A national survey released Tuesday found that marijuana use among teens has declined over 2014 even though Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana for recreational use this year. The news may come as a surprise to critics of marijuana legalization.
The Monitoring the Future study surveys 40,000 to 50,000 students in 8th, 10th and 12th grade in schools nationwide and is conducted by the University of Michigan. The survey is now in its 40th year and polls the use of alcohol, legal and illegal drugs and cigarettes among teens.
Here are a few interesting marijuana figures from the study:
- Marijuana use by students in 8th, 10th and 12th grades declined slightly, from 26% in 2013 to 24% in 2014.
- One in 17 high school seniors, or 5.8%, say they use marijuana almost daily this year, down from 6.5% in 2013.
- Students in 10th and 12th grades reported that marijuana is less available than it once was.
Last week Terra Tech Corp., based in Irvine, California, won approval from the Securities and Exchange Commission to raise $6.8 million to build and operate medical marijuana operations in Nevada. This would make Terra Tech first publicly traded company that cultivates, distributes and sells marijuana.
“We were nervous, not knowing if they would run us around in circles or just say `No, find other sources of financing. In the end they kind of told us that, statutorily, they can’t tell us what to do in the space we’re in, their job is to make sure investors are aware of every risk.”
“I firmly believe this industry will be regulated like alcohol. If all goes well, I’m optimistic the federal government could end its prohibition in five to 10 years.” Peterson, Terra Tech’s CEO said in an interview.
There are other marijuana-related companies that are currently publicly traded such as Medical Marijuana Inc and Northsight Capital, as well as a number of others including WeedMaps Media Inc., PotBotics and GrowBox USA that are in various stages of IPO-planning. However there currently aren’t any public companies that grow marijuana. Terra Tech will be the first of its kind.
According to a report by ArcView Group, legal marijuana sales in the U.S. this year will total about $2.3 billion. By 2018, ArcView expects sales to exceed $10 billion.
New federal policy will allow Native American tribes interested in cultivating and selling marijuana to do so, as long as they maintain “robust and effective regulatory systems,” said the U.S.for Colorado, John Walsh.
Tribes will need to avoid certain enforcement triggers that also apply to state-regulated marijuana markets, including a prohibition on sales to minors and the diversion of marijuana trafficking to states where marijuana remains illegal under local.
It is currently unclear how many tribes will take advantage of the new policy directive. Certain tribes are well-known for using their special legal status to host casinos and/or sell untaxed tobacco.
According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs there are 326 federally recognized Native American reservations. Many reservations are in states that don’t allow medical or recreational marijuana use, such as Oklahoma and the Dakotas. Many others are located near major East Coast cities.
“The tribes have the sovereign right to set the code on their reservations,” stated Timothy Purdon, U.S. attorney for North Dakota and chairman of the Attorney General’s Subcommittee on Native American Issues.
The Department of Justice said U.S.can review tribes’ marijuana policies on a case-by-case basis and that prosecutors retain the ability to enforce federal law.
Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, said Native American tribal leaders “will have a tremendous opportunity to improve public health and safety, as well as benefit economically” by legalizing marijuana use. Tvert also stated that “Regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol would ensure the product is controlled, and it would bring significant revenue and newto these communities…studies have consistently found above-average rates of alcohol abuse and related problems among Native American communities, so it would be incredibly beneficial to provide adults with a safer recreational alternative.”
State operated medical marijuana programs and legalcultivation may have just got historic support from Congress. The proposed federal spending bill on Tuesday included amendments that prohibit the Department of Justice from using funds to go after state medical marijuana operations. In addition it blocks the Drug Enforcement Administration from using its funds to interfere with state-legal industrial hemp research. If it passes, the bill will protect programs in the states that have legalized marijuana and oils for medical purposes as well as those operations that research industrial hemp.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), who a introduced the amendment with co-sponsor Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.), told Huffington Post:
“The enactment of this legislation will mark the first time in decades that the federal government has curtailed its oppressive prohibition of marijuana and has instead taken an approach to respect the many states that have permitted the use of medical marijuana to some degree. This is a victory for so many, including scores of our wounded veterans, who have found marijuana to be an important medicine for some of the ailments they suffer, such as PTSD, epilepsy and MS.”
Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance stated: “For the first time, Congress is letting states set their own medical marijuana and hemp policies, a huge step forward for sensible drug policy. States will continue to reform their marijuanaand Congress will be forced to accommodate them. It’s not a question of if, but when, federal marijuana prohibition will be repealed.”
To service the U.S. market, police agencies report some Mexican crime groups grow marijuana on public lands in the western US.
As states in the US legalize marijuana for recreational and medicinal use, Americans are buying less and less of it on the black market. This trend has caused wholesale prices in Mexico to drop, and have forced the cartels to find new sources of revenue. One of these sources is smuggling high-quality, American-grown marijuana into Mexico for sale to high paying customers.
According to the DEA spokesman Lawrence Payne, Sinaloa operatives in the United States are reportedly buying high-potency American marijuana in Colorado and smuggling it back into Mexico.
“It makes sense,” Payne told NPR. “We know the cartels are already smuggling cash into Mexico. If you can buy some really high-quality weed here, why not smuggle it south, too, and sell it at a premium?”
“The Sinaloa cartel has demonstrated in many instances that it can adapt. I think it’s in a process of redefinition toward marijuana,” Javier Valdez, a respected journalist and author who writes books on the narcoculture in Sinaloa, told NPR.
Valdez told NPR that he’s heard through the grapevine that marijuana planting has dropped 30 percent in the mountains of Sinaloa.
“I believe that now, because of the changes they’re having to make because of marijuana legalization in the U.S., the cartel is pushing more cocaine, meth and heroin. They’re diversifying,” Valdez says.