Drug Policy

If Cancer Patients Are Smoking Pot, It Must Be Cool


Ever since activists began campaigning for ballot initiatives that recognize cannabis as a medicine, the Marijuana Policy Project notes in a new report, drug warriors have been warning that such measures "send the wrong message to young people," as DEA Administrator Thomas Constantine put it just before California voters approved the nation's first medical marijuana law in 1996. Constantine elaborated:

How can we expect our children to reject drugs when some authorities are telling them that illegal drugs should no longer remain illegal, but should be used instead to help the sick?…We cannot afford to send ambivalent messages about drugs. 

Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell cited the same concern when she vetoed a medical marijuana bill in 2007, and last year drug czar Gil Kerlikowske told the Associated Press, "I think all of the attention and the focus of calling marijuana medicine has sent the absolute wrong message to our young people." This argument has never made much sense to me, since it seems implausible that linking marijuana to cancer and AIDS patients would make it seem cooler to teenagers. The government permits medical use of many drugs that can be used to get high. Does giving morphine to cancer patients or Adderall to narcoleptics "send the wrong message to young people"?

In any case, as the MPP report shows, there is very little evidence that medical marijuana laws encourage teenagers to smoke pot. Karen O'Keefe, MPP's director of state policies, and Mitch Earleywine, a marijuana expert who is a psychology professor at SUNY-Albany, looked at all the available survey data on pot consumption by teenagers before and after the legalization of medical marijuana. Here is what they found:

Nearly 15 years after the passage of the nation's first state medical marijuana law, California's Prop. 215, a considerable body of data shows that teens' marijuana use has generally gone down following the passage of medical marijuana laws. Of the 13 states with effective medical marijuana laws with before-and-after data on teen marijuana use, only the two with the most recently enacted laws (Michigan and New Mexico) have indicated possible increases, both of which are modest and [statistically insignificant]. In Rhode Island, the data indicate teens' lifetime marijuana may have slightly decreased while current use may have slightly increased, but those changes are also within confidence intervals. The 10 remaining states have all reported overall decreases—some of which are also [statistically insignificant] and some of which are significant. Generally, no state with an overall change outside of the confidence intervals saw an increase in teens' marijuana use, strongly suggesting that enactment of state medical marijuana laws does not increase teen marijuana use.

Marijuana use declined nationwide during this period, and it does not look like that downward trend was weaker in states with medical marijuana laws. In the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System's national surveys (conducted every two years), the share of ninth-graders reporting past-month marijuana use fell from 20.9 percent in 1995 to 15.5 percent in 2009, a drop of 26 percent. In the California Student Survey, that rate fell from from 23.6 in 1995 (the year before Prop. 215 was approved) to 15.4 percent in 2008, a drop of 35 percent.

The full text of the MPP report is here (PDF). I discuss earlier editions of the report here and here.

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  1. Chemo drugs are the all the rage around here with the cool kids.

  2. Pumping boys full of Ritalin so that they won't be boys sends young people the wrong message.

  3. "How can we expect our children to reject drugs when some authorities are telling them that illegal drugs should no longer remain illegal, but should be used instead to help the sick??We cannot afford to send ambivalent messages about drugs."

    Written another way:

    "How can we expect our children to reject cutting themselves when some authorities are telling them that open heart surgery should no longer remain illegal, but should be used instead to help people who need heart transplants??We cannot afford to send ambivalent messages about cutting."

  4. The old woman has to smoke a joint? Won't Medicare cover a vaporizer?

    1. Vaporizing makes it smell weird.

      1. no way, vaporizing brings out so much more flavor...the taste is very yummy, but i guess everyone has their own opinion:)

        also it should be noted that there are thc cartridges that you can put in e-cigs now, for a 100% harmless inhalation route! you can either suspend the thc in propylene glycol(same carrier used in asthma inhalers) or you can make cannabis acetate (same process used for turning salycic acid into aspirin) and this will thin down the thc oil to be suitable with e-cigs. the harm reduction has arrived people! thc smoke is a thing of the past!

      2. If it smells weird, you are vaporizing at too high a temperature.

        1. Yeah, that usually means you are vaporizing some of the chromophylls or (if it's up really too high) are starting to burn hemicelluloses and decompose pectin.

  5. Why would we think a person whose job is titled 'Drug Czar' or who is a warrior in the War on Drugs would hold an objective, studied opinion about drugs...or youth?

    1. considering kerlikowske was a craven, cowardly, simpering, nannystate pawn of the mayor when he was seattle city police chief, why should we expect anything but further weakass suckitude from him as drug czar?

      1. Aren't all police chiefs fundamentally political animals?

        1. generally speaking, yes. since they are usually appointed by mayors/city councils and serve at their pleasure.

          contrast with county sheriffs, who are usually elected and answer only to the electorate. since they are not political appointees, they don't have to bow and scrape to the politicians

    2. Is this a trick question?

  6. I'm confused. I thought all prescription drugs were illegal without a prescription. So how is it that they are used to help the sick without sending mixed messages to the yoots?

    1. The reason you are confused is because you are not an idiot.

      1. Ignorance IS strength.

    2. They are, which is why states are already sniffing around the edges of the "It's Medicine!" argument. If it's medicine, then they can start cracking down on over prescribing and add all kinds of delicious regulatory systems on it.

      1. WA in its continuing scheme of leftwing nannystate assmunchery just passed some regulations putting very strict new regulations on doctors in regards to their ability to prescribe any sort of opioids for pain (apart from post-surgical pain). our local public radio actually did a very good and fair report on this new legislation, interviewing a longterm chronic pain patient who was now considering buying STREET heroin because he won't be able to get his painkillers anymore.

        fwiw, i just dealt with an overdose yesterday (stopped breathing and revived) and we have been having a metric assload of heroin oversdoses recently due to imo some adulterated heroin and the fact that numerous former oxycontin addicts are switching to heroin now. sigh... oxy is WAY safer, because you get purity and precise dosing

        1. If possible, the interference with doctors and opiates surpasses even MJ illegality in pointless cruelty.

          1. most definitely. these are people in chronic pain. making it exceedingly difficult for these people to get legal relief (when the technology exists) is almost as bad as causing the pain in the first place

            it's unconscionable

  7. In any case, as the MPP report shows, there is very little evidence that medical marijuana laws encourage teenagers to smoke pot.

    The laws are encouraging teens to... get CANCER!

    1. they will be putting their balls in microwave. mark my words.

      MARK THEM!

    2. If they live in CA, they can just say "uh, my back hurts, or something". No ball microwaving needed.

  8. Its sort of like how kids are going around irradiating themselves after radiation therapy was developed to kill tumors.

    1. Man, I just wanted a taste of mutant life.

      1. that sounds familiar.. was i..? whaa..?

        no. it must have just been a dream.

  9. "I was first introduced to marihuana by a coon singer called Skelley. Do you young people have coon songs?"

  10. DEA Administrator Thomas Constantine.

    Someone I would love to hear gets cancer and dies of malnutrition during chemo due to loss of appetite & puking up worthless (though highly abuseable!) Marinol pills.

    1. He's one of the chosen, he would have access to every PD evidence locker in the country.

      1. not really. we local cops don't cotton to no federal revenooooers types picking around in our evidences.

  11. I would prefer to treat my cancer with PCP.

  12. "drug warriors have been warning that such measures"

    Call them what they are: Prohibitionists. They are not fighting drugs; they are fighting other people.

  13. I can't wait to cut out my prostate. It'll be so cool!

  14. God forbid young people smoke some marijuana!

  15. Part of the reason why medical marijuana laws may be weakly correlated with teen use is that, 15 years on, actually growing medical marijuana is still getting people in very hot water in California.

    In other words, medical pot is only theoretically legal here.

  16. He's right in that we can't afford to send ambivalent messages about drugs. So why doesn't he take his own advice and stop pushing lies?

    1. not to mention that if there is any way to make something UNCOOL to teenagers, it is seeing their grandparents doing it.

      if anything will make pot seem UNcool to teens, it's seeing geriatrics smoking it.

      1. That's why I belive the only way to get the youngins from saging is if we start doing it too.

      2. Nah, that only works with parents. Grandparents are inherently cooler than parents; their atavisms are considered quaint and endearing in a way that one's parents' hang-ups are considered stifling.

        1. there is some truth to this. otoh, apart from the candy ravers, i am not seeing a lot of yutes cruising around in depends.

  17. I can't wait for the potheads to stop demanding their right to do the weed in airplanes, restaurants, offices, and pretty much every place where you can't smoke now.

    1. WTF are you talking about?

    2. The War on Tobacco is every bit as much bullshit as the War on Drugs...but they aren't locking up tens of thousands for cig abuse. Yet.

      1. At my company I can't even smoke in the parking lot, I have to walk to a shelter. Well, "had" for you see, I haven't smoked in 4 weeks because I refuse to smoke in a shelter like a goddamm homeless person.

    3. GREGOOOOOOOO!!!!!

      uhh...shut up Beavis! hehe

  18. there is very little evidence that medical marijuana laws encourage teenagers to smoke pot

    Like teens need any encouragement, c'mon.

  19. Pot smoking is down among teens in Michigan because of medical marijuana. The cost of an ounce skyrocketed and now all the kids can afford is heroin.

    1. Skyrocketed? In CO it's dropped like a rock since they allowed dispensaries.

  20. The message it would send kids would be that if you don't take care of your body and avoid fruits and veggies your whole life, and develop a smoking habit, then we'll let you smoke pot when you get cancer.

    Not only does it encourage drug abuse but also unhealthy diet and inhalation habits. Maybe I'm not as enlightened as you are, but that's not a message I sign on to.

    1. Because as all science has conclusively proven, the only reason anyone ever gets cancer, or any other illness requiring chronic pain management (pun intended), is through poor choices they made with nutrition while growing up. Nothing else causes cancer, ever, and there are no other illnesses which marijuana may be useful in helping. Therefore we are encouraging poor life choices.

    2. Yeah, cuz everyone knows kids have time horizons of 40 - 50 years...

  21. How can we expect our children to reject drugs when some authorities are telling them that illegal drugs should no longer remain illegal, but should be used instead to help the sick?

    *clutches head, flings self off roof*

  22. You know what is cooler than marijuana? Cancer. Everyone is getting it.


    How can you be a lawmaker? You have to suspend all commonsense?

  23. When kids find out the pot-smoking AIDS patients got that way from anal sex without a condom, they'll all be wanting anal sex without a condom.

    Anal sex.

    (just had to "say" it one more time)

  24. The problem with "send a message" laws is the message is usually, "We're a bunch of lying hypocritical douchebags." Kids pick up on that.

  25. Dad: What are you doing taking thalidomide and interferon?

    Teen: I LEARNED IT FROM YOU!!!1!

  26. " drug czar Gil Kerlikowske told the Associated Press, "I think all of the attention and the focus of calling marijuana medicine has sent the absolute wrong message to our young people.""

    And what message might that be? That people can determine what substances are medicinal without needing FDA approval? Yep, that would truly be the "absolute wrong message," wouldn't it?

  27. After granny finishes that bomber she can go to the airport and get strip searched and hauled off to the pokey.

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