In recent weeks, Congressman Andy Harris has succeeded in blocking the recreational use laws that were voted in the people of Washington DC.
One of his main reasons was that the “increased use in teenagers” would be detrimental to their health and physical development.
However, NIDA (National Institute of Drug Addiction), the US Federal Government’s main source for research and testing on drug use and addiction, has recently released a study that shows emphatically – Marijuana use by teens is down in 2014, and significantly lower in the states the currently allow recreational use.
Below is an excellent breakdown of the NIDA study from todays Washington Post.
Below that is the editorial that Congressman Andy Harris wrote in the Washington Post last week
The Washington Post Reports
Marijuana use? Down. Alcohol use? Way down. Cigarettes? Waaay down. Fewer than 15 percent of 12th-graders reported using cigarettes any time in the past month, down from well over 35 percent in the late 1990s. Monthly alcohol use dropped from nearly 55 percent of 12th-graders in 1992 to less than 40 percent in 2014. Even weed, which has been on a flatter trajectory since the 1990s than the other substances, is down year over year.
These numbers comport with findings earlier this year from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the government’s other major substance use barometer.
Even better news is that frequent, daily use — which experts agree is the most harmful to developing young minds — is also down considerably. Cigarettes posted the sharpest drop in daily use, falling from nearly 25 percent of 12th graders in 1997 to about 7 percent in 2014. Frequent alcohol use has declined, although less dramatically. Frequent marijuana use had been on a slight rise for roughly the second half of the 2000s, but since about 2011 it’s either held steady or fallen.
“Both alcohol and cigarette use in 2014 are at their lowest points since the study began in 1975,” the study’s authors conclude in a press release. The National Institutes of Drug Abuse agrees: “with marijuana use appearing to level off, and rates of many other drugs decreasing, it is possible that prevention efforts are having an effect,” said director Nora D. Volkow in a release.
The marijuana findings are particularly noteworthy given that Colorado and Washington state implemented full-scale retail marijuana markets this year, and Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C., voters opted to do the same. A central tenet of legalization opponents, from present-day prohibitionists like Andy Harris all the way back to Richard Nixon, has been that loosening restrictions on marijuana will “send the wrong” message to youngsters and lead to an explosion in teen use.
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Harris sums up the mindset best in a recent appearance at the Heritage Foundation: “Relaxing [marijuana] laws clearly leads to more teenage drug use. It should be intuitively obvious to everyone that if you legalize marijuana for adults, more children will use marijuana because the message that it’s dangerous will be blunted.”
While it’s a politically potent message — nobody wants to see more kids doing drugs — there’s a substantial body of research showing that teen pot use hasn’t risen in the states that have legalized medical marijuana. In 2014, a year when marijuana was all over the news and national attitudes toward the drug are relaxing, teen use actually trended downward.
Or, look at it from the other side: In the early 1990s the federal drug war was in full swing. But teen marijuana use spiked sharply during that period. It didn’t start falling until the late ’90s, when the first states began implementing medical marijuana laws.
This isn’t to say that repealing harsh marijuana laws will necessarily causeteen use to trend downward. But it does at the very least illustrate that it’s impossible to draw a straight line from “relaxing marijuana laws” to “increased teen use,” as Harris and other prohibition enthusiasts do. And there are compelling arguments to be made that taking the marijuana trade off the black market, and letting government and law enforcement agencies, rather than criminals, control the marijuana market, will lead tobetter overall drug use outcomes among teens.
Regardless of where you come down on the drug war, there’s something in here for everyone to be cheerful about. The kids, broadly speaking, are alright.
Andy Harris, a Republican, represents Maryland’s 1st Congressional District in the House, where Joe Pitts, a Republican, represents Pennsylvania’s 16th Congressional District.
Many have asked why Republican legislators who profess respect for self-government and democracy would step in to overrule D.C. residents who voted to legalize recreational marijuana use in the city. We would like to answer that question head-on. Simply put, we believe that Congress must defend the federal government and the U.S. Constitution by preventing marijuana legalization from moving forward in the District.
Federal policy on marijuana is neither arbitrary nor set in stone. Proper procedures exist for changing the way that marijuana is regulated in the United States, but a ballot initiative in the federal district is not one of them. If the city were allowed to proceed, it would create legal chaos.
The classification of marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance was made through a legal and scientific process established by Congress and administered by the Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Agency. This classification means that the drug has a high potential for abuse, has no accepted medical use and cannot be used safely even under medical supervision.
Marijuana use is far from benign, and the effect the drug has on users can ripple through a lifetime and touch both their families and society at large.
Many studies have shown that use of marijuana can have a wide range of negative effects on an individual’s brain, body and behavior. This includes short- and long-term effects on functions such as brain development, memory and cognition, motivation and lung health. Persistent marijuana users have shown a significant drop in IQ between childhood and midlife.
Marijuana is the illicit drug most frequently found to be a factor in car accidents, including fatal ones. Both emergency department visits involving marijuana and treatment admissions for abuse have increased in recent years. In 2011, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), there were 128,857 emergency room visits related to marijuana use, about the same as for heroin use and almost double the number of marijuana ER visits in 2004 (65,699).
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Legalization in some jurisdictions has led to increased marijuana use by teenagers. According to officials in Nebraska, areas of the state that border Colorado, where recreational marijuana is legal, have seen an increase in the number of teens ticketed for possession of marijuana and a spike in the drug’s potency. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, in a statement approved just this year, maintains that: “Marijuana use is not benign, and adolescents are especially vulnerable to its many known adverse effects.” The group opposes efforts to legalize the drug even for adult use.
There is much we still don’t know. NIDA is doing important research into the impact of marijuana use. We need more investigation into the health effects of recreational consumption, its effect on teen educational achievement and the economic impact of using the drug. We also need to look closely into chemical components of marijuana, such as THC and CBD, that could have medical indications and figure out ways to avoid the negative effects of smoking or ingesting marijuana.
The FDA and DEA have a process for analyzing such studies and approving controlled substances. We do not let any other substance become approved by ballot initiative. Every drug must be subject to the same strict scrutiny.
Legalizing marijuana in the District is a recipe for legal chaos. There are 26 separate law enforcement agencies in the city. Twenty-five of them answer only to the federal government. If the city proceeded with legalization, whether an individual is arrested for marijuana possession could end up hinging on whether the arresting officer works for the Metropolitan Police Department or, say, the National Park Service. Individuals possessing an amount of marijuana legal by District law could find themselves arrested and prosecuted after they walk into a federal building or step into a federal park.
We believe every state should respect federal law and take caution prior to legalizing marijuana. Unlike in the states, though, Congress has a direct responsibility under Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution, for policy in the District. This does not mean we need to micromanage. The people of the District should have a local government that is tailored to their needs. But when their wishes clearly conflict with federal law, Congress’s will must be preeminent.