Courts Forcing Youth Into Marijuana Treatment


A new study recently published in the journal Substance Use & Misuse reports that over half of all young people (ages 12 to 20) are being referred to treatment for marijuana use by the criminal justice system. The study covered a 17 year period and was done by the University of Iowa and Binghamton University in New York.

There was a dramatic increase in admissions over the period studied, which covers the period from just before California’s legalization of medical marijuana in 1996 up to the adult use legalization in Colorado in 2012. Data from treatment admission records of youth showed an increase of 65% during the study period, from 52,894 annual admissions in 1995 to 87,528 admissions in 2012.

Paul Armentano, the deputy director of NORML penned an article for that breaks down the study and analyzes the facts and data surrounding the increase. Armentano explains:

Perhaps most importantly, the authors of this new study acknowledge that many of the teens now being mandated to attend drug treatment don’t appear to belong there because they exhibit little evidence of having suffered from any deleterious mental or physical health problems specific to their cannabis use. In fact, since 2008, 30 percent of all young people in treatment for alleged marijuana dependence had no record of having even used pot in the 30 days prior to their admittance – much less exhibiting signs of being dependent upon the herb. Another 20 percent of the teens admitted had used pot fewer than three times in the past month. “Our findings indicate that the severity of drug use involved in those admissions has decreased,” authors concluded. “This study highlights the importance of identifying youth in actual need of treatment services.”

So, as our nation deals with a pandemic opioid abuse crisis, we have criminal justice systems forcing young people into treatment for a non-existent problem in the majority of cases. At the same time, legislators in Washington and in almost every state are dealing with funding problems for the treatment of opioid addiction. Maybe our illustrious leaders should stop wasting money on cannabis and start focusing on real addiction problems with a drug that actually makes you addicted.

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