A new study by the National Institutes of Health shows one out of every 15 high school students smokes marijuana on a near daily basis and that weed is now more prevalent among 10th graders than cigarettes. According to the survey, other drug use is down—meth, cocaine, heroin, even booze—but the pot numbers reflect the highest use in 30 years.
Some experts pointed to one reason for the dramatic rise: medical marijuana. The New York Times quoted R. Gil Kerlikowske, the federal drug czar, saying there's a newfound perception that pot isn't harmful, "fueled in part by wider familiarity with medicinal marijuana and greater ease in obtaining it."
It's been a while, but scoring a bag of pot as a teenager was never really that hard, and this was long before 16 states and the District of Columbia made it legally available to patients. The notion of a "wider familiarity" with pot also seems like a stretch. Knowledge and awareness of pot has suffused the river of popular culture since 1967. It only takes the eyes in your head to refute these experts—and that's not good for the experts.
Medical marijuana has become a red herring in a drug war without end. Kerlikowske and others seem to be speaking for the Obama administration, which by its jackbooted actions in Montana and elsewhere has signaled that when it comes to drugs, even pot, it's to the right of the Tea Party. There's still more at play, not least a generational evolution in the way marijuana is perceived. Rail about it if you must, but almost any citizen under 30 who hasn't been brainwashed by religious extremists is as likely to tell you pot is harmless as she is to support gay marriage—and just think of her, sighing about your narrow-mindedness over your grave.
The fruits of that evolution could be staring right at you. On Missoula's hip strip, for example, Pizza Pipeline, the longtime Hellgate High lunchtime hangout, has been replaced by a new headshop called Mellow Mood, a bright spot in a faltering economy. The Pipeline used to have dozens of teenagers lined up for cheap slices and giant fountain drinks. No doubt those students will still get the munchies. Now it seems equally certain that they'll take our wisdom with a big grain of sinsemilla, even as they ace their chemistry exams.