Part of the DEA’s failed War on Drugs has been to push erroneous information, despite scientific proof, that marijuana is dangerous and should therefore remain classified in the same category as heroin.
On Tuesday, the DEA tweeted a chart that referred to the “tobacco model” as a success. The chart compared perceptions of tobacco use to that of marijuana use, making the case that rising perception of harm is correlated with falling usage rates.
So far, so good.
The problem, however, is—tobacco is legal and perception of harm has increased. Marijuana is illegal and perception of harm has been decreasing.
In the DEA’s interpretation, pointed out Vox, the chart shows there is a correlation between perceptions of risk and a drug’s use. The chart shows that as the perceived risk of tobacco rose, its use among 12th graders dropped. In terms of pot use among 12th graders, risk perceptions dropped while pot use remained relatively flat.
There is another interpretation of the chart that argues against the DEA’s own obsession with keeping weed illegal and further cracking down on all forms of it.
Tobacco has been legal for the years the chart covers (1973 – 2013), yet during that time, the perception of how risky it is has gone up and cigarette smoking has gone down, most likely due to anti-tobacco policies, educational campaigns and high cigarette taxes.
Meanwhile, weed is still illegal under federal law, and according to the DEA’s own chart, pot use fluctuates but perceived risks continue to drop. All this in spite of the hundreds of thousands of arrests each year for possession of small amounts of pot.
Twenty-nine states have legalized medical or recreational marijuana in some form so far, and there is no clear connection between legalization and increased use by teenagers.
Indeed, Scientific American reported on a biannual poll by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment that showed the percentage of high school students who smoke pot in Colorado was smaller than the national average among teens.
So, based on the DEA’s chart, the legal model seems to work better:
Tobacco: Legal. Perceived as dangerous; dropping in use.
Marijuana: Illegal. Not perceived as dangerous; increasing in use.
Thank you very much, DEA, for confirming what a vast majority of us already knew: Our teenagers are not stupid.
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