Drug Czar Decries Teen Marijuana Use Even Though His Policies Are Behind Its Increase
In a statement today, Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, decried recent data showing that American teenagers are using marijuana at younger ages and in greater numbers. In response, the Marijuana Policy Project, the nation’s largest marijuana policy reform organization, called on the drug czar to abandon the failed policies of marijuana prohibition, and instead embrace the regulation of marijuana, accompanied by science-based education campaigns, as the only sensible strategy for reducing teen marijuana use.
“After decades of the same ineffective approach, it’s more clear than ever that our government’s current policies have failed to reduce marijuana’s use or availability among young people and that a change is needed,” said Steve Fox, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Unlike alcohol and tobacco – which are sold by licensed, tax-paying vendors who are required to check customer ID – marijuana use continues to increase among young people largely because it is sold in an uncontrolled, unregulated criminal market by drug dealers who are perfectly happy to sell to minors. By refusing to admit reality and work to bring the sale of marijuana under the rule of law, the federal government, and the drug czar in particular, are helping to keep marijuana readily available to America’s youth.”
Last week, the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy issued a report based on 20 years of U.S. government data, which found that despite drastic increases in U.S. marijuana enforcement efforts, including near record-level arrests and seizures, marijuana remains almost “universally available” to young people in the U.S. A 2009 government survey found that more than 80% of American 12th graders said marijuana was “easy” to get, and that tobacco use among U.S. teens is on the decline, while marijuana use continues to rise.
According to a 2008 World Health Organization survey, the overall rate of marijuana use in the Netherlands, where marijuana is sold in regulated establishments to adults who have to show proof of age, is less than half what it is in the United States. Additionally, only 7% of Dutch teens have tried marijuana by age 15. In the U.S., as many as 20.2% of teens have tried marijuana by age 15, according to government estimates.
On November 2, voters in California will consider Proposition 19, a ballot measure that would tax and regulate marijuana.