Statistics from 2020 are rolling in, and federal agencies are finding that legalization may not be as dangerous as opponents claim.
According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, there were only 1,118 federal marijuana trafficking cases in fiscal year 2020, compared to 1,675 cases in 2019. That number has steadily been decreasing in recent years as more states legalize recreational cannabis. In 2016 there were 3,422 marijuana trafficking convictions in the U.S. That’s a 67 percent decrease in four years.
The sentence lengths associated with 80 percent of the cases were five years or less, meaning busts were generally smaller. Only 4 percent of offenders received sentences longer than 10 years.
The consistently dipping number of cannabis trafficking cases could mean that illegal drug cartels are transporting less marijuana. Advocates argue that this is the direct result of legalization as it lowers demand for black market pot.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) recently released a report that found cannabis use among youths was unaffected by state-level legalization.
The report analyzed data collected from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System. According to the NCES, the percentage of students who reported using marijuana at least once during the previous 30 days in 2019 was 21 percent—“not measurably different from the percentage in 2009.” The percentage of female students who had used cannabis in the previous 30 days was 3 percentage points higher at 21 percent in 2019 than in 2009.
The report also found “no measurable difference” in the percentage of students who were offered drugs on school property between 2009 and 2019.
As time moves on, we’re getting a better picture of the overall effects of marijuana legalization, and it’s just not the society-destroying policy that opponents have claimed it to be. Of course, that won’t stop some people …
El Paso DEA Concerned About Teens
The El Paso Division of the Drug Enforcement Agency must have missed the memo from the NCES, because it is once again sounding the alarm over New Mexico’s decision to pass the Cannabis Regulation Act.
“The men and women of the DEA are concerned because New Mexico is already No. 5 in the nation for youth marijuana use,” said Carlos Briano, public information officer for the DEA El Paso Division, to Border Report. “We believe the legalization of recreational marijuana will increase the availability and accessibility to the youth of New Mexico and the parts of Texas that border the state, including El Paso.”
In April Special Agent-in-Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s El Paso Division Kyle Williamson cited a contested study and claimed that legalization in New Mexico would incur health care costs that would exceed the revenue raised from a cannabis market and claimed the cost would be passed along to the state.
Williamson aimed at the state’s wallets, and since that didn’t work, Briano is now aiming at our hearts. “Marijuana use in teenagers and young adults is very damaging to the young brain,” Briano told reporters. “Various entities, including the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Pediatric Medical Association, numerous universities and state health departments have all reported stunted brain development and an increase in mental health issues when young people use and misuse marijuana and THC products, especially those with high levels of THC.”
As we reported above, the NCES found no statistically significant difference in cannabis use among teens over the last decade in states that have legalized.
THC Not a Good Indicator of Impairment
The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) recently conducted a study that found THC and field sobriety tests made for poor indicators of the level of a person’s cannabis intoxication.
“In an effort to better understand marijuana intoxication and, ultimately, improve marijuana intoxication legislation,” writes the NIJ, researchers from RTI International analyzed the effect of different THC levels on performance during impairment tests and found that they had varied results in participants. The levels of THC found in the subject’s biofluids were also varied, leading the researchers to question the veracity of THC testing of drivers.
The participants were given brownies at doses of 0, 10mg and 25mg of THC or vaped extract at doses of 0, 5mg and 20mg THC. Their cognitive and psychomotor performances were examined before and after dosing using a number of common impairment tests, including the field sobriety test used to detect if a driver has been drinking alcohol.
The most striking observation noted in the study was that traditional concerns over drugged driving are apparently not a problem with drivers on THC. According to the study, “the one-leg stand, walk and turn, and modified Romberg balance tests were not sensitive to cannabis intoxication for any of the study participants.” This aspect needs to be studied more as it implies that cannabis doesn’t have the same impairing effect on driving as alcohol or other drugs.
But negative effects were found in the participants at the height of the drug’s psychoactive peak. Their cognitive and psychomotor functioning were negatively impacted by all the administered doses except the lowest vape dose of 5mg THC.
Zoning Rules Amended
Last week the Albuquerque City Council finalized its cannabis zoning regulations during a special meeting held to hammer out the city’s Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO). In a move that has left a number of prospective cannabis business owners relieved, the council rejected a round of proposed restrictions that have been vexing cannabis advocates.
The council did not adopt suggestions from the Mayor’s Office to restrict pot shops from operating on main streets or within 1,000 feet of each other. It opted to reduce that limit to 600 feet with an avenue for businesses to apply for an exemption. It also rejected Council President Cynthia Borrego’s proposal to block marijuana dispensaries from operating within 300 feet of churches.
The council did approve one amendment that was proposed by the mayor’s office. Medical cannabis dispensaries already in place will be exempt from new zoning rules.