Pubdate: Fri, 29 Jun 2001
Source: Omaha World-Herald (NE)
Copyright: 2001 Omaha World-Herald Company
Author: Joseph Morton


Troubled young adults in America are using marijuana much more than they 
did 10 years ago and are staying away from harder drugs such as crack 
cocaine and heroin, according to a national study released Friday.

Marijuana use among those in trouble with the law, ages 18 to 20, in Omaha 
nearly tripled from 1990 to 1996, according to the study. Marijuana use 
among that population has held steady around 70 percent since 1996. 
Researchers are calling the results evidence of an ongoing marijuana 
epidemic among young adults.

"Marijuana is now the thing, the drug of choice, in Omaha," said Andrew 
Golub, senior researcher at the New York-based National Development and 
Research Institute.

Golub conducted the study, published by the National Institute of Justice, 
using data collected through the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring program.

In the ADAM program, arrestees volunteer for confidential urine-analysis 
drug testing at dozens of locations across the country, including Omaha.

This most recent study is consistent with other reports showing increasing 
marijuana use among young adults in the general population. Those increases 
have not been as dramatic as the ones among arrestees.

Part of the drift of young people toward marijuana and away from harder 
drugs has been attributed to the devastating effects that crack cocaine and 
heroin have had on the communities where these adolescents live.

Many young adults believe marijuana to not have the same harmful effects as 
those drugs, Golub said. Many do not even view marijuana as a drug.

Omaha's rate of marijuana use among young adult arrestees is well above the 
national average of 60 percent and is one of the highest rates of the 
cities used in the study.

Golub cautioned, however, that significant comparisons between cities or 
with national numbers are difficult. The numbers are somewhat dependent on 
local police priorities and other factors, he said.

Susie Dugan, executive director of PRIDE Omaha Inc., said this most recent 
study shows how proponents of legalizing marijuana have affected the 
perspective of young adults.

"The marijuana lobby has done a very good job of convincing our young 
people that marijuana is harmless," Dugan said. "They are being bombarded 
with pro-marijuana messages."
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