DEA’s Twitter Account Chart Shows Marijuana As A “Challenge”
DEA Uses Tobacco As A Model For Success; Marijuana As Failure. The Drug Enforcement Administration heads the nation’s drug war. As part of that, it’s done a lot to push messaging that marijuana is dangerous. The scheduling of marijuana by the DEA states that marijuana is as dangerous as heroin.
The DEA’s Twitter account put out a chart for why this kind of messaging is, in its view, necessary:
This chart shows there a correlation between perceptions of risk and a drug’s use. Sure enough, the chart largely exemplifies that: As the perceived risk of tobacco rose, its use among 12th graders declined.
But there’s another reading of this chart that the DEA in particular won’t like, because it against the DEA’s work in prohibiting marijuana and cracking down on its use.
Tobacco, after all, has been legal for the entirety of the DEA’s chart. Yet all this time, the perception of how risky it is has gone up and its use has declined. That’s bBecause of various policies, including education campaigns, mandatory warning labels, public and workplace smoking bans, and higher taxes on tobacco products.
Marijuana, meanwhile, has remained illegal on the federal level. Yet, as the DEA’s chart shows, its use has continued fluctuating and perceived risk has continued dropping despite the hundreds of thousands of arrests each year for pot possession.
While some states have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational purposes, so far there doesn’t seem to be a clean connection between legalization and use by teens: Surveys in Colorado, one of the two states to first legalize, found that reported teen pot use hasn’t gone down.
For legalization advocates, this has led to several questions: Why are we criminalizing people under a system that just doesn’t work? Why not borrow a page from the tobacco model, which uses solely public health tools to depress the use of an addictive, dangerous drug, instead of wasting money and lives on prisons and police?
President Barack Obama, for his part, has embraced the tobacco approach. He recently told Rolling Stone, “I do believe that treating [substance abuse] as a public-health issue, the same way we do with cigarettes or alcohol, is the much smarter way to deal with it.”