NEW YORK (MainStreet) — One of the claims by those advocating marijuana legalization is that smoking grass does not lead to the violent behavior associated with drinking alcohol. They instead ascribe qualities to marijuana smoking of soothing the savage beast in humans.
For example, the Marijuana Legalization Organization states on its website, "We currently spend billions of dollars every year to chase peaceful people who happen to like to get high."
But a 2004 report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA), a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, strongly contradicts this notion of a nonviolent world of marijuana smoking. The report studied marijuana use and delinquent behavior among youth. What the researchers determined was that frequency of marijuana use by youths is associated with delinquent behavior.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health surveyed youths ages 12 to 17 in 2002. It asked them about six delinquent behavioral activities:
- engaged in serious fighting
- engaged in group-against-group fighting
- attacked someone with the intent to seriously hurt them during the past year
- stole or tried to steal something worth more than $50
- sold illegal drugs
- carried a handgun during the past year
What they learned was that "the percentages of youths engaging in delinquent behaviors in the past year rose with increasing frequency of marijuana use." Problem behavior of all sorts is correlated with smoking grass. For all of the delinquent behaviors reviewed the percentage of the youths engaging in this activity rose with the increase in marijuana usage.
Specifically the report noted the following: "4 million youths (16% of those aged 12 to 17) used marijuana in the past year; approximately 21% of youths (5 million) engaged in serious fighting at school or work, almost 16% (4 million) took part in a group-against-group fight, and almost 8% (2 million) attacked someone with the intent to seriously hurt them during the past year. Nearly 5% of youths (1.2 million) stole or tried to steal something worth more than $50, more than 4% (1.1 million) sold illegal drugs, and more than 3% (800,000) carried a handgun during the past year."
Some 16% of the youths surveyed, between 12 and 17 years of age, reported using marijuana in the prior year. The breakdown in frequency was:
- 38% used marijuana on 1 to 11 days
- 21% used on 12-49 days
- 9% used on 50-99 days
- 23% used on 100-299 days
- 9% used marijuana 300 or more days
SAMSHA is not alone in its findings. The British Journal of Psychiatry published a study in 2006 by some Dutch researchers, affiliated with the Trimbos Institute (Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction) in Utrecht. This study concluded that "n a country with a liberal drug policy like The Netherlands, cannabis use is associated with aggression and delinquency, just as in other countries."
The study was conducted as part of the World Health Organization cross-national study "Health Behaviour[sic] in School-Aged Children" that addressed "health behaviours [sic], health and its social context in children and adolescents in Europe and North America."
Another study,this one in 2001, published in the Journal of Addictive Diseases, was performed by researchers from the Belmont Center for Comprehensive Treatment in Philadelphia. It reached similar conclusions. The study, titled "Violent Behavior as Related to Use of Marijuana and Other Drugs" by Alfred S. Friedman, Kimberly Glassman and Arlene Terras, found "greater frequency of use of marijuana was found unexpectedly to be associated with greater likelihood to commit weapons offenses."
But marijuana advocates are not impressed. Morgan Fox, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project, took issue with the studies claiming that they show a correlation but not causation.
He also cited a study from addictive behaviors which states "[c]annabis reduces likelihood of violence during intoxication, but mounting evidence associates withdrawal with aggressivity."
Regarding the British study Fox said, "This study shows correlation, not causation, and does not account for a large number of other factors which could influence aggressive behavior, such as poverty, ethnic and religious stratification, and political unrest."
Fox took particular issue with the Belmont study.
"A large number of arrestees probably had caffeine in their system... but correlation is not causation," he said. "There is no evidence that marijuana use contributes to violent or otherwise serious crimes. The fact that some people have marijuana in their systems at the time of arrest does not imply that marijuana was a causal factor. In fact, beyond the crime of possession, the vast majority of violent crime associated with marijuana are a direct result of prohibition forcing the market for this popular commodity to be controlled by criminals who do not have access to peaceful and legal means to resolve business conflicts."
In response to the SAMHSA study, he was quick to repeat that correlation does not imply causation.
"Given that marijuana is illegal and could itself be considered a delinquent behavior for teens, it seems much more likely that marijuana use associated with 'delinquents' is a symptom, not a cause," he said.
While it is true that causation is not correlation, there is at least enough evidence that a possibility that marijuana could lead to violent behavior does exist. This is something that those who consider legalization or have alway voted in favor of legalization should know.
By Michael P. Tremoglie
Posted March 07, 2014
The Newhawks Crew
Dear Drugs-Forum readers: We are a small non-profit that runs one of the most read drug information & addiction help websites in the world. We serve over 4 million readers per month, and have costs like all popular websites: servers, hosting, licenses and software. To protect our independence we do not run ads. We take no government funds. We run on donations which average $25. If everyone reading this would donate $5 then this fund raiser would be done in an hour. If Drugs-Forum is useful to you, take one minute to keep it online another year by donating whatever you can today. Donations are currently not sufficient to pay our bills and keep the site up. Your help is most welcome. Thank you.