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Prohibitionist Makes The Case For Marijuana Legalization


legalize marijuana cannabis safe safetyAs marijuana was becoming legal in Colorado, one man loudly campaigned against it.  His name is Dr. Christian Thurstone and he is one of the Denver area’s largest rehab entrepreneurs.  He makes money when people pay for his rehab services, whether that’s the occasional heroin addict in serious need of mental and physical rehabilitation or… oh, who am I kidding?  Dr. Chris makes his money when young people are caught with weed and forced by their parents, schools, or the criminal justice system to get “marijuana rehab”.

I’d tell you what proportion those marijuana users make of Dr. Chris’s business, but he is notoriously shy about releasing any statistics from his practice unless he can make a prohibition point with them.  For instance, he once noted how kids coming into his rehab were testing positive for over 500 nanograms of THC!  I thought that wasn’t true, since the “legal limit” for “stoned driving” is 5 nanograms of active THC in the bloodstream and immediately after toking THC spikes at about 100 nanograms.  That college kid who jumped off the balcony after eating a medicated cookie only turned up with 7.2 nanograms in his autopsy.  So I wrote to ask if he really meant THC-COOH, the inactive marijuana metabolite?  Nope, he insisted, they tested for active THC, making me wonder how those teenagers were even able to walk, much less sign in to a rehab for their “marijuana addiction”?

But I can tell you what the statistics are for most of the drug rehabs in the United States as of 2011.  When it comes to those placed in rehab for marijuana alone, over half (53%) of the admissions are forced by the criminal justice system and another quarter (25.5%) are referrals from schools and employers over failed piss tests.  Only about 15 percent of admissions were cannabis consumers self-admitting to treat what they considered to be problem use.

Now, compare that to Dr. Chris’s other customers, the people who use drugs other than marijuana.  Criminal justice only forced a third of them (33.1%) to rehab and another ninth (11.1%) were sent in for failing work or school drug tests.  Nearly two out of five drug users (38.8%) referred themselves to rehab when they felt they had a drug problem.  Then understand that when it comes to the primary or secondary substance used by a rehabber, among five users there are about 2 users there for drugs (42%), 2 there for alcohol (37%), and 1 there for marijuana (21%), and among those marijuana smokers, more than half used pot less than once a week and over a third didn’t use pot for a whole month before rehab (boy, that’s some addiction if you can kick it cold turkey for a month without rehab!)

So think it out… if you’re in the business of rehab, among 100 customers, you’ll have about 40 “druggies”, 40 “drunks”, and 20 “potheads”.  Of those 20 “potheads”, about 10 of them were forced there by a court and another 5 were forced there by a failed drug test at school or work.  Only 5 “potheads” came to your business because they wanted your service.  Under legalization, at least half your marijuana customers, representing 10% of your clients, are no longer compelled by arrests and courts to patronize your establishment.

Rehabitionists like Dr. Christian Thurstone and Dr. Kevin Sabet know this is a powerful indictment of the scam of drug courts and marijuana rehabs, so they always pretend like legalization isn’t hurting their bottom line.  They’ll offer some excuse about how if they were profit-driven, they’d support legalization since it will create so many more marijuana addicts to rehab.  But when they’re losing half their marijuana customers to legalization and only half again as many self-admit to rehab for marijuana, wouldn’t marijuana use have to increase by double to quadruple for them to just break even?

Poor Dr. Chris is so befuddled by the majority of Coloradoans who disagree with him about marijuana’s legality that as he travels from city to city to warn about the dangers of the devil’s weed, he inadvertently makes the case for legalization.  Dr. Chris features on his website some “neuroimages” (on Earth, we call them “PowerPoint Slides”) on the “Social Costs of Marijuana”.  Here’s one about the Dutch marijuana coffee shops that I don’t think he thought through:

marijuana legalization

In the slide, he points out that from 1976-83, the Dutch depenalized marijuana consumption.  That’s not entirely accurate; the Dutch just made it such a low priority that no adult was harassed by police over personal marijuana use.  It’s still technically illegal.  But, as Dr. Chris points out, under that policy, there was “little change in teen use.”  So, does Dr. Chris support a policy of tolerance of adult marijuana use?

Next, Dr. Chris points out how the coffee shops came into existence from 1984-96 and there is a huge rise in past-month use by people aged 18-20.  This would be a damning statistic showing how a 21-year-old age limit, like in Colorado, led to a mass increase in use by underaged tokers… except for Dr. Chris’s third graphic, which shows how from 1984-96, the legal age of entry to a coffee shop was 16 years old.  So use by 18-20 year olds increased when it was legal for 16, 17, 18, 19, and 20 year olds to get into a coffee shop and smoke pot?  The hell you say!  Then, from 1997-2005 when the age is raised to 18, there’s a drop in use by those aged 15-24 (where’s that 18-20 year old data)?  Why, Dr. Chris makes it sound as if decriminalization didn’t raise teen pot use rates and raising the legal age worked to deter underage use.

Then there’s Dr. Chris’s summary slide:

marijuana legalization summary

There’s that Sabet Conjecture, the hypothesis that since alcohol and tobacco cost $10 to society for every $1 they bring in for tax revenue, marijuana would be just as bad.  Let’s see, recreational marijuana taxes have brought forth $6 million in new revenue, so Dr. Chris must expect us to believe that it has cost Colorado $60 million in social costs.  Also, offset the police and court costs we’re not spending now that the average number of marijuana arrests per month (all charges) has dropped from about 800 a month to 100 a month.

So where’s that $60 million in social cost, Dr. Chris?  Marijuana use rates have remained steady at about 8 percent.  Crashes and fatalities on the roads have declined.  Kids kicked out of school for marijuana use represent 0.04% of the Colorado student population.  Travel interest in Denver is up well over last years’ numbers.  Thousands of people attended a Cannabis Job Fair where hundreds of new jobs in the industry were being filled by people who will be contributing taxpayers.  Where’s the $60 million in costs – new costs that weren’t already being paid when that same 8 percent of Coloradoans were illegal tokers?

It’s fun watching the businesses beholden to marijuana prohibition screeching their cries of extinction.  About one hundred years ago, I’m sure buggy whip makers, stagecoach operators, and saddle manufacturers made the same kind of noises… only without any “neuroimages”.

Source: National Cannabis Coalitionmake a donation


About Author

Executive Director: Russ Belville has been active in Oregon marijuana reform since 2005, when he was elected second-in-command of the state affiliate, Oregon NORML. After four years with Oregon NORML, Russ was hired by National NORML in 2009, working as Outreach Coordinator and hosting the NORML Daily Audio Stash podcast until 2012. Since then, Russ launched the 420RADIO marijuana legalization network and is the host of The Russ Belville Show, a live daily marijuana news talk radio program. Russ is also a prolific writer, with over 300 articles posted online and in print in HIGH TIMES, Huffington Post, Alternet, The Weed Blog, Marijuana Politics, and more.


  1. Well put, my good sir. We can, of course, expect the prohibitionists to apply further spurious arguments. One more conclusion from the Dutch data would suggest that younger people in Holland are NOT smoking cannabis at the same rate. When it’s “legal”, it’s not as cool & rebellious for younger folks. Interesting, no?

  2. malcolmkyle on

    More science that Howard A Katz will continue to blatantly ignore:

    1) Tobacco is cancer causing largely because it delivers specific carcinogens such as NNK and NNAL that are not present in cannabis. Not all “tar” is created equal, and tobacco has some of the most carcinogenic types of tar known to science, whereas cannabis does not.


    2) Cannabis (marijuana) use is associated with a DECREASE in several types of cancer… potentially even providing a protective effect against tobacco and alcohol related cancer development.

    Donald Tashkin, a UCLA researcher whose work is funded by NIDA, did a case-control study comparing 1,200 patients with lung, head and neck cancers to a matched group with no cancer. Even the heaviest marijuana smokers had no increased risk of cancer, and had somewhat lower cancer risk than non-smokers (tobacco smokers had a 20-fold increased lung cancer risk). Tashkin D. Marijuana Use and Lung Cancer: Results of a Case-Control Study. American Thoracic Society International Conference. May 23, 2006.

    Researchers at the Kaiser-Permanente HMO, funded by NIDA, followed 65,000 patients for nearly a decade, comparing cancer rates among non-smokers, tobacco smokers, and marijuana smokers. Tobacco smokers had massively higher rates of lung cancer and other cancers. Marijuana smokers who didn’t also use tobacco had no increase in risk of tobacco-related cancers or of cancer risk overall. In fact their rates of lung and most other cancers were slightly lower than non-smokers. Sidney, S. et al. Marijuana Use and Cancer Incidence (California, United States). Cancer Causes and Control. Vol. 8. Sept. 1997, p. 722-728.

    “Components of cannabis smoke minimize some carcinogenic pathways whereas tobacco smoke enhances some. Both types of smoke contain carcinogens and particulate matter that promotes inflammatory immune responses that may enhance the carcinogenic effects of the smoke. However, cannabis typically down-regulates immunologically-generated free radical production by promoting a Th2 immune cytokine profile. Furthermore, THC inhibits the enzyme necessary to activate some of the carcinogens found in smoke. In contrast, tobacco smoke increases the likelihood of carcinogenesis by overcoming normal cellular checkpoint protective mechanisms through the activity of respiratory epithelial cell nicotine receptors. Cannabinoids receptors have not been reported in respiratory epithelial cells (in skin they prevent cancer), and hence the DNA damage checkpoint mechanism should remain intact after prolonged cannabis exposure. Furthermore, nicotine promotes tumor angiogenesis whereas cannabis inhibits it.”


  3. malcolmkyle on

    @ Howard A Katz

    “Researchers from Boston Medical Center (BMC) and Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) studied 589 adults who screened positive for drug use at a primary care visit. Those patients were asked about their drug use, their emergency room use and hospitalizations, and their overall health status. In addition, information about other medical diagnoses was obtained from their medical records. They found the vast majority of the study sample (84 percent) used marijuana, 25 percent used cocaine, 23 percent opioids and eight percent used other drugs; 58 percent reported using marijuana but no other drugs. They also found no differences between daily marijuana users and those using no marijuana in their use of the emergency room, in hospitalizations, medical diagnoses or their health status.”


    A study at the beginning of the last decade and reported in Scientific American magazine seemed to show that “workers testing positive only for marijuana exhibited absenteeism some 30 percent lower than average”.

    According to a report published by NIDA in 2002, Utah Power and Light actually “spent $215 per employee per year less on the drug abusers in health insurance benefits than on the control group. Those who tested positive at Georgia Power had a higher promotion rate than the company average.”

  4. Mark Bartlett on

    You clearly have not done any research into the issue — virtually every point you have made is actually the opposite of what real data is showing. I once believed all the same nonsense as well, but for reasons too lengthy to go into here, I have spent the last 3 years actually looking at real research and cannabis is one of the most benign substances one can consume; it has tremendous health benefits when user responsibly, it is LESS addictive than coffee — it is far less dangerous than booze and tobacco and it does NOT cause the health problems that ill informed people invariably associate with it. And for the record, I am presently (nor never have) used it and I also spent 30+ years in the health field. Get informed and stop believing the government is actually telling you the truth … the are not!

  5. MichaelLust on

    I would agree in principle… if one is absolutely certain to never again have any trouble with the law. Otherwise, there is a risk. Example: the US Sentencing Guidelines calculate a prison sentence that is enhanced for “criminal history”. Prior sentences of jail time add significantly more “criminal history points” than prior sentences, even for the identical offense, for which a defendant was not incarcerated. That means a longer sentence for a subsequent conviction of any federal offense (like getting caught by national park rangers in possession of marijuana) than if a sentence of probation and rehab had been imposed. Some state sentencing schemes work in similar fashion.

  6. MichaelLust on

    Your assumptions are showing, Howie. Others have pointed out that your assumption that traffic accidents should increase is contradicted by actual data. Your companion assumption about medical costs is probably backwards, too. Marijuana successfully treats a number of conditions that otherwise would require expensive professional medical treatment… we don’t know how this pencils out in the long run, but your assumption, again, contradicts what facts we do have, and the reasonable inferences that can be drawn from them.

  7. Plus you don’t have to pay for your jail costs, let the taxpayer foot the bill if they want to have a war against you.

  8. I don’t understand why people take rehab instead of jail. They order you a much longer time in rehab than in jail. I’d rather just do a little bit of time, work out, and do some reading than waste a much longer time in another type of jail. If more weed smokers picked jail instead of rehab the states would be overwhelmed and be forced to change their laws.

  9. your response tells me you dont read The Weed Blog enough to know that traffic fatalities go DOWN when states legalize medical cannibis. so what caught your eye,the headline? did it hurt your ego to see a fellow prohibitionist get his work mocked on a cannibis forum? btw its an ADHD medication too, hence INCREASED work productivity and quality. and taking LESS pharmies= greater medical costs??? you guys really do help us with your ridiculousness sometimes.

  10. I think you missed this line (about Colorado since legalizing weed): “Crashes and fatalities on the roads have declined.”

  11. Mr. Belville,

    Your “Sabet Conjecture” doesn’t take into account the social costs such as lower employment output (lost productivity), increased traffic accidents, greater medical costs, and so forth. The idea that any recreational drug can have its cost covered via taxation is not based on facts.

  12. Roger Turner on

    I must be extremely lucky person I been smoking since about 1973 and searched a lot but not cought with pot although I did have it some of the time now days it is hard to find and new in community makes it harder but still smoke when I can I am hoping for complete legalization sooner than latter amen

  13. I’ve been forced by the courts to go to rehab or intensive outpatient therapy multiple times for simple marijiana possession ( all offenses under an ounce, one was 4 pounds)
    But my point is that each time it was ridiculous!!!!!! Ludicrous . And the amount of money you are forced to pay for your “rehab”
    Is so much that , if you’re like me,
    Will have to go without gas in the car and sometimes even food to pay for this shit! Plus court costs, fees.
    Etc etc etc
    Then if u miss a payment or appointment, right back to jail!! Now how is that rehabilitating at all???!!!!!

  14. That’s an interesting point Mike.I think there’s a good case to be made that the prison industrial rehab complex is an addict, and money is its drug! That would make a great ad for re-legalization.

  15. Dr cris and the rest of the rehab crew only care about their money. With out stating facts here’s a question how any people out there would lie just to keep from losing thousands of dollars a week? A month? There is nothing more addictive than money, well besides maybe power!what would you do to bring home (pay) $1000, $2000, or $3000, or more. Be honest with your self

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