While a pro-marijuana group is launching an ad to encourage California legislators to legalize and tax the drug as a means of revenue, opponents want to remind the public that people under 18 who have used the drug are more likely to move on to harder-hitting drugs, putting 51 percent of California’s young people at risk.
In February, Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) introduced a bill to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol. Supporters of the bill estimate that California’s marijuana industry could bring in more than $1 million in taxes. Earlier this year, governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said the idea should be considered, but he stopped addressing it after receiving much criticism.
However, opponents say the drug shouldn’t be legalized because it is a gateway drug. “There is a clear correlation between marijuana problems, meth problems, and cocaine problems,” said Gayle Francis, founder of KeepComingBack.com, a drug addiction recovery organization. “If you’re under 18, you’re at risk.”
A poll conducted in April by Competitive Edge Research and commissioned by KeepComingBack.com, found that marijuana use will lead to harder drug use in the future.
The poll found that in California, 12.4 million adult (45 percent) have tried marijuana compared to 105 million (48 percent) nationally. The poll also found that Southern California residents are more likely to have used drugs.
The poll stated: “While the difference is not as drastic as San Francisco, half in Southern California have tried at least one drug compared with 45 percent of the rest of the state. This might have something to do with its proximity to Mexico and drugs coming through the southern border of California.”
The findings showed that 51 percent of people under 18 have tried marijuana, whereas 25 percent have tried ecstasy, 25 percent have tried meth, and 16 percent have tried crack or cocaine. The poll also found that 76 percent of adults with only a high school diploma tried at least one drug prior to turning 18, whereas only 42 percent of those with at least some college report the same thing. “This provides evidence that drug use stunts the pursuit of higher education,” the poll stated.
“Drug users who began using at least one drug under the age of 18 are more likely to continue on to use more and harsher drugs,” stated the poll. “Drug experimentation at an early age allows for more time to incorporate drug use into one’s lifestyle and immerse oneself in the drug culture. The ’slippery slope’ notion is supported by our data.”
Francis, who is also the co-founder of AMN health care and a former nurse, said that addiction to marijuana is more serious than advocates believe. She said she has seen marijuana cause serious damage to the user and to those surrounding him or her.
“Marijuana doesn’t help productivity, it makes people relax and hurts people from being their true selves and reaching their full potential,” Francis said. “Marijuana is a drug that causes addiction; it’s a highly dependent drug and it’s a disease of lack of will. They can’t say no.”
Despite alcohol being proven to be more potent than marijuana, marijuana has more consequences, Francis said.
“Alcohol is addicting. Has it been proven to lead to other drugs? No,” she said. “Has Marijuana? Yes.”