Sunday, May 02, 2004
Kids and Marijuana
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in the US puts out a steady stream of publications concerning alcohol and other drug use. Primo research Assistant Ryan Monarch brings our attention to "Availability of Illicit Drugs Among Youths," a short report released in January. (Can't seem to get the link to work -- sorry.) But there are two statistics in the report, which is based on the 2002 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, that I found to be interesting. First, about 8 percent of kids aged 12 to 17 reported the use of marijuana in the past month. Meanwhile, 55 percent of kids in that age bracket indicated that it would be easy to obtain marijuana. So kids think that they can procure the stuff, but most choose not to. No doubt the criminalization of marijuana use for adults plays some role in dissuading some of the kids from using it, but it seems to be a reasonable guess that most kids who can score marijuana choose not to, even when the legal risks are low. (And in some states, marijuana possession is decriminalized, of course.) Only 13 percent of the kids in the 12-17 age group used cigarettes in the past month. So is this the upper bound of what adult prohibition of marijuana and its 700,000 annual arrests buys us, 39% fewer kids smoking marijuana than the number that would so smoke under a regime of unrestricted availability to adults?
Maybe the real story here is how lax we are being! Wouldn't we be better off if we could find those more than 5 million 12 to 17-year olds who used marijuana or hashish in the past year, and put them in jail?