There were some disturbing statistics released this month concerning teenage marijuana use — it’s up. A decade-long decline in teens’ use of pot has stalled and some teen attitudes on how harmful marijuana can be may be softening, according to a federal survey on teen drug.
The findings were based on a survey of roughly 47,000 eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders conducted by the University of Michigan for the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The national debate over medical use of marijuana could be making the drugs seem safer to teenagers, researchers say.
Marijuana use across the three grades showed a consistent downward trend starting in the late 1990s. But the decline has since stopped, and use rates for the three grades showed a slight uptick between 2007 and 2009, from about 12.9 percent to about 14.3 percent.
Marijuana was at its recent peak in 1997, when 17.7 percent of eighth-grade students, 34.8 percent of 10th-grade students and 38.5 percent of 12th-grade reported using the drug at least once within a year of being interviewed.
Of particular concern in examining the survey results is how teens perceive the drug.
Students were asked how much people risk harming themselves if they smoke marijuana occasionally or smoke marijuana regularly. Fewer eighth-grade students said that people who smoked pot put themselves at great risk than a year ago.
Consequently, the young people perceive the danger from marijuana use as less risky.
That’s youthful and wrong thinking. The dangers of marijuana use are just not fully known. However, some studies are indicating that long-term marijuana use decreases fertility and increases the risk of certain cancers, such as prostate in men.
In the 1960s the drug became well known and many thought legalizing it was only the right thing to do. Today, a group backing legalization of marijuana said the figures show the futility of trying to ban pot, rather than regulate its use.
We disagree with this group’s conclusions. The fact is those backing legalization have been louder and more constant proponents.
In other words, they’ve done a better job of marketing.
Just look at what they did with the legalization of medical marijuana in Michigan. A statewide ballot issue passed — not so much because marijuana is proven to relieve pain in cancer sufferers — the jury is still out on that.
Rather, the issue passed because of emotions. Proponents played on the sympathies of the general public for cancer victims. In reality, other drugs do as good or a better job of relieving pain.
Unfortunately, with medical marijuana now legal, it undoubtedly will make it easier for teens to use it, even if it remains illegal for non-medical purposes.
We’re still not happy about the medical marijuana proposal passing, but if we have to live with it, maybe taxing it and putting the revenue toward Medicaid, Medicare or schools would be in order.
As the old saying goes, when you get lemons, the best thing to do is make lemonade. This is one tax that we don’t mind supporting. Let’s not let this opportunity for some badly needed revenue go up in smoke.
December 23, 2009
The Oakland Press