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Drug Czar Insists Medical Marijuana Leads to More Pot Smoking

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By "Radical" Russ Belville

Drug Czar “Gateway” Gil Kerlikowske reminds me of “Baghdad Bob”. Do you remember the invasion of Iraq back in 2003 when Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, the spokesperson known as “Baghdad Bob”, issued such proclamations as “I triple guarantee you, there are no American soldiers in Baghdad” and “They are retreating on all fronts. Their military effort is a subject of laughter throughout the world”, even as tanks were entering the city on live TV feed behind him?  No matter what unbiased videotaped live evidence you would show “Baghdad Bob”, he would continue to spout the talking points that evidence clearly refuted.

Such is the case with “Gateway” Gil whenever the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) is released.  If drug use goes up, we aren’t fighting the drug war enough.  If drug use goes down, drug war worked and we need more of it.  USA Today presented the 2010 NSDUH numbers today with a headline touting the reduction in methamphetamine use:

National drug survey shows big drop in methamphetamine use

Marijuana is as popular as ever while methamphetamine is falling out of favor, a national drug-use survey has found.

USA Today’s framing of the story is everything we could hope for – marijuana use remains steady and meth use has dropped.  The report continues to tell us we now number 17.4 million regular tokers, defined as people aged 12 and older who have used cannabis in the past month.  That works out to 6.9% of the population… or closing in on as many monthly tokers as Floridians (18.8 million).  In 2007, just 5.8% of the population (14.4 million) was using cannabis monthly, so this could have easily been a “Pot use increased 21% in four years!” frame.

I’m never fond of relating statistics of “12 and older” because NORML believes non-medical cannabis use is solely an adult activity.  However, digging deeper into the data we find that the regular use of cannabis by children aged 12-17 really didn’t change much at all (from 7.3% to 7.4% over the past year).  It’s the college-aged adults among whom marijuana use has increased – from 16.5% in 2008 to 18.5% in 2010.

This is where “Gateway” Gil fires up the Wurlitzer to crank out his same old reefer madness medical marijuana bogeyman tune:

Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, attributed the uptick in marijuana use to the increase in the number of states that have approved it for medical use. Delaware in May became the 16th state to approve medical marijuana.

“People keep calling it medicine, and that’s the wrong message for young people to hear,” Kerlikowske said.

Who are these people who keep calling cannabinoids medicine?  The US Patent Office?  The Institute of Medicine?  The American Medical Association?  For Gil Kerlikowske, apparently telling young people the truth is the wrong message.  And by young people we mean adults of voting, smoking, drinking, and car rental age.

The problem for “Gateway” Gil’s theory is that people have been recognizing cannabis’s medical properties under state laws since 1996 in California.  The entire West Coast and Colorado have had medical marijuana since 2000.  During that time, we saw teen use drop from 8.2% in 2002 (8 medmj states) to 6.7% in 2008 (13 medmj states).  Now it’s at 7.4% with 16 medical marijuana states, a rate lower than 2004, when there were only 10 medical marijuana states.

“Emerging research reveals potential links between state laws permitting access to smoked medical marijuana and higher rates of marijuana use,” said Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy. “In light of what we know regarding the serious harm of illegal drug use, I urge every family – but particularly those in states targeted by pro-drug political campaigns – to redouble their efforts to shield young people from serious harm by educating them about the real health and safety consequences caused by illegal drug use.”

“Gateway” Gil continues in the official SAMSHA press release to confuse correlation with causation to blame medical marijuana for greater marijuana use rates:

Yes, Gil, and that link would be that states with greater rates of marijuana use are more likely to pass marijuana law reforms.  The medical marijuana states had greater rates of use before they passed their laws and passing their medical marijuana laws didn’t increase the rates of use in those states by any greater amount than non-medical states.  Furthermore, use among teens dropped in most of those medical marijuana states following the passage of their medical marijuana law.


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