NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 8, 2007

The San Francisco metropolitan area has a higher percentage of people who are regular drug users than any other major metropolitan area in the United States, a study from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found.

According to the National Surveys on Drug Use and Health 2002-05:

  • Nearly 13 percent of San Francisco residents reported using some type of illicit drug, such as marijuana, cocaine or heroin, in the previous month; the national average is 8.1 percent.
  • Other areas with drug-abuse rates higher than the national average included Seattle, 9.6 percent; Detroit, 9.5 percent; Philadelphia, 9.1 percent; and Boston, 8.5 percent.
  • Cities with the lowest drug included Houston, 6.2 percent; and Washington, Dallas and Riverside/San Bernardino, Calif., all at 6.5 percent.

California has decriminalized marijuana for people with health problems.  The state's voters passed Proposition 215 in 1996 to allow seriously ill state residents to possess and use marijuana with a doctor's prescription.  In San Francisco, police and prosecutors accept a medical-marijuana identification card as proof that a resident can possess and use marijuana.

The coastal area north of San Francisco, included in the study as part of the metropolitan area, is known as a popular marijuana growing spot.

"Where marijuana is very accessible, you're going to get higher use," says Alice Gleghorn, deputy director of community behavioral health services in San Francisco's Department of Public Health.

San Francisco focuses its prevention and treatment efforts on heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine, she says.

Source: Donna Leinwand, "S.F. area is No. 1 for regular drug use, study says," USA Today, January 7, 2007.

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