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Trends in Drug Use
Part III: Marijuana

Ethnographers

All but five ethnographic sources report that marijuana use is up in their area. As one Texas ethnographer described the market, "it is plentiful and potent." In other places (Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., New York, and Colorado) marijuana use is described as stable, and in San Francisco, use is characterized as low due to recent scarcity.

While a wide variety of people are using marijuana, the majority of users are teens and young adults. One exception is Texas where there is a substantial population of adult users. In general, the user population has stayed the same since the last Pulse Check report, though New York and Delaware report an increase in fIale users.

Marijuana is smoked in cigarette papers, rolled in cigar paper as "blunts," and in pipes or "bongs." The reappearance of bongs and water pipe paraphernalia, which were popular in the 1960s and 70s, was mentioned in San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Several sources also mentioned the appearance of a wide variety of cigarette rolling papers marketed in convenience and video stores. These papers are typically used by cigarette smokers who roll their own cigarettes from loose tobacco, but their increased availability may be an indicator of a growing marijuana market. In Atlanta, the majority of marijuana is home grown, and the ethnographer reports that marijuana sellers are preparing for the Olympics, anticipating that visitors will provide an additional market.

Marijuana is used both alone and in combination with a number of other drugs—most commonly alcohol, and in some areas, crack or PCP. In New York, a variety of Indian marijuana laced with PCP ("beadies") has gained popularity. Both crack and PCP may be sprinkled on marijuana; a marijuana cigarette or cigar may also be dipped in a liquid solution of PCP, dried and then smoked. The ethnographer at the Texas border reports that the teens who are smoking crack mixed with marijuana often disparage those who smoke crack alone (in a pipe) as "dopers," defining their own crack use as benign. Two areas (Texas and Delaware) report the practice of dipping blunts in Ibalming fluid, producing what in Texas is called a "swisher." Three sources (Georgia, Florida, New Jersey) report that the use of MDMA is appearing in their areas.

In general, sales of marijuana are separate from the sales of other drugs, and they are conducted through networks of users. Since a large portion of the supply is grown domestically or even locally, there are diverse supply sources. For example, many small local growers can supply an area through an informal system of acquaintance distribution. In Florida, there were recently 23 arrests in a local high school for sales among a network of friends and acquaintances in a class of 200 teenagers; teens who were interviewed reported that twice as many students were actually selling. In general, there is a wide variety of sellers, which reflects the diversity of the user population.

Marijuana prices vary somewhat by region, though small units (bags) costing $5–$15 are common everywhere. Each small bag of marijuana can be made into approximately 2-4 cigarettes or fewer blunts. In New York, marijuana may also be sold in glass vials. Prices range from $30 per ounce for poor grade marijuana (Florida) to $100-$300 per ounce for a higher quality grade in other areas (Georgia, California). Individual cigarettes sell for $1-$3, though ones in which marijuana is mixed with crack are more expensive ($10-$15 each). One Florida ethnographer reports that poor quality marijuana does not sell well, even though it is widely available, because users value the appearance and smell of the product.

Police

Seven of the ten police sources report that marijuana use and availability is up in their area. In Colorado, seizures of marijuana are up almost 300 percent over last year. Only the Massachusetts area reports stable use. Police say that marijuana attracts a wide range of users, but most are teens or young adults. Changes include more young users in Florida and in Washington, D.C., where users are as young as middle school children. In Washington, D.C., young marijuana users may also be experimenting with snorting household products to get high. Sources in three areas (Alabama, Washington, D.C., Ohio) report that smoking marijuana in ■blunts■ is a popular method of ingestion, and two sources (Alabama, Maryland) report the Iergence of MDMA.

Police sources concur with ethnographers in reporting that the most common method of distribution is through established networks of users who know each other and handle fairly small transactions. In Cleveland, sources report an increase in older users as well as more suburban users/distributors. This is echoed by the Birmingham law enforcement source who describes marijuana as a white, rural/suburban problem; it is sold primarily through networks in "yuppie" neighborhoods. Marijuana may be purchased by the gram ($10-$15), by the ounce ( $90- $250), or by the pound ($2000- $5000). Prices depend on quality, with hydroponically grown products commanding top dollar due to their high THC content. In Boston, the appearance of small packaging units that cost between ten and forty dollars has made marijuana more accessible to younger users with limited funds.

In areas like Washington state, where there is a considerable amount of local marijuana growing, larger organized groups export to other areas. In Florida, for example, a recent raid of a large estate uncovered $35 million of high quality, hydroponically grown marijuana that was undoubtedly intended for export. In addition to local supplies, most areas report that Mexican marijuana is available, though it is generally of poor quality.

Treatment Providers

Less than a quarter of persons entering treatment in all regions have marijuana as their primary drug of abuse. This proportion is about the same as reported in Pulse Check last winter. Alcohol is the drug most commonly combined with marijuana, though tranquilizers and amphetamines are reported in the Mid-Atlantic and Southern states, and in the Mid-West (Regions II and IV).

In general, marijuana treatment clients are younger than those in treatment for heroin or cocaine abuse; sources report that approximately a quarter of their clients are under 20 years old, though a third to a half of them are over 30 years old. Most marijuana treatment clients in all areas are white, and there is a greater proportion of males. Many treatment providers comment that persons in treatment for marijuana abuse are novice users of illegal substances, and even though they may have serious problems with alcohol, most do not have prior treatment experience.

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