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November 05, 2006

More Politics

I might have guessed that the tenth anniversary of Proposition 215's passage by California voters would generate a plethora of political rhetoric from both sides of the issue, but I didn't anticipate just how stale and uninformed those positions had remained for ten years.

There is, of course, good reason: although pot's illegality and the escalating penalties mandated by an annoyed Congress have not slowed the development of our huge youth-driven cannabis market,* they have efficiently deterred unbiased clinical studies of its consumers of all ages.

New evidence that neither the feds nor reform have learned much from the opportunity offered by 215 to study them is provided by a series of items published in advance of the Proposition's Anniversary.

The first, and perhaps most ludicrous, is an MPP sponsored analysis 'proving' that teen use  in medical marijuana states hadn't skyrocketed as ONDCP claimed it would back in 1996. According to the MPP study there's actually been a decline in adolescent use in states with pot laws. Unfortunately, the evidence consists of the same MTF style surveys of student populations the federal government has been misleading itself (and the rest of us) with since 1975. Their crucial flaw is that they are only able to look at captive student populations normally expected (hoped) to be non-users.

What my study of admitted users of all ages demonstrates is that the initiation of cannabis by adolescents aged 12 to 18 has been the engine driving chronic adult use since the mid Seventies, which is when the first MTF studies were done. The acquisition of initiation data from older users who were among the first large cohort of adolescents ever to try pot in America (baby boomers born between 1946 and 1960) clearly demonstrates when the phenomenon of large scale  adolescent use actually began in the US. The data also suggest that most of the adolescents who will grow into adult users over the next several years have already tried pot. Also, a majority are probably already  using it in regular patterns; no matter how those still in school may choose to answer in their 12th grade NS DUH survey.

Perhaps the biggest problem with the MPP study is that it is propaganda intended to refute a silly allegation. There's really no logical connection between pot use by the 'seriously ill' patients portrayed in 215's pre-election campaign rhetoric and by the adolescent novices imagined in ONDCP's allegation. Each side  was making a political argument against unsupported assumptions made by the other. As is often the case when 'scientific' assumptions can't be verified: reality turns out to be both far more complex and quite different.

Doctor Tom

* The link is to a long Canadian report which includes the following quote: 'For a time, the United Nations International Drug Control Program suggested that the total value of the illegal drug "industry" was approximately US $400 billion, greater than the oil industry.[9] The total value of cannabis obviously cannot be separated from that amount, even though we know that the largest number of persons who use drugs use cannabis. No one really knows how or on what basis these figures are advanced, whether they were produced using a rigorous calculation method or merely noted down on a napkin over a meal.[10] And yet they often serve as a reference. In a series of articles published on the illicit drug issue in 2001, The Economist cited the $400 billion amount before suggesting a more conservative estimate of US $150 billion.[11] By comparison, the value of the pharmaceutical industry is near US $300 billion, that of the tobacco industry $204 billion and that of the alcoholic beverages industry $250 billion.'

Posted by tjeffo at November 5, 2006 04:25 AM