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Highlights from the California Roadside Survey

Over 1,300 California drivers were randomly stopped on weekend nights and agreed to give alcohol breath tests and oral fluids for drug testing in nine cities across the state.  The survey was anonymous and voluntary.  The methods for the survey closely followed other roadside surveys, and a report is now available on the OTS website (Lacey, Kelley-Baker, Romano, Brainard, & Ramirez, 2012).  Drugs tested included illegal drugs as well as plausibly impairing medications.

Here are some of their main findings:

  • Drug-positive drivers made up about 1 in 7 drivers, a third of those drivers tested positive for more than one drug.
  • The percent of drivers testing positive for marijuana (7.4%) was almost identical to the percent testing positive for alcohol (7.3%).
  • About a quarter of marijuana-positive drivers also tested positive for another drug; about 13.3% marijuana-positive were also positive for alcohol.

Read more: Highlights from the California Roadside Survey

California Marijuana Arrests Down Sharply

A report produced by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (Males, 2012) analyzes California data on youth arrests.  There are two obvious trends: (1) youth arrests have been declining since the 1970's, and (2) marijuana arrests have plunged (61%) in the past year.  Of interest here is the second finding since it directly corresponds to the change in California law making simple possession an infraction instead of a misdemeanor, even for those under 18.  As we noted when the law was enacted, this means holding a bag of marijuana is now a lesser offense for a 17-year-old than holding a can of beer.

Read more: California Marijuana Arrests Down Sharply

More Company for Us

Colleges in Massachusetts now join us California schools in our legal limbo status between the state and federal government.  All of us must follow the Federal Drug Free Schools and Community Act requirement of maintaining strict policies against the use and possession of illegal drugs; illegal drugs includes, under Federal law, marijuana.  So as far as I know, all schools have interpreted the legal environment to mean that state laws allowing marijuana are irrelevant.  Students may think they can smoke pot because they have a medical excuse, but on campus they can't.  19 states and the District of Columbia now have medical use.

Washington and Colorado went a step further by legalizing non-medical use.  Presumably the legal opinions for campuses there will remain the same: Campuses will still need to forbid marijuana. 

Read more: More Company for Us

They don't drink like they used to: A good thing

According to a summary of the Youth Risk Behavior Survey presented by CESAR, over the past 20 years there has been a substantial decline in the number of high school students who first tried alcohol before age 13. In 1991, 33% reported pre-teen use, while that number has now declined to 21%.  That's very encouraging news since early use has been linked to later dependence development (Spear, 2002). Early cigarette use also dropped dramatically from 24% to 10% over that period.  The good news ends with that however, as marijuana early use remained relatively stable at about 8%.


What are they smoking? How do I know?!

Back at the end of 2010, the much heralded announcement came that the DEA was banning the chemicals found to be giving “Spice” and other herbal smokes their marijuana-like properties. Thus, it was expected that the herbal smokes would fall into the nether regions of the drug world and disappear from the internet and smoke shops of the U.S..

But a quick Google search or stroll to a local strip mall will provide ample evidence that herbal smokes are alive and well. Indeed, campuses are reporting that synthetic marijuana is showing up in a substantial number of student conduct issues. Further, the Monitoring The Future project (Johnston, O’Malley, Bachman, & Schulenberg, 2011) reports that synthetic marijuana was the third

Read more: What are they smoking?  How do I know?!