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New PSA – Who Would You Rather Your Kids Talk to About Drugs?
Misinformation about marijuana, from programs such as DARE, distort our children’s understanding of the real world ramifications of marijuana use. It is up to the parents to have a rational conversation with their kids, educate them, and help them to make the right decisions. Legalizing marijuana demystifies the substance, moves it from the street corner to behind the counter, and creates safer communities free of uncontrolled drug violence and circulation. Please watch and share our latest public service announcement.
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Florida’s Drug-Testing of the Poor Proves a Failure, but Some States Still Want to Follow their ExampleFebruary 18, 2012
By Kellen Russoniello, George Washington University Law student and NORML Legal Intern
The recent push for implementing drug testing for potential welfare recipients across several states has revealed at least two things: 1. The policy is not economically sound; and 2. It really brings out the hypocrisy in some elected officials.
Last summer, Florida implemented a law requiring all welfare applicants to submit to a mandatory drug test before receiving any benefits (Applicants had to pay the $30 for the test themselves, only to be reimbursed later if they passed. For more information, see this NORML blog post.). Not surprisingly, the program was brought to a quick halt. Back in October of 2011, a federal judge ruled that the Florida drug testing law was unconstitutional.
Further, in the few months that the program was up and running, it was shown that only 2% of welfare applicants tested positive for drugs. About 9% of the general population reports using drugs in the past month. So much for Governor Rick Scott’s theory that the poor use drugs more often than the rest of the populace.
Even more striking is the amount of money that Florida lost from this poorly designed policy. The Tampa Bay Online estimated that $3,400 to $8,200 in savings would be recognized every month from drug testing welfare applicants. As it turns out, the program is estimated to have cost Florida over $200,000. From any perspective, this policy can be regarded as a failure.
Despite the lessons that can be learned from Florida’s debacle, several states are still considering implementing programs to subject their impoverished population to drug tests. The Huffington Post reported that twelve states attempted passing legislation in 2011 that would require drug tests for welfare applicants. Florida, Missouri, and Arizona were the only three that succeeded. However, Pennsylvania has just begun a pilot program in Schuylkill County that subjects certain applicants to drug tests. By tailoring their laws to apply only to applicants that have aroused reasonable suspicion, these states are hoping to avoid constitutional problems like those that ultimately invalidated the Florida law and a similar Michigan law in 2000 (which was affirmed in 2003). Several states have also tried to drug test those who seek unemployment benefits, state employees, and private sector employees, including the passage of an Indiana law that requires drug testing for those in a state job-training program.
When pressed, legislators that support this policy try to justify their position by claiming that the taxpayers should not subsidize drug addiction. But taxpayers pay for much more than just welfare. Some of their money goes towards paying their legislators’ salaries. Wouldn’t this same rationale justify drug testing legislators? This has been the tactic of many Democratic state legislators to thwart Republican efforts to test welfare applicants. In fact, a Republican State representative in the Indiana General Assembly recently pulled a bill after another representative amended it to include drug testing for legislators. The bill was reintroduced and passed by the Indiana General Assembly the following week, which included a section requiring legislators to submit to random drug tests. Missouri and Tennessee currently have bills that would require legislators to submit to drug tests. These were introduced in reaction to a slew of bills aimed at requiring drug tests on different areas of the population. It seems that the legislators who want to drug test the poor aren’t really convinced of the merits of the program when applied to themselves.
Hopefully, state politicians will come to their senses as knowledge about the failure of Florida’s policy becomes more well-known. But given this country’s track record on drug policy, I wouldn’t recommend holding your breath.
To see a hilarious summary of Florida’s drug-test-the-poor policy, watch this Daily Show clip, which includes Florida State Representative Scott Plakon’s and Governor Rick Scott’s reactions to being asked to take a drug test.
The Fall of 2011 saw a major increase in reach and support from around the country and the world. The Alliance is now active on three continents and in five countries. The Facebook page has more than 20,000 followers and reaches over 65,000 people a week. Over 15,000 supporters have signed up for our email list and almost 1,000 have signed up to volunteer.
The NORML Women’s Alliance/SSDP Sister-to-Sister program has matched almost 500 women. While the NORML Women’s Alliance is still in its infancy (the program is barely 2 years old), it is evolving quickly into an effective platform (and forum) for women to speak out and support marijuana legalization. It’s a very exciting time to be a woman in the marijuana law reform movement.
Join the NORML Women’s Alliance as a community organizer by clicking the link below:
[Fact: Drugs are pervasive in our society and, one way or another, adolescents will be exposed to mind-altering substances.]
It is an unmistakable reality that a significant number of high school students will try marijuana. According to the recent 2011 Monitoring the Future Survey, nearly 40 percent of all high school seniors admit to having smoked marijuana in the past year – a percentage that has held relatively stable since the study’s inception over 35 years ago.
Some want to use this fact as a justification to deny any opportunity to rationally discuss marijuana, its use, and its risks with children in an open and honest manner. They think that saying anything about marijuana other than encouraging its total abstinence is condoning its use. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
When society teaches sex education, are we suggesting that all the teenagers go out and engage in sexual intercourse? No. Rather, it is an acknowledgement that the best way to reduce the negative effects associated with sex (unwanted pregnancy, STD’s, etc) is through honest, objective information that allow people to understand their options and provides them with the tools they need to make informed decisions.
When we talk to teenagers about the dangers of drinking and driving, are we condoning alcohol use among minors? No, of course not. It is, however, a reality that many adolescents will a) likely consume alcohol as seniors in high school and b) have access to a car. Yes, we encourage students not to drink. But, we urge them specifically not to drink and drive.
We can all agree that teens should not smoke pot, or be using any mind-altering substances. Those are important, developmental years. Still, teens should be educated regarding how smoking marijuana can affect their body’s development specifically, how to reduce any harms associated with its use, and to distinguish between use and abuse. There should be honest, truthful drug education.
As Kristen Gwynne states in her AlterNet article, “Give young people accurate information, and they will use it to make better decisions that result in less harm to themselves, because teens, like everybody else, do not actually want to get hurt or become addicts.”
She goes on to say, “Giving students honest information about drugs [will]…increase the odds that they will use drugs safely, and reduce the likelihood of experiencing the [relative] harms associated with [it].”
By contrast, the Drug Czar and federal law advocates for complete prohibition, limited information explaining the real effects of marijuana and condemning any opportunity, as Gwynne states, to provide “education that helps teens understand their health options, and ways of reducing the harm of drugs.” When it comes to our children, like everything else we teach in school for development and behavioral growth, drug education should be based in reality, not a denial of it.
In the words of Thomas Jefferson, “If a state expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”
A new study out today estimates that one-third of US young people will be arrested or taken into custody for illegal or delinquent offenses (excluding arrests for minor traffic violations) by the age of 23.
CBS News/Web MD reports on the findings here:
Parents and non-parents alike might be shocked to learn a new study estimates that roughly 1 in 3 U.S. youths will be arrested for a non-traffic offense by age 23 – a “substantively higher” proportion than predicted in the 1960s.
The study, posted online by the journal Pediatrics, shows that between about 25% to 41% of 23-year-olds have been arrested or taken into police custody at least once for a non-traffic offense. If you factor in missing cases, that percentage could lie between about 30% and 41%.
What was learned was that the risk was greatest during late adolescence or emerging adulthood. The study also shows that by age 18, about 16% to 27% have been arrested.
… The researchers base their conclusion on data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, ages 8 to 23. Data analyzed in the new study came from national surveys of youth conducted annually from 1997 to 2008.
Their finding contrasts with a 1965 study that predicted 22% of U.S. youths would be arrested for an offense other than a minor traffic violation by age 23.
Why the Rise in Arrests?
The researchers cite some “compelling reasons” for the increase.
“The criminal justice system has clearly become more aggressive in dealing with offenders (particularly those who commit drug offenses and violent crimes) since the 1960s,” the authors, all criminologists, write. In addition, “there is some evidence that the transition from adolescence to adulthood has become a longer process.”
From the 1920s through the 1960s, the proportion of the population that was incarcerated remained remarkably stable at about 100 inmates per 100,000 people, researcher Robert Brame, PhD, of the department of criminal justice and criminology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, tells WebMD. Today, Brame says, that figure has soared to 500 inmates per 100,000 people.
While it is commendable that CBS is highlighting the findings of this troubling data, it’s frustrating that the network’s editors appear blissfully unaware
of what is one of the most painfully obvious drivers of this surge in juvenile arrests: the ever-increasing enforcement of marijuana prohibition.
As I stated from the stage at the 2008 NORML national conference, “It’s Not Your Parents’ Prohibition,” the so-called ‘war’ on pot is largely a criminal crackdown on young people.
Young people, in many cases those under 18-years-of-age, disproportionately bear the brunt of marijuana law enforcement.
… According to a 2005 study commissioned by the NORML Foundation, 74 percent of all Americans busted for pot are under age 30, and 1 out of 4 are age 18 or younger. That’s nearly a quarter of a million teenagers arrested for marijuana violations each year.
… [I]f we ever want the marijuana laws to change, that we as a community have to better represent the interests of young people, and we must do a better job speaking on their — and their parent’s — behalf.
(Read my entire remarks here.)
Since 1965, police have made an estimated 21.5 million arrests for marijuana-related offense, according to cumulative data published by the FBI. Some 8 million of these arrests have occurred since 2000.
Assuming that nearly three out of four of those arrested in the past decade were under age 30, that equates to the arrest of some 6 million young people — including 2 million teenagers — for marijuana-related offenses since the year 2000.
In short, marijuana prohibition isn’t protecting kids; its endangering them. We now have an entire generation that has been alienated to believe that the police and their civic leaders are instruments of their oppression rather than their protection.
And the sad fact is: they’re right.