room visit had nothing to do with their cannabis use.
In short, if these are the best arguments anti-marijuana advocates can use against legalization, then they're in pretty bad shape.
(h/t Washington Post)