Most in Treatment for Marijuana Were Referred By Criminal Justice System

A familiar talking point deployed by supporters of marijuana prohibition focuses on the seemingly large share of people in drug treatment who are seeking help for a cannabis use disorder.

A new federal study sheds some light on how meaningful — or not meaningful — that claim really is.

Nearly 52 percent of people in drug treatment primarily for marijuana were referred by the criminal justice system, according to the latest Treatment Episode Data Set, which was released last Thursday. Fewer than one out of five people in treatment for marijuana checked themselves in voluntarily or were referred by another individual.

Among the criminal justice referrals, 44.1 percent were from probation or parole officers, 16.2 percent were from courts and 2.2 percent were from prisons, according to the new study published by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (Full data available in Table 2.6here.)

“Primary marijuana admissions were less likely than all admissions [for other drugs]combined to be self- or individually referred to treatment (18 vs. 37 percent),” the study found. “Primary marijuana admissions were most likely to be referred by a criminal justice source.”

In other words, many cannabis consumers are being forced by cops, courts and corrections officers to undergo drug treatment that they themselves don’t feel they actually need.

At a time when America is experiencing an epidemic of opioid overdoses, drug policy reform advocates have questioned whether it makes sense for the criminal justice system to mandate that cannabis users take up so much space in drug treatment programs.

Read more here: