The annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health released Thursday by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that teen marijuana use rates decreased nationally in 2016. Past-month use rates among adults increased slightly, but alcohol use rates among all age groups decreased, indicating the possibility that adults are substituting marijuana for alcohol.
Past-month use rates for the 12-17 age group decreased by 0.5% from 2015 to 6.5% nationally in 2016. This is the lowest level of marijuana use in this age group since 2002. The data also shows a steady decrease since 2014, when the first states to make marijuana legal for adults began allowing regulated retail sales. The full report is available here.
“Critics of legalization worry about the message being sent to youth by marijuana policy reform efforts, but the real message is that marijuana should only be used by responsible adults, and it seems to be sinking in. Regulating marijuana for adults reinforces that message and creates effective mechanisms for making it more difficult for teens to obtain marijuana,” said Morgan Fox, senior communications manager for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol, and regulation gives adults the legal option to choose the safer substance.”
The federal government quietly published new national survey data in December that shows rates of teen marijuana use in Colorado and Washington — the first two states to legalize and regulate marijuana for adult use — decreased more than the national average in 2014-2015. Fewer teens in the two states are reportedly using marijuana than in 2012-2013, just prior to the commencement of legal adult marijuana sales.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released the results of the 2014-2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) on Tuesday along with a press release that did not include any mention of marijuana.
According to the NSDUH:
- In Colorado, the rate of 12-17-year-olds who used marijuana in the past month dropped 1.43 percentage points from 12.56% in 2013-2014 to 11.13% in 2014-2015, compared to 11.16% in 2012-2013. The rate of past-year use dropped 2.46 percentage points from 20.81% in 2013-2014 to 18.35% in 2014-2015, compared to 18.76% in 2012-2013.
- In Washington, the rate of 12-17-year-olds who used marijuana in the past month dropped 0.89 percentage points from 10.06% in 2013-2014 to 9.17% in 2014-2015, compared to 9.81% in 2012-2013. The rate of past-year use dropped 1.92 percentage points from 17.53% in 2013-2014 to 15.61% in 2014-2015, compared to 16.48% in 2012-2013.
- Nationwide, the rate of past-month marijuana use among 12-17-year-olds dropped 0.02 percentage points from 7.22% in 2013-2014 to 7.2% in 2014-2015, and the rate of past-year use dropped 0.42 percentage points from 13.28% to 12.86%.
The overall findings of the NSDUH are in line with those of the annual Monitoring the Future survey sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which were released last week and found little change in rates of teen marijuana use.
Marijuana arrests accounted for more than half of all U.S. drug arrests in 2009, while its use among Americans increased by 8 percent, according to two reports released this week by government officials.
According to the FBI’s 2009 Uniform Crime Report released yesterday, U.S. law enforcement made 858,408 arrests on marijuana charges — 88 percent of which were for possession, not sale or manufacture. Marijuana arrests peaked in 2007 at more than 872,000, and witnessed a slight dip in 2008 at 847,863.
In 2009, an American was arrested on marijuana charges every 37 seconds.
Meanwhile, an annual report released today by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed that 16.7 million Americans had used marijuana in the past month.
“It’s now more obvious than ever that decades of law enforcement efforts have absolutely failed to reduce marijuana’s use or availability, and that it’s simply an exercise in futility to continue arresting hundreds of thousands of Americans for using something that’s safer than alcohol,” said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement. “Rather than criminalize millions of otherwise law-abiding citizens and waste billions of dollars that could be better spent combating violent crime and other real threats to public safety, it’s time we embrace sensible marijuana policies that would regulate marijuana the same way we do alcohol or tobacco.”
U.S. marijuana arrests declined somewhat in 2008, according to figures released by the FBI today. According to the just-released Uniform Crime Reports, U.S. law enforcement made 847,863 arrests on marijuana charges last year, 89 percent of which were for possession, not sale or manufacture – more arrests for marijuana possession than for all violent crimes combined. One American was arrested on marijuana charges every 37 seconds.
Marijuana arrests peaked in 2007 at over 872,000, capping five years of all-time record arrests.
The new report comes on the heels of the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, released Sept. 10, which showed an increase in both the number and percentage of Americans who admit having used marijuana. In 2003, when marijuana arrests set what was then an all-time record of 755,186, 40.6 percent of Americans aged 12 and over said they had used marijuana. In 2008, that figure was 41 percent, or 102,404,000 Americans willing to tell government survey-takers that they had used marijuana.
Apparently, massive numbers of arrests didn’t curb marijuana use.
“This slight dip in the number of marijuana arrests provides a small amount of relief to the tens of millions of American marijuana consumers who have been under attack by their own government for decades,” said Marijuana Policy Project executive director Rob Kampia in a statement issued by MPP today. “It’s time to stop wasting billions of tax dollars criminalizing responsible Americans for using a substance that’s safer than alcohol, and to put an end to policies that simply hand this massive consumer market to unregulated criminals.”
To put that arrest figure in perspective, it’s equivalent to arresting every man, woman and child in the city of San Francisco – plus about 23,000 more people from nearby suburbs – in just one year. Do you feel safer?
The new National Survey on Drug Use and Health is out, and it puts the final nail in the coffin of the war on marijuana conducted by George W. Bush’s drug czar, John Walters.
Walters’ fanaticism about marijuana is epitomized by a November 2002 letter sent to the nation’s prosecutors by his deputy, Scott Burns, claiming that “no drug matches the threat posed by marijuana.” Walters carpet-bombed the nation with anti-marijuana propaganda – TV, radio and print ads, reports, press conferences, news releases, etc. – and quickly began to follow up with exaggerated claims of success.
That game is now over. Compare the just-released 2008 data to the 2002 survey, the first to reflect Walters’ policies:
In 2002, 94.9 million Americans admitted having used marijuana at some point in their lives. In 2008, that figure had grown to 102.4 million. In percentage terms, that’s an increase from 40.4 percent in 2002 to 40.6 percent in 2008 – unchanged, statistically speaking. For current (past 30 days) use, the pattern is similar: 14.6 million or 6.2 percent in 2002, 15.2 million or 6.1 percent in 2008. The slight declines of a couple years ago have now been entirely erased and were likely no more than statistical noise.
The drug war industrial complex will never admit it, but the most intensive anti-marijuana campaign since the days of “Reefer Madness” produced exactly nothing.