BOISE, Idaho -- The debate over marijuana and whether it should be legalized and controlled is heating up again. A number of organizations are calling on the Department of Justice to reconsider its new stance to keep away from states with legalized marijuana, despite the drug being illegal federally.
This week the yearly U.S. Department of Health and Human Services survey came out, showing marijuana use is up 25 percent from six years ago. Some drug educators believe a big factor in increasing marijuana use is legalization in some states, such as Washington, creating a culture of acceptance in all states.
"Ten years ago, 15 years ago our society had a backlash to what had happened in the '60s, '70s and early '80s and we got smart. We decided this was not a good way for our country to be going," said Monte Stiles, who is a former federal and state drug prosecutor and current drug educator. "We started doing massive amounts of drug education, so drug use across America was going down for more than a decade, but when this drug legalization started again, you saw drug use start to go up, and now based on the new study, it's going up dramatically because there's a reduced perception of harm and that means increased use for kids and adults."
KTVB spoke with Project SAM, which stands for Smart Approaches to Marijuana and is the organization that spearheaded the letter to the feds questioning its recent decision to defer enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act.
"We don't want to throw people who smoke small amounts of pot in jail or prison, but at the same time, we want to keep it illegal, we want to keep it not normalized because we worry about what a big tobacco type industry would do if marijuana were legal," said Project SAM Director Kevin Sabet.
Stiles also uses the "big tobacco" analogy, giving the example that in Washington State, where marijuana is legalized, those against marijuana legalization spent around $16,000 campaigning, while marijuana advocates spent $6 million.
"That amount of money isn't coming from people protesting down on the street corner. It's coming from big organizations, national lobbying organizations, people that have a huge financial stake in what's going on. It's 'big tobacco' all over again," Stiles said.