Drug Policy

John Walters' Reefer Madness Update

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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.]

NEXT: Playing Hooky with Rudy G.

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  1. Merkin?

    oh. nevermind.

    /kicks pebble

  2. Re: weed and violence. Who would rather get in a heated dispute with: drunk guy or high guy?

  3. Anyone ever see the musical version of Reefer Madness? It’s priceless

  4. When weed is outlawed, only outlaws will have weed . . .

  5. MEEP’s motto: Please take us seriously.

  6. I’ve always believed that if the shoe were on the other foot and marijuana was the legal drug instead of alcohol, the world would be a more peaceful place.

  7. Of all the pot smokers I’ve known, I never saw one engaging in violence while high on weed. As for drunk fighters…too many to remember…

  8. This report is so bogus it makes my blood boil. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything so blatantly manipulative and false in my entire life… at least nothing that wasn’t satirical.

  9. Corelation is NOT Causation!!!

  10. One word response that wins EVERY argument with a drug warrior: Alcohol

  11. “Teens who use drugs [typically marijuana] are more likely to engage in violent behavior, steal, use other drugs, and join gangs,” the report warns.

    That couldn’t be because:

    1. Teens have to deal with criminals and gangs to purchase MJ and

    2. Gangs make fortunes selling on the black market, and therefore can purchase all the fine toys, and thus are more attractive to teenagers.

  12. I never realized that Walters looked that much like Jerry Falwell.

  13. “Teens who use drugs [typically marijuana] are more likely to engage in violent behavior, steal, use other drugs, and join gangs,” the report warns.

    Omitted variable bias is a very serious offense, good sirs. OH WAIT! I was assuming they did ANY kind of analysis on the data at ALL! Silly me…..

  14. Who would rather get in a heated dispute with: drunk guy or high guy?

    1. Chuck Norris in a bad mood.
    2. Another drunk.

  15. There is only one risk associated with the use of marijuana: getting caught. You risk getting shot in the face by a storm trooper busting down your door to keep you from getting high.
    The suggestion that weed makes anybody more prone to violence than they already were is just plain stupid.

  16. Don’t uniforms have a higher association with violent behavior? ….

    I was in prison in the early 70’s and managed to visit a friend (in another wing) who have some pot and let me toke some. On the way out, I was knocked down by a fellow who had shared in some smuggled grain alcohol.

  17. 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.

    Then, of course, there’s the unexamined link between college students using marijuana and being more likely to buy Yo La Tengo albums.

    Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, mind you.

  18. “Teens who use drugs [typically marijuana] are more likely to engage in violent behavior, steal, use other drugs, and join gangs,” the report warns.

    Wait a minute, did they divide up the drugs into separate substances or at least categories, or just regress the use of any (and all) drugs against the crime rates of teenagers?

    What other variables did they regress against the juvenile crime rate?

    Sounds like they’re just throwing in variables of the meth users, drunks, and pill freaks in with the stoners and then claimed smoking weed is the cause of crime (correlation = causation)

  19. Ah, Tym my man – someday we will have a government official who understands the distinction. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not next year, maybe not in our lifetimes, but someday!

  20. Crimethink makes a good point, and the reverse is also true. Why launder drug profits when you can use them to buy politicians?

    Law Enforcement against Prohibition makes some points that are pretty hard to argue with.

    Former drug warriors telling it like it is, and nobody wants to listen. Joseph Goebbels would be envious of the ONDCP’s skill at spewing propaganda.

  21. any cop knows this is complete rubbish. and they deal with antisocial and violent behavior from teenagers quite frequently.

    would a cop rather deal with a stoned teenager, a drunk teenager, a teenager high on crystal meth?

    kids on pot tend to laugh at dumb jokes, eat junk food and spout dumb stuff that seems profound to them. if anything, it tends to diminish a teenage boys (who are naturally more violent) propensity towards violence and aggression. sure, pushed far enough, a stoner will fight, but they’d much rather not. alcohol, otoh, promotes far more liquid courage and reckless violence (not excusing individual responsibility here of course).

    while realizing that this describes teenage behavior IN GENERAL, it is simply laughable (a million points of data) to accept the above findings about pot

  22. MEEP MEEP ZIP BANG!

  23. Wouldn’t it be cooler if we were talking about John Waters remaking Reefer Madness?

    I’d trust Waters over Walters any day.

  24. Just something I remember from decades ago about the stats of the imbibing histories of federal crime prisoners.

    The percentages are admittedly NOT accurate just relative for demonstration purposes, I can’t remember them accurately anymore, except the very last one, the clincher. It went something like this:

    Of federal prisoners:

    30 percent had used heroin in the past.

    50 percent had used marijuana in the past.

    85 percent had used alcohol in the past.

    and –

    100 percent drank milk.

    CONCLUSION:

    Outlaw milk.

  25. I find it amazing that people can say this and have public office yet one could not do so an be an athiest.

    Shouldn’t we go after the socialists and war-mongers first? Don’t they do the most damage to societies?

    Doesn’t the drug war not just correlate but directly cause most violence and serious crime?

  26. “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.”

    It’s easier for teenagers to get their hands on prohibited pot than regulated alcohol, according to the ONDCP’s own research.

  27. Philadelphia should be distributing pot to its citizens. It might actually calm people down from being such in-your-face obnoxious louts. There were few friendlier more polite people in Philly than the teenage kids outside the convenience stores who would pleasantly ask you to buy them a blunt inside.

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