Top Ten Dubious Claims About Marijuana

As cannabis business attorneys, we hear a lot of chatter in the industry about various developments, happenings, business concerns, and triumphs. Far too often though, what we hear is fear-mongering and misinformation. To help dispel some of this, we would like to share with you the following top ten most dubious claims we have heard about marijuana in general in an effort to help clear the air.

  1. 1. Legalization will lead to more marijuana in the hands of children and unfettered access for all. We were recently asked at our tribal marijuana conference what we hear most often as to why states should not legalize cannabis for either recreational or medicinal use. Prohibitionists love to tout any arguments they can about how marijuana legalization will increase access to marijuana for youth. This claim though is both illogical and unsubstantiated. Legalization leads to greater oversight and control over the dissemination of cannabis. A well functioning legalization regime’s seed to sale tracking should mitigate unlawful diversions of marijuana and age requirements should force marijuana businesses to ID for kids or pay a steep price. Preliminary evidence supports this in that teen use of marijuana is down in states that have legalization. Now, we can’t speak to parents who leave their cannabis out or just don’t care if their kids consume. These things will happen. But it is way premature and probably flat out wrong to claim that allowing for marijuana businesses will automatically result in putting marijuana directly in the possession of kids or that it will cause everyone to have access to cannabis all the time. Ask your 15 year old in a state where marijuana is illegal whether it is easier for him or her to get pot or alcohol and we bet the answer will more often be pot, because alcohol is so much better regulated. If pot were regulated like alcohol, teen usage would likely decline.
  2. Marijuana is the new date rape drug. When Amendment 2 was on the ballot in Florida, the “No on Amendment 2” campaign claimed that marijuana edibles would be the new date rape drug. This claim is laughable to anyone who has ever used cannabis and science shows that marijuana operates is no way similar to “Special K” or “Roofies.”
  3. Legalization will lead to increases in crime. In neither Washington nor Colorado has the sky fallen as a result of legalization and Colorado actually reports a drop in crime since legalization. With the money saved from not having to prosecute those who consume marijuana, police and prosecutors are freed up to pursue real crimes.
  4. Marijuana legalization causes intolerably stoned wildlife. Unbelievably, a Drug Enforcement Administration agent recently testified to the Utah legislature that, should it legalize marijuana for limited qualifying patient use, it would lead to “rabbits that had cultivated a taste for the marijuana…” He further testified that “[o]ne of [the rabbits] refused to leave us, and we took all the marijuana around him, but his natural instincts to run were somehow gone.” Though ensuring that cannabis cultivation and processing do not harm the environment or wildlife is a legitimate concern, we simply have no words for the utter ridiculousness of these statements.
  5. The federal government will prosecute state and local leaders and even state employees in states that legalize cannabis. Our cannabis litigation lawyers have sued several cities and counties to try to roll back their marijuana bans and prohibitions. And in those cases, the cities and counties have many times argued that there is a real threat of federal prosecution of government leaders and employees should they allow for cannabis businesses. Even governors have tried to provide cover for their limited marijuana policies by alleging that the federal government will indict them and their teams should they sign marijuana legalization into law. But we are not aware of a single instance where any local or state leader or employee has been hauled off to jail or even prosecuted by the Feds for allowing for marijuana businesses or for allowing for legalization. This claim is utterly unrealistic.
  6. Marijuana legalization is the second coming of alcohol, big tobacco, or big pharma. The beauty of living in 2015 is that society can make different choices about how to deal with emerging industries. Who says marijuana has to be or even should be treated the same as alcohol or tobacco or pharmaceuticals, especially when all of those industries have their flaws? As we have previously written, big tobacco right now has little real interest in cannabis and the same holds true for big alcohol and big pharma. Yet just about every day, we hear prohibitionists try to hang their hats on scaring people with the threat of “big business” entering into the marijuana industry and convincing all of us to get “hooked” on pot so that their profits will rise. Should this ever really happen, we will be able to deal with it, just as we have done with tobacco, whose sales have been declining for decades.
  7. Legalization will crowd our highways with impaired drivers and increase the number of fatal accidents.The anti-groups love the “stoned driver” argument even though they have zero evidence to support it and even though the largest federal government study goes a long way towards refuting it. We actually believe that pot will increase driver safety because it will to some extent replace alcohol use, which is indeed very dangerous for drivers.
  8. It is a political death sentence to admit to having used marijuana or to take cannabis political dollars. This was once true, but it generally no longer is. It is no longer that taboo for politicians to admit to having both tried and inhaled marijuana. President Obama admitted it and politicians of various leanings are beginning to openly accept campaign dollars from the cannabis industry.
  9. Investing in a marijuana business will make me rich overnight. Just not true. Federal prohibition is alive and well and it creates a host of financial problems for the marijuana industry, ranging from the inability to obtain a bank account to onerous taxes imposed by the IRS. Most cannabis businesses are start-ups that deal with ever-changing local and state regulations, all unpredictably affecting business profitability and bottom lines. And like most start ups, they are going to take a while to find their legs.
  10. America is not ready for legalization. As of January 2014, more than half of America wants marijuana to be legal. According to the Washington Post, “Majorities of Americans do not see pot as physically or mentally harmful. Only 19 percent see marijuana use as a major problem in society today.” And hey, let’s just let the votes decide this.