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December 2006
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New Report: Laws don’t curb teen marijuana use

From Bruce Mirken with MPP:

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A new report from the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) in Washington, D.C., challenges the key assumption underlying present U.S. marijuana laws: that marijuana must be prohibited for adults in order to deter teens from using it.
When reformers propose regulating marijuana for adults in a manner similar to alcohol or tobacco, government officials typically argue that such a policy would encourage use by children, and such assertions are widely accepted by the press and the public. MPP undertook a thorough review of government data from the U.S. and around the world, as well as studies by think tanks and academic researchers. Key findings include:

  • Marijuana prohibition has not prevented a dramatic increase in marijuana use by teenagers. In fact, the overall rate of marijuana use in the U.S. has risen by roughly 4,000% since marijuana was first outlawed.
  • Independent studies by RAND Europe and the U.S. National Research Council have reported that marijuana prohibition appears to have little or no impact on rates of use.
  • Since Britain ended most marijuana possession arrests in 2004, the rate of marijuana use by 16- to-19-year-olds has dropped.
  • In the U.S., rates of teen marijuana use in states that have decriminalized adult marijuana possession are statistically equal to the rates in states that have retained criminal penalties.
  • In the Netherlands, where adults have been allowed to possess and purchase small amounts of marijuana since 1976, the rate of marijuana use by adults and teens is lower than in the U.S., and teen use of cocaine and amphetamines is far lower than in the U.S. Indeed, some researchers believe it is the prohibition of marijuana that causes progression to hard drug use, sometimes called the “gateway effect.”

“The idea that prohibiting adults from using marijuana will keep it away from kids is a myth that isn’t backed up by the data,” said MPP Executive Director Rob Kampia. “We need laws that are based on facts and science, not faith-based myths.”

Full Report available for download
Now lets see if the press picks up on it. The report release is timed to coincide with the traditional release time of government’s annual “Monitoring the Future” report. Each year, the ONDCP cherry-picks some out-of-context set of numbers from that report and touts it as either a victory in the drug war or a sign that we need to spend more/arrest more, etc. With the new MPP report, the press will have the option of at least “balancing” those claims with the real in-context information in the MPP report.

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