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Legalizing Marijuana Sends Wrong Message to Young People, Kerlikowske Says


Legalizing marijuana sends the wrong message to young people, R. Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), said this week. “We are certainly not sending a very good message when we call it medicine and legalize it,” he told The Oregonian.

ONDCP calls marijuana addictive and unsafe, especially for use by young people. Marijuana, which was recently legalized in Colorado and Washington, remains illegal under federal law. Kerlikowske pointed to a 2012 survey that found 7.4 percent of California drivers tested positive for marijuana use—more than for alcohol.

In a recent ONDCP web post, Kerlikowske wrote, “it is clear that we’re in the midst of a serious national conversation about marijuana.”

16 Responses to this article

  1. Avatar of Stel Stel
    Stel Stel / March 17, 2014 at 10:42 am

    Kids do not believe any message the government sends in regard to cannabis anyway. It has lied for so many decades, why would they suddenly trust them now? We cannot hide the truth, that it is one of, if not the least harmful of recreational substances…especially in this modern age of information.

    What message does it send when we legalize alcohol and not cannabis? That alcohol is the safer choice even though it causes nearly 100,000 U.S. deaths every year and is a major contributing factor in 40% of violent crimes [CDC. 1998]? Keeping cannabis illegal promotes more alcohol use, which for anyone who has researched this, knows is a significantly more harmful drug than cannabis.

  2. Avatar of Carol
    Carol / April 23, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    Growing up in Vancouver, I know so many young people that have been NEGATIVELY affected by OVERUSING pot and I’m dead set againat it. Young people are already being killed or seriously injured daily just from the negative affects of drinking too much and driving. Therefore what STUPID message do you think that legalizing pot is going to send? Not to mention so many of our young people today are so LAZY already and don’t want to work hard to get ahead, therefore sitting around in a cloud of smoke getting High is only going to make it worse and keep them from having the energy to do MORE with their lives.

  3. Ken Wolski / February 9, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    The argument that marijuana has never killed anyone has come from a failure to find any bodies related to marijuana use.

    From the Washington Post:

    The largest study of its kind has unexpectedly concluded that smoking marijuana, even regularly and heavily, does not lead to lung cancer.

    The new findings “were against our expectations,” said Donald Tashkin of the University of California at Los Angeles, a pulmonologist who has studied marijuana for 30 years.

    “We hypothesized that there would be a positive association between marijuana use and lung cancer, and that the association would be more positive with heavier use,” he said. “What we found instead was no association at all, and even a suggestion of some protective effect.”

  4. Avatar of Mike Cirka
    Mike Cirka / January 27, 2013 at 5:28 pm

    Wow… I am in awe of how woefully misinformed this guy is. Cannabis isn’t addictive for one and is far safer than tobacco or alcohol, both of which are perfectly legal.

    On top of that, if he really cared about youths, he’d be all for legalization, regulation and taxation. Ask any high school kid and they’ll tell you it’s easier to buy pot than cigarettes or alcohol. Legitimate establishments check ID. Criminal dealers do not. A drug dealer would sell a 5 year old crystal meth if they had the cash.

    There are about 1000 other arguments for legalization I could post here, but more like me will do that for me. The fact is that the only people that the anti-drug advocates are lying to these days is themselves. Thanks to the internet the rest of us are too well informed to bother giving these people the time of day.

  5. Ben House / January 23, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    Kerlikowski is concerned about sending the wrong message to youth…but the cottage industries that have sprung up in the “war on drugs” lobbies strongly with other wrong messages. Even our schools do not teach critical thinking skills and I fear youth will learn on their own and make the mistakes misinformation has cast on generations before in their learning curve. If he and others want to do some good give out the facts and stop the lies.
    In my opinion much of the discontent that is a contributor to drug use/abuse stems from not trusting our authority figures to give us the facts. W. Glasser (Reality Theory and Positive Addictions) wrote clearly about how when we believe nothing really matters having fun is all that does.

  6. Avatar of Nick
    Nick / January 22, 2013 at 6:06 pm

    Legalize it! Do the research yourself. You will see why the most damaging thing about marijuana is its prohibition

  7. Eric Wood / January 22, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    Where has this argument that marijuana has never killed anyone come from? It is absurd to think any smoked chemical cannot contribute to phenomenal amounts of lung damage or even cancer. Just because no one has died from an overdose on a substance doesn’t mean it cannot contribute to a fatal outcome. Has anyone ever died of a nicotine overdose?

    Emergency room visits for marijuana-related accidents and toxicity have risen sharply, particularly as growers have become ingeniously sophisticated at artificially increasing the potency of marijuana (all the while claiming how natural it still is). We also now understand through legitimate research that marijuana-impaired drivers are at least as likely to cause accidents while driving as alcohol-impaired drivers.

    If we can get away from the mindless flag-waving on both sides of the ideological fence, we might recognize marijuana-derived medications have been proven safe and effective and are currently approved for use to treat the very conditions the pro-marijuana crowd has targeted. However, these medications don’t get people high, so they have been abandoned by marijuana proponents. How odd they still lead their campaign with the medical marijuana defense.

    Sadly, the bigger issue in all this hysteria and hype of legal marijuana is the fact we are currently in the largest epidemic of drug abuse the country has ever seen. Prescription drug abuse is sharply on the rise, as Join Together has accurately chronicled over the last decade. Hundreds of thousands of people’s lives are becoming damaged beyond measure by the tide of prescription drug abuse and dependence. Is this really the time to try and push another addictive substance onto the public just because you think it is safer than alcohol?

  8. Fred / January 22, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    The answer, as it usually is, lies somewhere between the extremes. Putting young people in prison for possession of marijuana is too extreme as well as too expensive. But the thought of people smoking a joint as they are driving past me on the freeway is also extreme. True, it should not be a schedule 1 drug so that scientists can explore the medical values, but it is also true that MJ induces forgetfulness and apathy in constant users and I don’t think a nation of couch potatoes is a goal to strive for. However, the continued criminalization of MJ is the main source of income (60%) of money supporting the drug cartels in Mexico and the US. I support making MJ use a misdemeanor, and letting the scientific community study what benefits there may be in marijuana. I support keeping our young population out of jail instead of making them felons unable to even apply for most jobs for the rest of their lives. The punishment is way too extreme, one could say cruel and unusual, to punish them for the rest of their lives for such a slight infraction.

  9. AddictionMD / January 21, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    I agree with Mr. Kerlikowske. I hope that in his second term, President Obama will take a stand for our nation’s youth and health and enforce federal laws concerning controlled substances and FDA approval for medications.

    If the benefits of smoked marijuana outweigh the risks, then marijuana growers should let the FDA decide the weight of the evidence and approve or disapprove the use of marijuana as medicine, rather than lobbying state legislatures and the general public to bypass the system we have to help insure medication safety and effectiveness.

  10. Ken Wolski / January 19, 2013 at 8:12 pm

    Concern about the message we are sending is the last refuge of someone who has run out of cogent arguments.

    Indeed, it makes no sense to criminalize marijuana. Logically, it makes no sense when far more dangerous and addicting substances are not criminalized. Financially, it is a drain on scarce resources when far more dangerous and damaging crime should be pursued. Morally, it is repugnant that the majority of victims of this policy are racial minorities.

    Of far more concern is telling the truth. Marijuana prohibition rests on a lie. The lie is that marijuana is a Schedule I drug, with no accepted medical uses in the U.S., and is unsafe for use even under medical supervision. As a Schedule I drug it is in the same class with heroin, a powerfully addictive and potentially deadly drug. Yet marijuana is about as addictive as caffeine and has never killed anyone. To put marijuana in the same class with heroin is absurd.

    This exaggeration of the dangers of marijuana and denial of its medical benefits is a lie, pure and simple. Government officials should stop telling it.

  11. Michael Abbott / January 18, 2013 at 11:52 pm

    I think that there is a good argument for helping adolescents cope with decisions about marijuana use by making it legal. Kids are well aware of the mixed messages and hypocrisy of the legal use of alcohol and tobacco while marijuana is illegal. They need to have valid information about the use of psychoactive substances to make responsible decisions. “It’s illegal” makes as much sense as “just say no”. That didn’t work either.

  12. Jamie Matter / January 18, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    If I could wave a magic wand and change America’s drug of choice from alcohol to marijuana, I would. Unfortunately, legalization means that the “new” drug of choice will likely be marijuana PLUS alcohol, which will be worse than either by itself. My personal candidate for “most insidious” is still tobacco, though.

  13. Eric Wood / January 18, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    I remain convinced marijuana is the most insideous drug of abuse we have on the planet. The Pandora’s Box legalization has opened is likely to have ctastrophic and irreversable consequences on youth for generations to come.

  14. David Judy / January 21, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    Marijuana has been around for centuries-literally centuries. Alcohol has been around for almost the same amount of time. Neither one is a proven stomping ground for going on to worse things. Parents need to teach “the right choice”. Alcohol is much, much worse than pot and IT IS LEGAL.

  15. Doug / January 25, 2013 at 8:17 pm

    Many things that are currently legal would be outlawed if the objective requirement were that the costs outweigh the benefits. What we have instead is a legacy of racially biased drug laws that have cast a wide net and created both the private prison industry and the drug cartels while decimating individuals, budgets and communities. Sending the children a healthy message would involve better gun safety, less violence, a smaller military, outlawing alcohol and tobacoo, and placing a heavy tax on burgers, fries, shakes, sodas, chips, etc. Criminalizing otherwise law-abiding citizens is the opposite of public health and common sense.

  16. Joshua / April 24, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    you seem to imply that there is no responsible level of use that is possible. the same arguments you make here apply to the overuse of alcohol, yet we have somehow managed in our society to find some happy medium between prohibition and constant, unending drunkenness. nobody is talking about legalizing driving while high, or legalizing use by children; and anybody who had thought about it for more than 12 seconds realizes that most people who choose to use pot (if legal) will use it like they use alcohol.

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