A new report from the Office of National Drug Control Policy cites correlations between pot smoking and anti-social behavior as a reason to stop teenagers from smoking pot. "Teens who use drugs [typically marijuana] are more likely to engage in violent behavior, steal, use other drugs, and join gangs," the report warns.
Off the top of your head, you can probably thing of several explanations for these associations that do not involve the pharmacological effects of cannabis. Teenagers who are less risk-averse or less supervised or less respectful of authority, for example, are probably more likely to smoke pot and more likely to break the law in other ways, but not because the pot made them do it.
So is the ONDCP saying that marijuana causes teens to "engage in violent behavior, steal, use other drugs, and join gangs"? No. It is only strongly implying that. It calls early marijuana use "a warning sign for later gang involvement." It calls drug use a "risk factor," meaning that it's correlated with delinquency but does not necessarily contribute to it. But ONDCP Director John Walters does not seem too worried about such fine distinctions:
It is time—in fact, it is past time—for us to let go of '60s-era perceptions about marijuana. Today's research shows what too many families and communities have had to learn through painful experience: Drug use by teenagers isn't a "lifestyle choice" or an act of "personal expression"; it is a public health and, increasingly, a public safety dilemma.
In the same ONDCP press release, "youth behavior expert" Ivan J. Juzang, founder of Motivational Educational Entertainment Productions, makes the government's implicit message explicit:
As our city works to create the Blueprint for a Safer Philadelphia, it's important to examine this link between teens using marijuana and being more likely to engage in violence. Taking a prevention focus to ending youth violence means providing them with knowledge, support and positive alternatives so that they don't start using marijuana, which ultimately keeps our schools and communities safer.
I'd say it is time—in fact, it is past time—for us to let go of '30s-era perceptions about marijuana. But our government clearly is not ready to do so.
[Thanks to Bruce Mirken at the Marijuana Policy Project for the tip.]