One out of every 15 high school students smokes marijuana on a near daily basis, a figure that has reached a 30-year peak even as use of alcohol, cigarettes, and cocaine among teenagers continues a slow decline, says a new federal study reported by the New York Times. The popularity of marijuana, now more prevalent among 10th graders than cigarette smoking, reflects what researchers and drug officials say is a growing perception among teenagers that habitual marijuana use carries little risk of harm. That perception is fueled in part by wider familiarity with medicinal marijuana and greater ease in obtaining it.
The long-running annual report, called the Monitoring the Future survey and financed by the National Institutes of Health, looked at more than 46,000 students nationwide. About 25 percent of 8th, 10th and 12th graders who took part in the study reported using marijuana in the past year, up from about 21 percent in 2007. R. Gil Kerlikowske, the federal drug czar, said, “These last couple years, the amount of attention that's been given to medical marijuana has been huge. And when I've done focus groups with high school students in states where medical marijuana is legal, they say, 'Well, if its called medicine and it's given to patients by caregivers, then that's really the wrong message for us as high school students.'”