Pubdate: Sat, 16 Nov 2013
Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
Copyright: 2013 St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Author: John Payne


While reading Howard Weissman's editorial "Legalizing marijuana means 
children will be targeted" (Nov. 8), I was pleased to see that the 
National Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse now agrees that adult 
cannabis use should not be treated as a criminal matter and that Mr. 
Weissman acknowledges that no one wants to see more kids using 
cannabis. However, I strongly dispute Weissman's claim that cannabis 
prohibition more effectively keeps the substance away from teens than 
would the legal, regulated model we employ for alcohol and tobacco. 
In fact, prohibition fails at preventing teens in particular from 
using marijuana.

According to the 2012 Monitoring the Future study, which the federal 
government uses to track drug use among teenagers, 22.9 percent of 
high school seniors used cannabis in the past month. That is 
substantially greater than the 17.1 percent of seniors who smoked 
cigarettes in the past month, despite the fact that cigarettes are 
legal for many seniors. It's true that more high school seniors drink 
than use cannabis, with 40 percent reporting drinking in the past 
month, but some context is necessary here.

According to Gallup polling, 66 percent of American adults drink, but 
only 7 percent smoke marijuana, meaning drinking is less prevalent 
among teenagers than adults, but teenagers smoke marijuana at more 
than three times the rate of the adult population. Cannabis 
prohibition seems to be discouraging use among responsible adults but 
encouraging it among teenagers --- the precise inverse of what a 
rational policy would achieve.

John Payne

Executive director, Show-Me Cannabis Regulation
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