With the ominous declaration that children have greater access to marijuana because of state-level legalization, the National District Attorneys Association (NDAA) wants to see federal drug laws enforced across the country.
The NDAA’s position on marijuana:
Federal drug enforcement policy regarding the manufacture, importation, possession, use and distribution of marijuana should be applied consistently across the nation to maintain respect for the rule of law.
While the NDAA claims to support the “ongoing” research of medical marijuana and the increase of “research-grade” marijuana – the federally-grown marijuana that’s contaminated with yeast, mold, and lead, according to a PBS report – they also make it clear that cultivating, distributing, selling, using, or possessing marijuana for medical purposes is in direct conflict of federal law.
According to the NDAA Perspective, “As a Schedule I drug, federal authorities have found that marijuana has a high potential for abuse, no accepted medical use, and lacks safety for use under medical supervision.”
Children’s access to marijuana is one of NDAA’s main points of concern:
Legalization of marijuana for medical use and recreational use clearly sends a message to youth that marijuana is not dangerous and increases youth access to marijuana. This is not like alcohol, which is also readily available to and a significant problem for youth, because alcohol use does not cause the same type of permanent changes to teens’ ability to concentrate and learn that marijuana does.
The cited claim about increased access comes from an organization called Rethinking Access to Marijuana (RAM). According to RAM, “The greater the number of marijuana outlets in your city, the more youth will have access to it.” This claim, while not directly cited by RAM, appears to originate from a study published in 2011 on adolescent marijuana use based data collected between 2002 and 2008. The study concluded that “the most likely of several possible explanations for higher adolescent marijuana use and lower perceptions of risk in MML (medical marijuana law) states cannot be determined.” The 2011 study suggests more research.
In the country’s most mature marijuana market, Colorado, government studies based on more recent data on the marijuana consumption habits of Colorado high school students concluded that Colorado high schoolers indulge in less marijuana than the national average for their age group.
In particular, the biannual poll conducted by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment showed that teen marijuana use fell dramatically in Colorado after the state opened its recreational marijuana market. The study, which combines years of data to build a larger sample size to analyze, shows that marijuana use among children ages 12 to 17 dropped 20.81 percent from 2013/2014 to 2014/2015 — a 12% year-to-year decrease.
In February of this year, Colorado’s Gov. Hickenlooper told NBC’s Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press” that his state “didn’t see a spike in teenage use. If anything, it’s come down in the last year.”
While the NDAA and the cannabis community are in agreement that adolescents shouldn’t have access to recreational marijuana, unfortunately, there remains a monumental disconnect on how to accomplish that worthy goal.
The NDAA’s report is particularly alarming given that federal protections for individuals adhering to state medical marijuana laws could expire this Friday if Congress fails to pass a national spending bill for 2017. Medical marijuana businesses are currently protected by a policy rider that must be re-enacted each year. If Congress fails to pass a spending bill, Attorney General Jeff Sessions could follow the NDAA’s Marijuana Policy Perspective and begin enforcing federal marijuana laws as soon as April 29, 2017.