Prohibitionist’s Headline Lies About Data on Teen Pot Use

The latest data from the National Survey on Drug Use & Health (NSDUH) has been released for 2014. This is one of the federal government’s two prime databases for evaluating American drug use and mental health indices.

The folks at CADCA—the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America—wanted to be sure you were aware of this new data, so they released the following article, headlined:

2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health Finds Marijuana Use Continuing to Rise Among Youth

That’s a pretty compelling headline. “Continuing to rise,” suggests that since we’ve been legalizing marijuana in various states, more and more kids are picking up the reefers. According to CADCA’s CEO, Gen. Arthur T. Dean, as the public begins to perceive marijuana as less harmful, it sends the wrong message to youth.

But if you get past the headline, even CADCA has to admit the shenanigans they’re playing with the statistics (my boldfacing):

“Marijuana continues to be the most commonly used illicit drug,” the report states. “In 2014, roughly 8.4 percent of Americans age 12 and older were current users of marijuana—up from 7.5 percent in 2013. Marijuana use is especially growing among those aged 26 and older—from 5.6 percent in 2013 to 6.6 percent in 2014. The percentage of teens who were current marijuana users in 2014 (7.4 percent) was similar to recent years.”

“Overall, the use of illicit drugs—including marijuana—among Americans aged 12 and older increased from 9.4 percent in 2013 to 10.2 percent in 2014. This was driven particularly by the increase in adult marijuana use, the survey suggests.”

Let’s look at the numbers.

Among Teens 12-17 (NSDUH) Year 2004 Year 2009 Year 2014
Monthly Use of Marijuana 7.6% 7.4% 7.4%
Monthly Use of Cigarettes 11.9% 9.0% 4.9%
Monthly Use of Alcohol 17.6% 14.8% 11.5%

It seems like over the past decade as more states passed medical marijuana laws, dispensaries opened and two states legalized recreational weed, slightly fewer teens are using marijuana on a regular basis. What did radically change was teen use of cigarettes, down more than half, and teen use of alcohol, down about one third.

This happened over the past 10 years despite Dean’s quite accurate prediction that legalization will mean less perception of risk in marijuana use by teens. Indeed, when a substance goes from being portrayed as the gateway drug to heroin that supports terrorism and turns your brain into a fried egg, to being a legal herbal product mom and dad might use, the perception of risk can’t help but decline, as noted in CADCA’s article:

“The survey also found that the number of young perceiving great harm in smoking marijuana at least once a week also fell significantly,” it states. “Only a quarter of 16 and 17 year olds find smoking marijuana at least once a week to be harmful.”

So, three-out-of-four older teens think smoking pot weekly is no big deal, and yet the number of teens taking up monthly marijuana smoking hasn’t really changed in a decade. It’s the same one-out-of-thirteen-or-fourteen teens smoking pot.

Apparently, the youth got the message, and it was “stop using the legal drugs that are truly harmful to your health.”

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