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).