Experts: More Pot Gardens Feed Greater Demand

Medical Marijuana at the U.S. Federal level.

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Experts: More Pot Gardens Feed Greater Demand

Postby budman » Tue Sep 19, 2006 12:14 pm

KXTV ABC Channel 10 wrote:Experts: More Pot Gardens Feed Greater Demand
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Written for the web by Mark Hedlund, Reporter
KXTV ABC Channel 10
September 18, 2006

<img src=/bin/icon_video.gif> View Mark's Report

The record number of marijuana busts may be surprising to some, but for drug counselors, it's no secret. And the demand seems to be highest among the youngest teenagers as well as the baby boomers.

"Most of the youth, I'd say 82 percent of the youth I work with today, are using marijuana. It's definitely the drug of choice," said drug counselor Trino Savala. "As long as there's a demand for marijuana, there's always going to be somebody trying to supply it."

On the other end of the spectrum, demand seems to be soaring among the baby boomers, aged 50 to 59. A recent national survey on drug use shows the boomers admitting more drug use, mostly marijuana. According to that survey, from 2002 to 2005, baby boomers' drug use has gone up 63 percent.

"They seem to have taken their drug use (from the 1960s and '70s) and have moved it along with them as they progressed in life," said Gordon Taylor, Drug Enforcement Administration Agent in Charge in Sacramento. Taylor believes that's especially true in California where medical marijuana laws have "more or less normalized the use of marijuana in the eyes of many people. I think that's unfortunate," said Taylor.

One reason marijuana is popular among the young is the belief it's harmless, said Savala. "Their common excuse or reply is it's not a drug, it's a plant." Savala, who works with Sacramento's "The Effort" says kids come in with dependency to pot as young as 12.

"We try to educate these kids that it's a gateway drug to bigger and stronger things that lie ahead. And these kids say, 'Oh no, not me. I'll never use crank, never use cocaine.' You burn brain cells, you get sterile, long-term illnesses these kids don't understand," Savala said.

While that same national survey, sponsored by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, showed a slight drop in illegal drug use among the 12-17 age group, Savala doesn't buy it.

"It's absolutely the drug of choice among younger teens," he said. The national study questioned 63,308 people age 12 and older about their substance abuse.

Adding to the problem are mixed messages about marijuana from California and the U.S. government, according to one former drug prosecutor.

In California, possession of less than one ounce of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by a small fine. Possession of a small number of plants is also allowed under state law if you have a doctor's prescription to use marijuana as medicine for illnesses such as cancer and glaucoma.

"So you see very little or no enforcement on the user. If you're not enforcing on the user, there's your demand," said Bill Portanova. Now a private attorney, Portanova used to be the lead drug prosecutor for both the Sacramento District Attorney's office and the U.S. Attorney in Sacramento.

"The government is announcing 'We don't care if you use it, we just want to get you if you're distributing it,'" said Portanova. "That's a formula for failure. And that's what we have, complete failure."

"If you talk to the old-time narcotics officers, they'll tell you they'd like to be free of this marijuana nonsense and focus on the truly devastating narcotics," said Portanova. "You won't find the detectives telling you the marijuana user is a danger."

He also said it's simply the luck of the draw that someone may be prosecuted federally, facing much stiffer penalties, instead of in state court.

"The federal law is you don't get to tell the (federal) jury that you had your little prescription where you said you thought it was legal (for medicinal purposes)," said Portanova. "The feds say it's not legal and they don't care what the state says. That's a silly, stupid situation for the law to be in."

California is among 11 states that allows marijuana use for medical purposes. Portanova says the numbers may grow in the future.

"The perception is this is an unnecessarily criminalized drug," said Portanova, "And the criminals are making a fortune in untaxed dollars feeding a demand where 72 percent of the population says it should be legal. As the baby boomer generation hits their 50s and 60s and the AARP lobbying group, they're gonna take over."

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