Flawed Argument Against Marijuana: Kids Already Drink
Catching up on some reading about the Michigan effort to legalize marijuana when I caught this talking point from a prohib:
(Detroit Free-Press) At a news conference Friday at Roberts Riverwalk Hotel & Residence in Detroit, a dozen members of the Committee for a Safer Michigan announced the kickoff of their effort to put their legalization question on Michigan’s November ballot.
“We say no to legalizing marijuana,” said Judy Rubin, executive director of the Tri-Community Coalition, a group that works to end youth substance abuse in Berkley, Huntington Woods and Oak Park.
“Do we really want more harmful substances for our youth? We’re already doing a pretty poor job with alcohol,” she said.
First of all, did you mean more “harmful substances” or “more harmful” substances? Because marijuana is certainly not “more harmful” than alcohol. As for it being a “harmful substance”? Well, marijuana use might not be healthful for most teens, but it is no more harmful than the Red Bulls, Five Hour Energys, and Starbucks Frappacinos we don’t card kids for.
But I really wanted to address “we’re doing a pretty poor job with alcohol”, because, actually, we are doing a great job with alcohol.
According to the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use & Health, at the beginning of the medical marijuana era (1996), binge drinking figures for 8th, 10th, and 12th grades have all dropped – by more than one-fifth for seniors, more than one-quarter for sophomores, and more than one-third for 8th graders.
We’ve dramatically lowered alcohol and tobacco use among teens without locking up a single adult for possession of those substances
Furthermore, when we take a longer look at youth substance use, we find we’re doing a fine job with the two legal drugs – alcohol and tobacco – and the fear of rising marijuana use rates is misplaced. At the peak of youth use in the late 1970′s, among high school seniors over 93% had tried alcohol, over 75% had tried tobacco, and over 60% had tried marijuana.
Today, thanks to a raise in the drinking age from 18-19 to 21, aggressive anti-tobacco education, and strict ID carding programs, now only over 70% of seniors have tried alcohol, over 43% have tried tobacco, and over 41% have tried marijuana.*
Finally, while nobody here advocates for kids using alcohol, tobacco, or marijuana, we do recognize that kids will encounter these things in society. When our laws punish marijuana so severely and when our schools are drug testing for marijuana they provide incentive to choose more harmful substances that aren’t detected so easily. A hit of acid, shot of tequila, pill of ecstasy, line of coke, and syringe of heroin on a Friday night will easily be eliminated long before any school drug test can pick it up on Monday… but a joint can stay in their system for a week or longer.
* One may notice in the graph supplied that marijuana use did drop to as low as over 32% by 1992, rising to almost 50% by 1999. The long decline of marijuana use in the 1980′s was due to severe supply restriction thanks to Reagan Administration eradication efforts – this was long before the indoor growing boom. That sharp marijuana decline was offset by a sharp cocaine increase. Less than 10% of seniors had tried cocaine in the 1970′s. By 1985 (my senior year), over 17% of seniors had tried cocaine. The 1990′s sharp increase can be traced to increased supply through indoor cultivation.