Pubdate: Fri, 5 Jun 2009
Source: Rutland Herald (VT)
Copyright: 2009 Rutland Herald
Author: Brent Curtis, Staff Writer
Referenced: The SAMHSA survey
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Popular)


Vermont ranked highest nationwide for marijuana use in a new survey
released Thursday by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health
Services Administration.

The survey, conducted in 2006 and 2007, compares drug use by age and
by type across all 50 states.

While Vermont doesn't have the highest level of drug use -- that
distinction goes to Rhode Island where 12.5 percent of the populace
reported illicit drug use in the past month -- the Green Mountain
State was cited in the report for having the highest incidence rate of
marijuana use among people aged 12 and older.

While the national average for marijuana use was 1.6 percent in 2006
and 2007, use of the drug in Vermont was 2.5 percent during the same
time frame.

That's nothing new, according to researchers at the SAMHSA, who said
Thursday that Vermont has consistently ranked high for marijuana use.

Marijuana's popularity in Vermont is also reflected in the number of
criminal cases connected with its use.

Between 2005 and 2007, the number of marijuana-related criminal cases
in the state increased from 1,535 to 1,820, according to Max
Schlueter, director of the Vermont Criminal Information Center. That
trend took a downward turn in 2008, Schlueter said, when only 1,805
marijuana cases were investigated in the state.

Other illegal drugs, including cocaine and painkillers, also saw more
use in Vermont than the nationwide average -- a characteristic common
to every Northeastern state, SAMHSA researchers found.

But marijuana has remained the state's drug of choice, according to
Dr. Peter Delany, director of the Office of Applied Studies at SAMHSA.

The reason, Delany said, may relate to the perception that there is
little risk to using the drug as evidenced by survey results that
found as many as three-quarters of Vermonters have few concerns about
the drug's health risks.

"I think there's a need there for a true public health approach," he
said. "Are they reaching the right groups with the right message? You
need a consistent message ... so people know it's not good to use
drugs and abuse alcohol."

The SAMHSA study, released annually, tries to give states, law
enforcement, health care providers, educators and others the tools
they need to refine their messages about illicit drug use and its
effects, Delany said.

"We try to provide a snapshot of what's going on," he said.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake