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Teens hear all the wrong messages on Marijuana


News coverage of the recently released Arizona Youth Survey focused on the alarming increase in vaping by the state’s teens. But that wasn’t the only bad news in the survey of nearly 49,000 eighth, tenth and twelfth graders.

Merilee Fowler

Merilee Fowler

The number of teens who said they regularly use marijuana jumped by nearly a third since the 2016 report. And nearly one in three students said they’ve tried marijuana, a 5-percentage-point increase in just two years.

Nearly one-fourth said they had tried highly potent concentrates. One in six said they’d ridden in a car with someone who used pot.

One-fourth of those who use pot regularly said they got it from a medical-marijuana card holder, and another 11 percent said they bought it at a dispensary.

While I’m glad legislators are acting to keep the highly addictive nicotine in e-cigarettes out of teens’ hands, I wish there was the same public response to the rising use of marijuana among teens. Instead, the marijuana industry has been allowed to promote a portrait of pot as medicine, safer than alcohol, a cure to the opioid crisis, a godsend for the elderly (never mind that most Arizona medical card holders are men under 30).

Teens hear this message. They hear that vaping is safer than smoking and flock to it. They hear that marijuana is harmless and use it at record rates.

This needs to change.

You’d expect me to say this. I work every day to keep kids drug free. But what if a former investigative reporter for The New York Times says the same thing? That’s what Alex Berenson warns in his new book, “Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness and Violence.”

The scientific literature has turned remarkably against marijuana even while legalization madness has spread across the country. As Berenson notes, the National Academy of Medicine reported in 2017 that “Cannabis use is likely to increase the risk of schizophrenia and other psychoses; the higher the use, the greater the risk.”

This is in part because marijuana is so much stronger than it was in the 1970s and 1980s. Then, THC content was generally 5 percent or less. Today, leafy marijuana averages 25 percent THC, and extracts are nearly pure THC. It’s the difference between taking a few sips of beer and downing a bottle of whiskey.

Other studies have shown that teens’ still-developing brains are at greater risk of developing psychoses with regular marijuana use.

Berenson points out that the first four states to legalize marijuana have seen sharp increases in murders and aggravated assaults since 2014 – far higher than the rest of the nation. So much for marijuana mellowing the population.

Marijuana is a dangerous, mind-altering drug. In today’s highly potent forms, it poses risks to adults and children, but the risks are far greater for teens. Let’s no longer let the pot profiteers fill our children’s brains with dangerous messages. It’s time to make sure the truth is told, so the next youth survey doesn’t give us even more to be alarmed about.

— Merilee Fowler is executive director of MATFORCE, a Yavapai County nonprofit striving to eliminate substance abuse. Contact her at [email protected]


  1. I clearly remember smoking cannabis the first time. I was a teen in high school (circa 1973) and the administration was feeding us a constant stream of reefer madness propaganda. After the mild amazing experience was over I knew that all the anti marijuana rhetoric was complete nonsense designed to create fear. At that point my trust in “the system” was broken. The experience was nothing like what had been described by the Reefer Madness propaganda we were subjected to in school. Through the years I watched the effects of drugs and alcohol on my fellow students in high school, college and life.

    In 43 years of cannabis consumption I can never recall a single case where someone I knew ran heck bent into trouble while intoxicated on cannabis. Forgot something, lost something, missed appointment, these are the losses I see from cannabis use. Drinking alcohol is another case entirely where I could tell stories all day of bad drunken behavior, fatal auto accidents, lost friends, addiction and broken families.

    Clearly if there is a gateway drug to bad behavior and death it is alcohol with its powerful ability to lower and remove human inhibitions. By over 80% teen pregnancy begins with an alcohol intoxicated teenage girl. 60% of all murders are perpetrated by those intoxicated on alcohol. Domestic violence at a rate of over 80% is alcohol related. The US government is blatantly lying about cannabis and has been since the 1920s. Kids are smart to realize this and these lies ruin government credibility. After kids discover the government is lying about cannabis don’t expect them to believe anything else.

    The madness is over! Stop the lies and Legalize, Regulate and TAX recreational cannabis!

  2. Like reported, the THC concentration in marijuana products today is much higher than in the 70’s. But even at those lower concentration levels, both of my brothers smoked pot from their early teens onward. As a result, both lost all incentive to do anything of value with their lives, both served time in prison several times over the years for drug-related crimes, both expanded their drug use to include cocaine, both ended up alcoholic. Now in their 50s, both live at home with mom, living on welfare benefits, with no families of their own. I know marijuana use is extremely harmful, having seen its aftermath first hand.

  3. Too bad the federal government has no Constitutional authority to ban or regulate the use or possession of marijuana and other drugs. The “drug war” is not only expensive, dangerous, ineffective and immoral, it’s also illegal.

  4. I bet this lady is best friends with Yavapai district attorney but they go drunk on Friday night and talk about all the people lives they ruin the previous week by Prosecuting them even when they are medical marijuana patients who do you think you are lady tell me what I can do don’t want your kids smoking pot why don’t you do a better job at parenting quit wasting your time with this go be a mother to your kids

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