Teen pot use declines from 2001 to 2003

September 20, 2005

Ed Vogel, Las Vegas Review-Journal

CARSON CITY -- Teenagers' use of marijuana is dropping more dramatically in the 10 states where medical marijuana is legal, including Nevada, than in states without such laws, according to a survey.

The Marijuana Policy Project found that current and lifetime marijuana use by teenagers in Nevada has dropped significantly since 2001, when sick people with their doctors' permission and a state registration card were allowed to grow marijuana.

Karen O'Keefe, legislative analyst for the project, said Tuesday the study is not meant to show a causal link between medical marijuana laws and teen use, but to debunk arguments of those who contended the availability of medical marijuana would increase pot use by teens.

"The common message against medical marijuana has been it sends the wrong message to children," she said. "That is not true. In every state we have studied, teen use has dropped since the passage of medical marijuana laws."

O'Keefe and Mitch Earleywine, a psychology professor at the State University of New York in Albany, checked state youth behavior risk surveys. Nevada's Department of Education conducts that study every two years.

O'Keefe said Nevada's survey in 2001 found 26.6 percent of teens had used marijuana at least once in the previous 30 days. The 2003 survey found that percentage had dropped to 22.3 percent.

The Nevada drop of 16 percent, compares with a national decline of 6 percent, according to O'Keefe. Results of the 2005 risk survey will be released in the spring.

The project also found an 8 percent drop in lifetime marijuana use by teens between 2001 and 2003. The national drop was 5 percent.

The organization noted 50.8 percent of Nevada teens said in 2001 they had used marijuana at least once. That fell to 46.6 percent in 2003.

Declines in teen use have been larger in states where medical marijuana laws have been in effect the longest, according to the project. In California, current teen marijuana use is down 47 percent since 1996, when voters legalized medical marijuana.

The organization bankrolled petition drives to place on Nevada election ballots proposals to legalize marijuana. About 39 percent of Nevada voters in 2002 backed the organization's question to allow adults 21 and older to possess as much as three ounces of marijuana.

In November 2006, Nevada voters will cast ballots on a similar initiative backed by the organization that would legalize one ounce of marijuana and increase penalties for driving under the influence of the drug.

Sandy Heverly, the STOP DUI director in Southern Nevada, said it could be a coincidence that teen drug use dropped more in states with medical marijuana laws.

"The study does not consider the efforts youth organizations in many states, including Nevada, have carried out in educating youths about the dangers of drugs," said Heverly, who has led the drive against the Marijuana Policy Project's petitions. "That could be a significant factor in the drop."

Be the first to Comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.