News Release
1001 Connecticut Ave, NW - Ste 710 - Washington, DC 20036
Tel. 202.483.8751 - Fax 202.483.0057 - E-mail - Internet

September 27, 2001

Pot Prohibition Not Strong Deterrent, Study Says

Personal Preference and Health Concerns - Not the Law, Primary Reasons for Abstention

Sydney, Australia: Criminal laws prohibiting the possession and consumption of marijuana do little to deter its use and may be cost prohibitive, according to the results of a study published by the New South Wales (NSW) Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research.

The study found that nearly half of all males and 35 percent of females in New South Wales have used marijuana at some point in their lives, despite the fact that any use of marijuana is punishable by up to two years in jail. More than one in five males had used marijuana in the past year, researchers said.

Among former cannabis users, investigators found that the majority stopped using the drug because they no longer "like it." Twenty-five percent said they did so because of health concerns. Less than one in five said they gave up the drug because it's illegal, and only one percent said that prohibition made cannabis "difficult to get a hold of."

Among those who had never used marijuana, 47 percent said they abstained because they "didn't think [they] would like it." Health concerns were the second most common reason given; the fact that marijuana is illegal was cited third. Only ten percent of respondents cited "getting caught by the police" as a reason for avoiding the drug.

"Prohibition is not the dominant consideration in individual decisions to use or desist from using the drug," investigators concluded. "Health considerations and anticipated and actual dislike of the drug are more important factors in preventing or stopping use."

They added: "Fear of being imprisoned, the cost of cannabis or the difficulty in obtaining cannabis [also] do not appear to exert a strong influence on decisions about cannabis consumption. ... Those factors may limit cannabis use among frequent cannabis users but there is no evidence, as yet, to support this conjecture. [However,] prohibition [does] impose indirect costs upon the State and affected individuals when, as a result of their conviction, cannabis users suffer unemployment or reduced earning prospects. [Those] who are imprisoned solely for cannabis use or possession may feel a legitimate sense of grievance at the misfortune that has befallen them in comparison with other cannabis users, the vast majority of whom will never be reported to police ... or imprisoned."

The researchers' findings are consistent with those of other studies concluding that marijuana decriminalization has no significant impact on marijuana use. In a US government comparative study, researchers found that marijuana use was no more prevalent in states that had eliminated criminal penalties for marijuana possession than in those neighboring jurisdictions that maintained them. Recently, a study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry concluded, "The available evidence suggests that ... removal of prohibitions on cannabis possession (decriminalization) will not increase the prevalence of marijuana or any other illicit substance."

The NSW study is available online at:

For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup or Paul Armentano of NORML at (202) 483-5500. NORML's white paper "Marijuana Decriminalization and Its Impact on Use: A Review of the Evidence" is available online at:

Nevada Medi-Pot Program Begins Monday

Carson City, NV: Patients who have their doctor's permission to use medicinal marijuana may do so legally starting Monday. The new law, approved by the legislature this past summer, allows qualified patients to grow up to seven marijuana plants for medical purposes and establishes a confidential patient registry. Non-registered patients or those who possess greater amounts of marijuana than those specified by law may raise an affirmative defense of medical necessity before a jury.

Cecile Crowfoot, manager of Nevada's medical marijuana program, says that as many as 200 patients are expected to register with the state before the end of the year.

Nevada is the ninth state to enact medical marijuana legislation since 1996.

For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of the NORML Foundation at (202) 483-8751.

NYU Touted as America's Top School for Pot

Washington, DC: New York University is the nation's most marijuana-friendly school, according to The Princeton Review's annual sourcebook, "The Best 331 Colleges." The 2001 report, which profiles and ranks hundreds of the nation's colleges in categories such as academic achievement and students' quality of life, was released in August.

New York University edged University of Colorado at Boulder, University of New Hampshire, University of Oregon and Colorado University to emerge as this year's top school for "higher" learning. On the flipside, Brigham Young University was ranked #1 on Princeton's top twenty list of least pot-friendly campuses. Furman University, Wheaton College of Illinois, the California Institute of Technology and Samford University rounded out the top five.

The rankings were derived from the responses of 65,000 college students nationwide, according to The Princeton Review.

For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director, at (202) 483-8751.

- End -