Regular Teen Marijuana Use Remains Steady Despite Warnings of Legalization's Peril
Forget cigarettes, pills and heavy drinking -- the kids want to smoke weed. And real weed at that.
Fewer and fewer American teenagers are smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse's annual examination of high school weekend habits, released Wednesday.
Continuing a multi-year trend that began when Barack Obama became president -- more teens are smoking marijuana than are smoking cigarettes, which is a complete reversal from the "Just Say No" days.
That said, the percentage of daily users (7 percent of high school seniors smoke weed every day, according to the survey) has stayed steady for the past two years. Who's to blame for this steady trend?
It's Congress, according to U.S. Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske, for not funding Reaganesque "anti-marijuana" ad campaigns.
Things aren't quite as they were 25 years ago, when seemingly everybody was smoking tobacco. Thanks to the "Just Say No" campaign in the '80s, perceived risk of smoking pot skyrocketed and daily use plummeted. It seems some of the histrionic damage has been undone: the perceived risk of using cannabis is almost back to where it was in the 1970s, according to NIDA.
There has been an increase in marijuana use overall since Obama took office in 2009 -- from 0.9 percent to 1.1 percent of eighth graders as daily tokers, and from 5.4 percent to 6.5 percent of high school seniors inhaling daily.
That's in stark contrast to the sauce. Everyone is binge drinking less, and every grade level reported at least slight drops in regular alcohol use. Either dad is locking up the liquor cabinet more effectively, or our nation's youth are sick and tired (literally) of being hungover (which is a lost opportunity for some; bouncing back after a long night doesn't get any easier as you age).
And perhaps the best news of all from a drug reformer's standpoint: Kids are also turning away from fake marijuana. Teens say they're using less "K2" and "Spice," and awareness of the dangers of bath salts also increased. Amazing what a few media reports of people losing their goddamn minds will do.
This seems like solid news: less booze, more relatively benign bud in people's systems. But leave it to the drug czar to poop on the parade.
The warnings that legalization in Colorado and Washington would lead to an explosion in teen use are clearly unfounded -- but teens are also unconvinced that pot use is risky. That's a problem, according to outgoing drug czar Kerlikowske, who on his visit to San Francisco in January of this year called medical marijuana a fraud.
Those states will have a "very difficult time," Kerlikowske warned, adding that the fed drug cops will watch stats like hospital visits and any other possible harbinger of evil accompanying drug reform closely.
What stuff, said Colorado's legalization maven Mason Tvert, who oversaw last year's successful campaign to legalize the drug in that state. Regulating weed and allowing adults to buy it legally rather than putting it in the hands of street dealers who don't card -- his mission and the mission of many others all along -- is just the way to keep pot away from kids.
"It's time for prohibition supporters to stop hiding behind teens when debating marijuana policy," he said in a statement.