Vice Squad
Tuesday, August 03, 2004
Referrals for Marijuana Treatment from the Criminal Justice System

Some prohibitionists point to marijuana treatment numbers as evidence for how much more dangerous today's high-THC pot is than the tepid stuff from 25 years ago. But most people who enter marijuana treatment do some under some coercion, often from the criminal justice system.
Today, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration made web-available a report released last week concerning treatment referrals. The report, as far as my quick read suggests, does not contain a figure for what percentage of people who enter marijuana treatment enter under a referral from the criminal justice system. But Figures 2 and 3 provide some telling information nonetheless. Figure 2 indicates that of all the substance abuse treatment referrals made by the criminal justice system in 2002, 24 percent were for marijuana as the primary drug of abuse. For people who were referred to treatment through other (non-criminal-justice) routes, only 10 percent named marijuana as the primary drug of abuse. Figure three shows that criminal justice treatment referrals are skewed towards the young, in comparison with non-criminal-justice referrals. These data comport well with (but do not prove, of course), the notion that many of the young people who are "presenting" for marijuana treatment are doing so through criminal justice referrals, and that they are not particularly likely to be otherwise referred for treatment.

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