What is a marijuana user? When the government announces
that there are 18.5 million regular marijuana users, what
do they mean? It means that the NHS estimates from its sample
that 9.5 million admitted to using marijuana sometime during
the last year, and 9 million others admitted to using marijuana
during the last month. (23)
Marijuana users are generally thought to be poly-drug
users; certainly this is the implication of policy. Reduce
marijuana and other illegal drug use will decline, because
illegal drug users all use marijuana.
Policy presents scientific data to support its assumptions,
but the indicators they discuss don't always measure up to
the populations they actually represent.
According to the NHS, over 2/3rds of regular marijuana
users do not use other illegal drugs. (24) This percentage
has been increasing recently, suggesting that this is becoming
a group ethic among marijuana users. When advocates of marijuana
law reform refer to marijuana users, they refer to people
who only use marijuana. When policy makers refer to marijuana
users, they refer to people who use marijuana and other drugs.
These are vastly disproportionate segments of the population
of marijuana users.
The generalization, though, is very misleading. Illegal
drugs are said to contribute to crime, and the Justice Department
has published elaborate explanations of the connections.(25)
The explanations are largely based on the research of Paul
Goldstein (26), who finds that alcohol and cocaine contribute
to a great deal of violent crime and that marijuana does not.
However because marijuana is an illegal drug, and illegal
drugs do contribute to crime, marijuana is also presumed to
contribute to violent crime (other than the illegality of
the drug use and sale itself).