By John Payne, Show Me Cannabis Campaign
I submitted the following letters to the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch and Saint Joseph News-Press, respectively. The first letter was published last Saturday, November 16, in response to a letter by Howard Weissman of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.
While reading Howard Weissman's editorial "Legalizing marijuana means children will be targeted" (Nov. 8), I was pleased to see that the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse now agrees that adult cannabis use should not be treated as a criminal matter and that Mr. Weissman acknowledges that no one wants to see more kids using cannabis. However, I strongly dispute Weissman's claim that cannabis prohibition more effectively keeps the substance away from teens than would the legal, regulated model we employ for alcohol and tobacco. In fact, prohibition fails at preventing teens in particular from using marijuana.
According to the 2012 Monitoring the Future study, which the federal government uses to track drug use among teenagers, 22.9 percent of high school seniors used cannabis in the past month. That is substantially greater than the 17.1 percent of seniors who smoked cigarettes in the past month, despite the fact that cigarettes are legal for many seniors. It's true that more high school seniors drink than use cannabis, with 40 percent reporting drinking in the past month, but some context is necessary here.
According to Gallup polling, 66 percent of American adults drink, but only 7 percent smoke marijuana, meaning drinking is less prevalent among teenagers than adults, but teenagers smoke marijuana at more than three times the rate of the adult population. Cannabis prohibition seems to be discouraging use among responsible adults but encouraging it among teenagers --- the precise inverse of what a rational policy would achieve.
The Saint Joseph News-Press has accepted the second letter for publication by and should run it within the next few days. I wrote it as a response to the misguided comments of Buchanan County Prosecutor Dwight Scroggins in this article.
After reading "Going to pot / Experts debate pros, cons of legalizing marijuana" (News-Press, Nov. 10), it seems clear Buchanan County Prosecuting Attorney Dwight Scroggins is picking and choosing "facts" to support his opinions.
The claim that cannabis causes violence has been around since the Reefer Madness days of the 1920s and '30s, but it has been soundly discredited for over 40 years. Studies sometimes show a correlation, but not causation.
When the Controlled Substances Act was passed in 1970, it also created a commission to study marijuana use in the United States. The commission released its findings in 1972, concluding, "the empirical evidence gathered to date lends no support to the hypothesis that marihuana heightens aggressive tendencies in the user or that its effects significantly increase the likelihood of inciting the user to violence or crime."
Also, if more permissive cannabis laws cause chaos on the highways, as Scroggins insinuates, it would be reflected in fatality reports from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. However, according to a study by University of Colorado-Denver economics professor Daniel Rees, the data show just the opposite: States with medical marijuana laws experience a 9 percent drop in fatal automobile accidents compared to those without such reforms. The study's authors argue this phenomenon is largely driven by people substituting cannabis for alcohol. Cannabis users are also less likely to drive than drinkers, as most cannabis users partake at home while drinkers often drive to bars.
If Mr. Scroggins would like to defend his claims in an open discussion of the issue, Show-Me Cannabis is sponsoring a town hall meeting at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 11 at the East Hills branch of the St. Joseph Public Library. We would be happy to give him a spot on the panel, and we can both make our cases to the public.
Show-Me Cannabis Regulation