Wednesday, September 15, 2004

If this is "encouraging news," one wonders what bad news would look like

Alternet posts a weekly roundup of drug war news that's always worth reading in full. Baylen's excellent post on crack cocaine is included but we won't bother to summarize since we know you're reading his blog at D'Alliance every day anyway.

Bruce Mirken also has a stellar piece in this week's edition on the statistics our government's prohibitionist agencies use to pretend they are succeeding in eliminating the use of drugs in society. Mirken "fisks" the statistics and they come up sorely lacking in credibility. For instance on the often spun fallacy that teenagers are turning away from marijuana, Bruce has this to say.

Central to Thompson's claim of progress is a reduction in the percentage of 12- to-17-year-olds who say they have ever used marijuana; from 20.6 percent in 2002 to 19.6 percent in 2003. But that 19.6 percent figure is two and a half times the 1970 rate, and exactly equal to the previous historical peak, 1979. The only time it's ever been higher was during a record-setting spike from 1998 to 2002.

Overall, use of illicit drugs actually rose a bit in 2003, and the number of Americans who have used marijuana reached an all-time high of 97 million. Some 15 million Americans used marijuana at least monthly, also an increase from 2002. That's the equivalent of every man, woman and child in Alabama, Maine, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Wyoming and North Dakota lighting up each month.

Given that for three years running the administration has carpet-bombed the airwaves with commercials designed to terrify the public about the dangers of marijuana, this is an astonishing record of failure.

He also points out that cocaine use is on the rise among the entire population with the number of teens trying cocaine for the first time being now nearly four times 1970 figures. Even more disturbing is the nexus between the anti-drug campaigns and alcohol abuse among our young people.

We seem to have convinced young people that binge drinking is safer than smoking even a little marijuana. 54.4 percent of 12- to-17-year olds said they considered it a "great risk" to their health to smoke any amount of marijuana once or twice per week. Only 38.5 percent saw great risk in binge drinking once or twice a week.

Along with the title of this post that I cribbed from the article, this pretty much sums up the problem for me as well.

Policy has come completely unhinged from reality. Despite a tripling of marijuana arrests since the Nixon era, marijuana use has skyrocketed while officials pick through the data for encouraging snippets and ignoring the big picture. Worse, they find reason to cheer at figures suggesting that we may be driving kids away from a comparatively benign drug toward one that is far more lethal.

And if you don't believe alchohol is worse try hanging out in a college sports bar on a Saturday night.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home