Fiction:  “Medical” marijuana does not send the wrong message to kids

There are many addictive and dangerous medicines and use of them does not send a bad message to kids.

Fact:  “Medical” marijuana sends the wrong message to kids.

Two benchmark surveys of drug use show that when young people believe a drug is harmful, fewer young people use that drug. These surveys prove that perception of harm with respect to marijuana has dropped off since the drive to legalize marijuana as “medicine.” The benchmark surveys are the Monitoring the Future Survey, which has tracked drug use among American high school students annually since 1975 and the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, which has tracked drug use among Americans ages 12 and older since 1972.

The National Household Survey on Drug Abuse population sample (75,000) provides data about individual states, as well as about the nation as a whole. The state data reveals that those states that have passed "medical" marijuana laws have among the highest levels of past-month drug use and of drug addiction. In 2003, the results of a follow-up to the survey demonstrated a consistent clustering of drug-use issues in “medical” marijuana states. The “medical” marijuana states were clustered at the top of the list in terms of drug addiction and abuse. They were 7 out of the top 10 slots. The “medical” marijuana states occupied 8 of the top 10 slots in terms of the rate of past-month drug use in the nation.

The most recent study released in 2008 shows that states with legalized marijuana under the guise of medicine are 8 out of the top ten states with the highest percentages of young people (ages 12 -25) who have used marijuana in the past month. They are the majority of the states in the top ten for first time use of marijuana and marijuana use in the past year.

Marijuana is the number one drug for which kids are in treatment. Scientific literature shows that use of marijuana is a major risk factor in the development of addiction and drug use among our schoolchildren. One study showed that of nearly 182,000 children in treatment, 48 percent were admitted for abuse or addiction to marijuana, while only 19.3 percent for alcohol and 2.9 percent for cocaine, 2.4 percent for methamphetamine and 2.3 percent for heroin.  Our drug treatment facilities are full of young people dealing with marijuana related substance abuse problems. Those states with “medical” marijuana initiatives have among the highest levels of drug use and drug addiction. If kids are told that marijuana is “medicine” it is hard to convince them that it is harmful.

According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), marijuana accounts for tens of thousands of marijuana related complaints at emergency rooms throughout the United States each year. Over 99,000 are young people. The data is grim. According to the DAWN the admissions to emergency rooms for marijuana are:

6–11   years old                              380

12-17  years old                          39,035

18-20  years old                          27,742

21-24  years old                          32,154

This is a total of 99,311 

Legaizing marijuana as a so-called medicine opens the door for kids to use drugs. In California, high school students have been seen openly smoking marijuana in class under the protection of California’s “medical” marijuana laws. The teenagers were easily able to get “medical” marijuana cards for conditions such as sleeplessness and stress.

What should parents ask?

Parents should ask about the impact of “medical” marijuana on the safety of their children; will workplaces, including schools and school transportation, maintain drug-free requirements? How will parents be assured that their child's Little League coach or scoutmaster is not using marijuana under the excuse of medicine at a time when they are responsible for their child’s safety? 

Perhaps the biggest question of all, however, is what impact will labeling marijuana as a medicine have on our children overall.   During congressional testimony before the senate committee on the judiciary, Thomas A. Constantine, Admnistator fo the Drug Enforcement Agency stated “The mixed messages we are sending will most likely have a terrible effect on parents' ability to provide unequivocal information about drugs to their young children.”

Parents need to educate themselves and vote against the wealthy proponents of legalization and the bills to legalize marijuana.