Smart Approaches to Marijuana Fact Sheets & Talking Points

Marijuana and calls to poison control

  • Between 2005 and 2011, the call rate to poison centers in states that decriminalized marijuana increased by more than 30% per year, while the call rate in non-legal states did not change.[xvi]

Marijuana use negatively impacts highway safety

  • According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, drivers who tested positive for marijuana in fatal car crashes DOUBLED between 2006 and 2010 (after the dispensaries were opened) while all other fatal car crashes declined for the same time period.[xvii]
  • 1 in 5 (or 19% of) teen drivers report that they have driven under the influence of marijuana. Only 13% of teen drivers report that they have driven under the influence of alcohol.[xviii]
  • Marijuana is the most prevalent illegal drug detected in impaired drivers, fatally injured drivers, fatally injured drivers, and motor vehicle crash victims.[xix]
  • Driving under the influence of marijuana is associated with a 92% increased risk of vehicular crashes.[xx]
  • Researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst found 44% of college men said they drove after smoking marijuana in the previous month, compared with 12% who said they drove after drinking.[xxi]

Marijuana Legalization Will Not Result in Increased Revenue

  • Taxes on marijuana will never pay for the increased social costs that would result from more users. Our nation’s experiences with alcohol and tobacco show that for every dollar gained in taxes, we spent 10 on social costs.[xxii]
  • Legalizing marijuana will open the doors to a “gray-market”, which would thrive under legalization in order to undercut the legal, taxed market.[xxiii] That is why the criminal market will not disappear under legalization.
  • According to a recent RAND study, legalization will cause the price of marijuana to fall and its use to rise, especially among youth.[xxiv]
  • Colorado is missing $21.5 million in estimated pot taxes because pot smokers are still buying on the black market.[xxv]

Marijuana Legalization Will Not Reduce criminal organizations

  • Marijuana accounts for only a portion of the proceeds gained by criminal organizations that profit from heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine distribution, human trafficking, and other crimes. Legalizing marijuana would not deter these groups from continuing to operate.[xxvi]

Marijuana Legalization Will Not Reduce Incarceration rates

  • According to the United States Sentencing Commission, in 2008, 6,337 people were sentenced in federal court for drug crimes related to marijuana. Of these 6,337, only 1.6% were sentenced for simple possession of marijuana.
  • According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, only 0.4% of prisoners with no prior offenses are in state prisons for marijuana offenses.


  • 1 and 6 participants also used “medical marijuana.”
  • Were more likely to take opioids in ways not recommended by their doctor.
  • Were over twice as likely to have an alcohol use disorder and four times as likely to have a heroin use disorder.
  • Medical marijuana users were over 50% more likely to be taking anti-anxiety medications (benzodiazepines), which then combined with opioids are particularly likely to cause an overdose.

[i] Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (2011). State Estimates from the 2009-2010 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health.

[ii] Wall, M., et al., 2011; Johnston, L.D., et al., 2011. and Pacula et al 2013

[iii] Wagner, F.A. & Anthony, J.C. From first drug use to drug dependence; developmental periods of risk for dependence upon cannabis, cocaine, and alcohol. Neuropsychopharmacology 26, 479-488 (2002). Available:

[iv] National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse. 2011. Topics in Brief: Marijuana. Available:

[v] Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 2010. Office of Applied Studies. Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS): 2009 Discharges from Substance Abuse Treatment Services, DASIS. Available:

Also see Non-medical cannabis: Rite of passage or Russian roulette?  2011.Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, Columbia University.

[vi] The National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA) report.  August 23, 2002.  Available:

[vii] Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Available: and

[viii] Pacula, R.L., Powell, D., Heaton, P., Sevingy, E.L. (2013). Assessing the effects of medical marijuana laws on marijuana and alcohol use: The devil is in the details. Available:

[ix] M.H. Meier, Avshalom Caspi, et al. 2012. “Persistent cannabis users show neuropsychological decline from childhood to midlife.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

[x] Office of Applied Studies, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). SAMHSA’s National Household Survey on Drug Abuse Report—Marijuana Use among Youths. July 19, 2002. Available at

[xi] Lane, J., Gerstein, D., Huang, L., & Wright, D., (1998) Risk and protective factors for adolescent drug use: Findings from the 1997 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse. [Online]. Available at; Bray, J.W., Zarkin, G.A., Ringwalt, C., & Qi, J. (2000). “The relationship between marijuana initiation and dropping out of high school.” Health Economics, 9(1), 9–18.

[xii] U.S. Department of Education, National  Center  for Education  Statistics,  2009-10 School Survey on Crime  and Safety (SSOCS), 2010.

[xiii] Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. The Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact. Volume 2, August 2014.

[xiv] Alaniz, MA. Alcohol Availability and Targeted Advertising in Racial/Ethnic Minority Communities. Alcohol Health & Research World. 1998; 22(4): 286-289.

[xv] Potency Monitoring Program Quarterly Report Number 120, Reporting Period December 16, 2012 – March 15,

  1. Mahmoud ElSohly, Director, NIDA Marijuana Project. P.7.

[xvi] Wang GS et al. Association of unintentional pediatric exposures with decriminalization of marijuana in the United States. Ann Emerg Med 2014 Feb 7; [e-pub ahead of print]. (

[xvii] Colorado Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). August 2011.

[xviii]Hazy Logic: Liberty Mutual Insurance/SADD Study Finds Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana a Greater Threat to Teen Drivers Than Alcohol. Available:

[xix] National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Drug Involvement of Fatally Injured Drivers. U.S. Department of Transportation Report No. DOT HS 811 415. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2010.

[xx] Asbridge, M., Hayden, JA, Cartwirght, JL. Acute cannabis consumption and motor vehicle collision risk: systematic review of observational studies and meta-analysis. British Medical Journal, 2012; 344 (ePub): e536. PMID: 22323502.

[xxi] Jennifer M. Whitehill, PhD; Frederick P. Rivara, MD, MPH; Megan A. Moreno, MD, MSEd, MPH; Marijuana-Using Drivers, Alcohol-Using Drivers, and Their Passengers. AMA Pediatr. Published online May 12, 2014. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.5300

[xxii] Rehm J, Mathers C, Popova S, Thavorncharoensap M, Teerawattananon Y, Patra J. 2009 Jun 27. “Global burden of disease and injury and economic cost attributable to alcohol use and alcohol-use  disorders.” Lancet ;373(9682): 2223-33. [Table 4].

[xxiii]Kilmer, B., Caulkins, J. P., Pacula, R. L., MacCoun, R. J., & Reuter, P. H. 2010. “Altered State? Assessing How marijuana Legalization in California Could Influence Marijuana Consumption and Public Budgets.” Santa Monica, CA: RAND Drug Policy Research Center. Available:

[xxiv] Kilmer, Beau, Jonathan P. Caulkins, Rosalie Liccardo Pacula, Robert J. MacCoun and Peter H. Reuter. 2010. “Altered State? Assessing How  Marijuana Legalization in California Could Influence Marijuana Consumption and Public Budgets.” Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation,

[xxv] Wood, Robert. Forbes. $21.5 Million In Marijuana Taxes Just Went Up In Smoke. 2014 Sep. 02.

[xxvi] U.S. Sentencing Commission, “2008 Sourcebook of Federal Sentencing Statistics, see:, Table 33.

[xxvii] Degenhardt, Louisa. ,Humphreys, Keith. Medical Marijuana and the Risk of Painkiller Overdose.  Scope, Published by Stanford Medicine. January 13, 2015.

Experience of adjunctive cannabis use for chronic non-cancer pain: Findings from the Pain and Opioids IN Treatment (POINT) study. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2015 Feb .

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