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  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director August 30, 2012

    The mainstream press has been abuzz in recent days regarding the findings of a recent study suggesting that early-onset, persistent cannabis exposure by those under age 18 could potentially pose adverse effects on intelligence quotient.

    Yet, absent from the media’s discussion of the study — a discussion that has even included some fairly critical reviews of the study’s methodology (See here and here for just two examples.) — is any talk of the role that marijuana prohibition plays in inadvertently steering young people toward cannabis, an issue I address in depth in a column published today and excerpted below:

    Pot & IQ: A Flawed Debate
    via hightimes.com

    [excerpt] Even if one is to accept the study’s findings at face value, it’s hard to see how concerns regarding the potential impact of cannabis on the developing adolescent brain are any way a persuasive argument in support of present day marijuana prohibition. After all, virtually no one wants kids as young as 12 or 13 years of age consuming a mood-altering substance like cannabis. Yet, under cannabis criminalization – a policy that prohibits its use for people of all ages and compels all consumers to acquire the product on the black market instead of from licensed businesses – teens are more likely to have easy access to pot, not less.

    … Specifically, a June 2012 study by the Centers for Disease Control reported that more teens are smoking pot than cigarettes.

    Not so coincidentally, teens’ declining use of cigarettes has run parallel to increased state and federal efforts to penalize those licensed businesses that improperly sell to minors and to educate the public about the health risks associated with tobacco. Ditto for booze.

    In short, it’s legalization, regulation, and public education – coupled with the imposition and enforcement of appropriate age restrictions – that most effectively keeps mind-altering substances out of the hands of children and reduces the likelihood of their abuse.

    Isn’t it about time we took this same approach for pot?

    You can read the full essay and comment on it here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director June 19, 2012

    [Editor’s note: This post is excerpted from this week’s forthcoming NORML weekly media advisory. To have NORML’s news alerts and legislative advisories delivered straight to your in-box, sign up here.]

    The legalization of cannabis for therapeutic purposes is not associated with increases in the use of marijuana or other illicit substances among adolescents, according to discussion paper commissioned by the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in Germany.

    Economists from Montana State University, the University of Oregon, and the University of Colorado, Denver examined the relationship between state medical cannabis laws and marijuana consumption among high school students. Authors analyzed data from the national and state Youth Risky Behavior Surveys (YRBS) for the years 1993 through 2009 – during which time 13 states enacted law allowing for the production and use of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

    The national YRBS is conducted biennially by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and is a nationally representative sample of U.S. high school students.

    Authors reported that the survey data provides no evidence that the enactment of medical cannabis legalization adversely impacted adolescents’ drug consumption. They concluded: “Our results are not consistent with the hypothesis that the legalization of medical marijuana caused an increase in the use of marijuana and other substances among high school students. … Our results suggest that the legalization of medical marijuana was not accompanied by increases in the use of marijuana or other substances such as alcohol and cocaine among high school students. Interestingly, several of our estimates suggest that marijuana use actually declined with the passage of medical marijuana laws.”

    A 2012 study by researchers at McGill University in Montreal and published in the journal Annals of Epidemiology previously reported similar findings, concluding: “[P]assing MMLs (medical marijuana laws) decreased past-month use among adolescents … and had no discernible effect on the perceived riskiness of monthly use. … [These] estimates suggest that reported adolescent marijuana use may actually decrease following the passing of medical marijuana laws.”

    Previous investigations by research teams at Brown University in 2011 and Texas A&M in 2007 made similar determinations, concluding, “[C]onsistent with other studies of the liberalization of cannabis laws, medical cannabis laws do not appear to increase use of the drug.”

    The findings of these studies contradict public statements made by Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske and other medical cannabis opponents, who in recent years have repeatedly alleged that the passage of medical cannabis laws is directly responsible for higher levels of self-reported marijuana consumption among US teenagers.

    Full text of the study, “Medical Marijuana Laws and Teen Marijuana Use,” is available online at: http://ftp.iza.org/dp6592.pdf.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 8, 2012

    [Editor’s note: This post is excerpted from this week’s forthcoming NORML weekly media advisory. To have NORML’s news alerts and legislative advisories delivered straight to your in-box, sign up here.]

    The enactment of state laws allowing for the limited legal use of cannabis by qualified patients has little to no causal effect on broader marijuana use, according to data published online in the journal Annals of Epidemiology.

    Investigators at McGill University in Montreal obtained state-level estimates of marijuana use from the 2002 through 2009 US National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Researchers used difference-in-differences regression models to estimate the causal effect of medical cannabis laws on marijuana use, and simulations to account for measurement error.

    Authors reported: “Difference-in-differences estimates suggested that passing MMLs (medical marijuana laws) decreased past-month use among adolescents … and had no discernible effect on the perceived riskiness of monthly use. … [These] estimates suggest that reported adolescent marijuana use may actually decrease following the passing of medical marijuana laws.”

    They concluded, “We find limited evidence of causal effects of medical marijuana laws on measures of reported marijuana use.”

    Previous investigations by researcher teams at Brown University in 2011 and Texas A&M in 2007 made similar determinations, concluding, “[C]onsistent with other studies of the liberalization of cannabis laws, medical cannabis laws do not appear to increase use of the drug.”

    The findings are in direct conflict with public statements made by Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske, who in recent years has frequently alleged that the passage of medical cannabis laws is directly responsible for higher levels of self-reported marijuana consumption among US teenagers.

    Full text of the study, “Do Medical Marijuana Laws Increase Marijuana Use? Replication Study and Extension,” can be read online here.

  • by Sabrina Fendrick December 23, 2011

     

    [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.”

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  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director December 15, 2009

    Dear Wall Street Journal Editors,norml_remember_prohibition_

    The headline alone provides sufficient irony “Marijuana Use Rises Among Teens; Cigarettes Smoking Lowest Since ’75,” in that the long-stated goal of the federal government’s so-called anti-drug bureaucrats has been to reduce the use of cannabis consumption in America. Billions of taxpayer dollars and 20 million cannabis-related arrests later, the social data continues to consistently demonstrate the government achieving one stated goal–the reduction of tobacco use–but not significant reductions in cannabis use among teens?

    What is the lesson here?

    That with tobacco, the world’s most death-inducing and addictive drug, verifiable and credible health information (along with progressive, teen-deterring, but not black market-inviting taxes imposed by local and federal governments) have a better chance of achieving the federal government’s stated and laudable goal of reduced teen use–not criminal sanctions and prohibition laws.

    Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director NORML/NORML Foundation

    WSJ: Marijuana Use Rises Among Teens; Cigarette Smoking Lowest Since ’75

    By JENNIFER CORBETT DOOREN

    Marijuana use among teenagers increased this year after previous declines, while the use of other illicit drugs like cocaine mostly declined.

    According to an annual National Institute on Drug Abuse-funded survey of nearly 47,000 students, almost one-third of 12th-graders and more than one-quarter of 10th-graders reported using marijuana in 2009. Almost 12% of eighth-graders reported marijuana use, an increase from about 11% in 2008.

    The survey, conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, asked teenagers to report on the use of smoking, alcohol use and drug use, including non-medical uses of prescription painkillers and over-the-counter cold and cough products.

    The report showed cigarette smoking was at the lowest point since the survey started in 1975, although the use of smokeless-tobacco products increased on some measures this year.

    Researchers say the percentage of students who reported ever trying cigarettes has fallen dramatically.

    Daily cigarette use by 12th-graders was 11.2%, a slight drop from 11.4% in 2008, while any use during the past 30 days was 20.1%, also a slight decline from 2008. Smokeless-tobacco use during the past 30 days in 2009 was reported by 8.4% of students in 12th grade, up from 6.5% in 2008.

    Researchers said one of the reasons smoking rates have declined is that the percentage of students who reported ever trying smoking has “fallen dramatically.” For example in 1996, 49% of eighth-graders reported trying cigarettes, compared with 20% this year.

    Alcohol use stayed about the same last year, with more than half of 10th-graders and about two-thirds of seniors reporting alcohol use in the past year.

    The survey showed past-year use of cocaine decreased to 3.4% from 4.4% in 2008 among 12th-graders, along with declines in the use of hallucinogens and methamphetamine.

    The use of over-the-counter cold and cough medicines to get high, however, edged up among all age groups, with 6% of 10th-graders reporting non-medical use of the products last year.

    The annual survey also found continuing high rates of prescription-drug abuse, with almost 10% of 12th-graders reporting non-medical use of the painkiller Vicodin last year, the same rate as 2008. Almost 5% of high-school seniors reported using OxyContin for a non-medical use in 2009, a slight uptick from 2008.

    Researchers said 66% of teens reported obtaining the prescription drugs from a friend or relative, while 19% said they received the drugs with a doctor’s prescription, and 8% said they bought the drugs from a dealer.

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