Pubdate: Sun, 11 Sep 2005
Source: Ukiah Daily Journal, The (CA)
Address: P.O. 749, Ukiah, CA 95482
Fax: (707) 468-3544
Copyright: 2005 The Ukiah Daily Journal
Author: Seth Freedland/
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


Countering ominous predictions by anti-drug advocates, the 10 states that 
passed medical marijuana laws over the last decade have seen sharp declines 
in pot use among teenagers, according to a new survey by a marijuana 
advocacy organization.

In California, usage among ninth-graders has plummeted 47 percent since 
1996, the year the state became the first to legalize medical marijuana. 
The study, released by the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C. 
this week, is based on data from national and state studies, which show a 
general drop in marijuana use by teens.

Although debate around medical marijuana is frequently colored by worries 
over increasing drug abuse by youth, the report found the opposite to be true.

Legal approval of medical cannabis has not increased recreational use of 
marijuana among teens, the organization concluded. More notably, especially 
for Ukiah residents, the decline in many of the states with medical 
marijuana laws is "slightly more favorable" than nationwide trends, it 
reported. California, Colorado and Washington have all experienced 
significantly greater drops in marijuana usage than the national rate. Only 
three states with medical marijuana laws have lagged behind the nationwide 
drop in adolescent marijuana use, the report said.

"If medical marijuana laws send the wrong message to children," the study 
said, profound attention to the debate "would be expected to produce a 
nationwide increase in marijuana use, the largest increase in those states 
enacting medical marijuana laws. But just the opposite has occurred."

The most extensive available data came from California, where a survey of 
about 6,000 teens every two years depicted climbing pot use before passage 
of the 1996 medical cannabis law. Across all grades, marijuana use plunged 
between 1996 and 2004, when the number of high school freshmen in 
California who reported using pot in the last 30 days dropped 47 percent. 
During the same period, the number of freshmen who sampled cannabis dropped 
35 percent.

Jane Warner, executive director for California's chapter of Partnership for 
A Drug-Free America, disagreed with the study's findings, saying: "There is 
no basis for tying the two issues together. Pot use is down because of what 
the Partnership has done along with the other anti-drug organizations. It 
has nothing to do with the medical issue or use."

But the Marijuana Police Project study suggests that medical marijuana may 
have recalibrated youth viewpoint on pot.

"Perhaps medical marijuana laws send a very different message," the group 
said. Teens may increasingly consider pot "a treatment for serious illness, 
not a toy, and requires cautious and careful handling."

Bruce Mirken, MPP's director of communications, admitted the fault in 
seeking out strong correlations between teen pot use and medical marijuana 
ordinances like Ukiah's using the available data.

"I just don't think there's a huge effect one way or the other," Mirken 
said. "(The study suggests) it has a counter-effect, but I don't think 
either is huge. As adults, we tend to project our own fears on what young 
people will do, but after all these laws and all this time the sky has not 

Mirken said he hoped anti-medical marijuana zealots who label proponents of 
these measures "potheads" -- as one woman loudly did during a pivotal Ukiah 
City Council meeting -- would be able to use the information to "take a 
deep breath and consider (medical marijuana laws) on their merits." 
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MAP posted-by: Elizabeth Wehrman