Feature: ONDCP Kicks Off Annual Summer Marijuana Scare Campaign With Report Linking Drugs to Gangs, Violence

ONDCP TV ad ''flat''
Drug czar John Walters and his minions at the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) have kicked off the summer season with a report on teens, drugs, gangs, and violence. The report, part of ONDCP's widely criticized National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, links marijuana use to gang membership and links teen drug use to higher rates of violence and other anti-social activities. But the ONDCP report is raising a storm of disapproval from critics who charge it is misleading and intentionally obfuscatory.

"Teens who use drugs are more likely to engage in violent and delinquent behavior and join gangs," the report declared. "Research shows that early use of marijuana -- the most commonly used drug among teens -- is a warning sign for later gang involvement." After next warning that summer is a risky time and that "teens who use drugs are twice as likely to commit violent acts," the report got to a series of bullet points including the following:

  • Teens who use drugs, particularly marijuana, are more likely to steal and experiment with other drugs and alcohol, compared to teens who don't;
  • One in four teens (27%) who used illicit drugs in the past year report attacking others with the intent to harm;
  • Nearly one in six teens (17%) who got into serious fights at school or work in the past year report using drugs;
  • Teens who use marijuana regularly are nine times more likely than teens who don't to experiment with other illicit drugs or alcohol, and five times more likely to steal.

"This is such transparent nonsense that I'm almost speechless," said Bruce Mirken, the usually loquacious communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project. "Marijuana doesn't cause violence and it doesn't cause criminality. Prohibition, however, does. That's the connection and that's exactly what they don't want to talk about. In that sense, this report is even more egregiously dishonest than most of what ONDCP puts out."

"It is incredibly ironic to see ONDCP simultaneously advancing the idea that marijuana causes laziness, which it has been doing for years, and then turn around and try to tell us that marijuana causes violence," said Scott Morgan, blogger for DRCNet. "It is also pretty shoddy to suggest a link between marijuana and gang membership. To whatever extent marijuana users are likely to join gangs, these relationships are facilitated by drug prohibition, which creates the black market in which these gangs thrive."

"That some kids join gangs has nothing to do with marijuana at all," agreed Mirken. "Our drug laws have handed the marijuana market to the gangs, and the association is a direct result of stupid laws. If we regulated marijuana like alcohol, those associations would disappear overnight."

In fact, the data linking marijuana use to gang membership is quite limited. ONDCP relied on one 2001 study of Seattle students to arrive at the conclusion that the two are linked.

"Walters and Murray seem to have their usual array of components at work here: an ad hominem attack against the 1960s, a bunch of supposedly pro-family pablum, an attack against those who take a different approach, and their typical twisting of data for the uninformed," groaned Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

"What ONDCP is in effect telling us is that its billions of dollars worth of propaganda does not stop young people from using marijuana, and secondly, that a very small percentage of them go on to experiment with other drugs," said St. Pierre.

Pete Guither at the Drug WarRant blog took issue with the claim that drug users were involved in 17% of fights. "It all sounds scary, unless you actually look at it," he wrote. "If you look at the 2007 Monitoring the Future report, you see that the percentages of any teens who used drugs in the past year are: 8th grade (14.8%), 10th grade (28.7%), and 12th grade (36.5%). So to say that 17% of teens who got into serious fights report using drugs is not a particularly alarming thing. In fact, it appears by these numbers that teens who use drugs are actually less likely to get into serious fights."

ONDCP also seems to have trouble with the notion of cause and effect, said MPP's Mirken. "If you look at the studies of kids, the ones who are smoking marijuana or using drugs or alcohol at a young age are the ones that are already having problems, already not doing well in school," said Mirken. "It is not surprising that this troubled group of young people is doing all sorts of bad behaviors, but trying to pin that on marijuana is just absolute nonsense."

The report's release may have more to do with ONDCP worries about budget cuts for programs proven not to be effective, like the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, than with actual cause and effect relationships between youth drug use and anti-social behavior, suggested Tom Angell, government relations director for Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP).

"It would appear that ONDCP has nervously pushed this out because they are terrified that congressional leaders are moving to cut the funding for many of their so-called anti-drug programs," said Angell. "They're grasping at straws, trying to get as much ammo as possible to defend their much-loved big budget items."

"This is just another shock report that ONDCP feels it needs to put out to get any press at all," said St. Pierre. "Everything ONDCP has done for the last five years is about whipping up fear, anxiety, and emotional contagion among parents to try to maintain the status quo and keep some part of the media reporting on this ridiculous report."

Even there, ONDCP had limited success. Aside from reports in several Philadelphia media outlets, where drug czar Walters held a press conference to announce the report, a lone Associated Press story was picked up by 65 media outlets, most of them TV news stations in small to medium markets. Only a handful of print media ran the story, and that includes one outlet in marijuana-phobic Australia and one in Great Britain.

But that won't stop ONDCP from producing more sensational but misleading reports, said NORML's St. Pierre. "We can set our calendars and know that about a week before school starts in the fall, we'll get the next big scare effort from ONDCP," he predicted.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Teen drug use

I suspect, as was the case when I was in the 10th grade 35 years ago, and kid's were asked to respond to a "random study" asking questions pertaining to any use of drugs or alcohol, the word going around in our hall's was to admit to nothing.

Quite simply, had the authorities known of the actual numbers, we knew (and I'm pretty sure kid's today know as well) the place would be swarming with narc's in a flash!

I'm really at a loss as to why the majority of the American public who are worried about their children using drugs can't see that prohibition/the black market are the reason(s) why kid's can get their hands on drugs so easily?

Free pass for tobacco

A much higher percentage of teens smoked tobacco before pot and then joined gangs. Tobacco is the gateway drug because nobody considers it mentally harmful even if it does offer you a 50/50 chance of living or dying if you become addicted to tobacco. Take another deep drag John Walters, may you die a long and painful death from tobacco and alcohol accelerated by daily prescription abuse, cancer of the liver and lungs that only marijuana will help with the pain.

pot causes...

Isn't it also strange that in old civilizations where records of family and village life were kept long before the United States was known, never mind such a world pestilence, marijuana and opium and coca plants were known and used in acceptable ways, and no one thought it outside the norm.
What would Walters et al do with their time if it weren't for us?

smoking equipment reform solves health problems

Scare warnings about marijuana (cannabis riefer) almost always presuppose overdose cigaret rolling papers format, promoted by tobacco companies for the sake of their profit margin. No matter what you smoke, overdose is the issue. Typical commercial cigarets contain 700 mg. of tobacco; most joints at
least half that weight.
totally unnecessary; any 6-year-old in a garage can
make a miniature safety utensil with 25 mg. serving
capacity using material found in most any neighborhood.

Carbon monoxide creates a malaise or feeling of ineptitude often described as, "I'm stoned!" (I.e. stunned). The major deception of nicotine tobacco is that byflooding the system with glucose (bloodsugar = pleasure) this impact of carbon monoxide is masked and easily ignored altogether. The cigaret smoker
feels wide awake and alert (because the brain got an extra supply of glucose) and mistakes this hypervigilancy for being smart or healthy. That's why
addicts are willingto smoke themselves to death, nature's warning has been blasted away. If you
smoke comparable quantities of riefer, oregano, peppermint or any other non-nicotinous herb, you will be quite aware of this "stoned"phenomenon and will tend to reduce your smoking accordingly.

It should therefore be obvious why the tobacco industry wants riefer kept illegal-- it does not want anyone to get used to moderate smoking or miniaturizing equipment. If riefer were legalized, 25-mg. serving size tokers would immediately be legal on its coattails so to speak and this conservative behavior could overflow onto tobacco users, including the masses who inhale cigaret tobacco. A standard cigaret would be broken down into 28 separate servings, accessible any time all day, and their profit margin is shot to hell, pardon my french.

A typical 1/4 inch socket wrench can be made into a 25-mg. toker by adding an appropriately shaped 40 mesh wire screen and stuffing a 1/4 inch plastic tube in the opposite (square or drivfer) end. The longer the tube the better, giving the heated air more distance to cool down before it reaches your trachea. (Remember, a typical hotburning overdose nicotine cigaret must reach 1500 degrees F. on the first puff in order to continue burning-- all that seven inches from your trachea. /in a 1/4 inch diameter toker you can burn your 25 mg. serving of properly sifted herb several
hundred degrees less hot for about 5-l0 seconds per toke.

The principal toxic agent in smoke is not radioactivity (at worst, 100,000 deaths/yr./USA from lung canc er)
but carbon monoxide (200,000 deaths/yr./USA from
cardiovascular illnesses). A true assessment of the effects of moderate amounts of smoking, especially as concerns riefer (cannabis) is that one 25-mg. toke is enough especially in the morning beofre eating and if you have had a respite of 2 days. A second toke is no big deal-- still only 50 mg. or a tenth of a typical "joint" (i.e. giant).Additional tokes add relatively little of value-- the curve of benefits flattens out. On the other hand, the damage caused by carbon monoxide is exceedignly mild from one tokie but picks up more and more rapidly as you go on smoking. A 2001
pall Mall magazine ad campaign bragged that smokers could get 10.8 puffs from a Pall Mall compared with 9.l from a Marlboro. What kind of drug addiction is that which (a pack-a-day smoker) needsl82 servings of the drug every day??

By introducing and promoting an anti-overdose utensil it may be possible to eliminate not only the drug war against marijuana, but the pathologies of tobacco, cocaine, heroin. If riefer were legal and cheap who would buy the life threatening alternatives anymore?
the tobacco industry has shown it would rather keep children bjying cocain, heroin etc. than do the obvious thing to eliminate those things by legalizing reifer, which would destroy their profit margin. In a conciliatory vein, an effort should be made to heoplp those wholse livelihood depends on tobacco and other toxic drugs to earn some money helping to manufacture and promote appropriate utensils and also to do socially valuable things like reforestation on the land formerly usuPOVRIVrped by tobacco crops.

Teen Drug Use

I don't care what people say is bad about using drugs, it's obviously not getting through to those teens who do drugs. I'm 18 years old and I have never done drugs, never smoke, never had not one sip of alcohol. I'm almost embarressed to be a teenager. I can't say what exactly would stop teens from doing drugs. It's that time of their life when they feel rebellious and won't listen to what anyone has to say. I think it's a ridiculous way to go about being rebellious, I for one do not want to kill myself faster by doing drugs. I think it's even more ridiculous that drug use is starting to become a problem in middle school, do they think it's cool or sometihng? On top of health uses, teen drug users are ruining the morality of our country. And we're supposed to be the leaders of tomorrow? Teen drug use needs to stop. There is ABSOLUTELY NO EXCUSE for drug use. I don't care if you had a bad childhood and the parents were drug users and not around, kids should be using those experiences as something to motivate them to have better lives, not be just as bad or worse. I'm scared for what this country is coming to.

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