Let’s face it, marijuana is not medicine. Leading experts from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) agree that smoked marijuana has no currently accepted medical value. The 1999 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report states “We see little future in smoked marijuana as a medicine.” Smoked marijuana as medicine has been rejected by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the American Glaucoma Society, the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Cancer Society. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), marijuana is the most prevalent illegal drug detected in impaired drivers, fatally injured drivers, and motor vehicle crash victims. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 8 percent of nighttime and weekend drivers tested positive for marijuana. Currently, drugs are used by approximately 10 to 22 percent of drivers involved in crashes, and cause $33 billion in damages every year.
Research tells us that the more kids believe a drug is not dangerous, the more they will try it. The more often we see information in the media about states and localities that have allowed for medical marijuana the more we have to counter the perceptions of youth that marijuana is okay to use. In fact, national and local studies have already shown that more kids are smoking marijuana than cigarettes, because they view smoking cigarettes as more harmful than smoking pot. What many teens and adults do not realize is that marijuana smoke contains over 400 chemicals and has many of the same carcinogens as tobacco smoke. States that have already legalized marijuana for “medicinal” purposes are seeing the effects: they have among the highest addiction rates in the nation and rank at the bottom of the nation as far as 12-17 year olds thinking that smoking marijuana is harmful. Surveys conducted with 2000 youth in Livingston County from 2004-2010 show that currently approximately 18% of youth ages 12-18 report using marijuana in their lifetime and 9% report using it in the past 30 days. These numbers have remained steady over the past several years. However, the perception of risk of harm when using marijuana has decreased over the years. This perception is something that we all must work to change.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse marijuana use among adolescents impacts brain development and academic achievement. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that youth with an average grade of D or below were more than four times as likely to have used marijuana in the past year than youth with an average grade of A. What is the most powerful influence on whether or not a teen makes the decision to use drugs or alcohol? Parents. The most effective way for parents to prevent marijuana use is to provide consistent monitoring and enforcement of discipline of teens and provide clear no use standards.
Rachel Pena is the Project Director for Healthy Communities that Care, an initiative of the Council on Alcohol and Substance Abuse of Livingston County. Contact Rachel at firstname.lastname@example.org