Is Pot Addictive? Critics, Fans Fight Over Data

By Drew Nelles,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 18, 2009 6:44 PM CDT
Tom Romero packs bags of medical marijuana at a dispensary in San Francisco. Since California became the first state to legalize the drug for medicinal use, weed has become a major economic force.   (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
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(Newser) – Advocates and critics of marijuana are wielding scientific data as the debate over legalization becomes one about addiction, the New York Times reports. "Science really has proven, if anything, that cannabis is likely one of the safest substances we can interact with,” says one marijuana legal reformer. But critics paint a grim picture of lives lost to an addiction much like alcoholism.

Pot's critics warn that modern cannabis is 5 times more addictive than in the 1970s, and more adults are in treatment for marijuana addiction than any other illicit drug. Advocates counter that 57% of weed "addicts" are forced into treatment by police, and quitting is far easier than giving up booze or heroin. “It’s going to take some real fatalities for people to pay attention,” says one doctor. “Unfortunately that’s the way it goes.”