Criminal Justice Referrals Driving Youth Marijuana Treatment Admissions

NEW YORK:  Over half of all young people entered into drug treatment for marijuana are placed there by the criminal justice system and this percentage is increasing, according to data published online in the journal Substance Use & Misuse.

A team of researchers from Binghamton University in New York and the University of Iowa reviewed youth marijuana treatment admission data (TEDS-A) during the years 1995 to 2012.

Investigators reported that youth admissions for cannabis rose 65 percent during the study period – from 52,894 annual admissions in 1995 to 87,528 in 2012. Admissions rose most precipitously among Latinos (an increase of 256 percent since 1995) and African American youth (an increase of 86 percent). Criminal justice system referrals rose 70 percent during this period, and now account for 54 percent of all substance abuse admissions by young people.

Among those enrolled in treatment, half exhibited little if any evidence of suffering from marijuana dependence or a disorder. Specifically, 30 percent of all young people admitted into marijuana treatment since 2008 had no record of having consumed cannabis in the 30 days prior to their admittance. Another 20 percent of those entered into treatment had used cannabis three times or fewer in the month prior to their admission. Prior evaluations of TEDS data among adults have yielded similar results.

“Our findings indicate that the severity of drug use involved in those admissions has decreased,” authors concluded. “This study highlights the importance of identifying youth in actual need of treatment services.”

Since the late 1990s, both youth use of marijuana and the prevalence of cannabis use disorder by young people have declined significantly.

For more information, contact Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director, at (202) 483-5500. Full text of the study, “Trends in youth marijuana treatment admissions: Increasing admissions contrasted with decreasing drug involvement,” appears in Substance Use & Misuse.

New Marijuana Law Side Effect: Youth Possession Now A Felony

WASHINGTON: A prosecutor in southeastern Washington has charged three teens with felonies for marijuana possession, saying a new law demands the higher level of offense.

The Lewiston Tribune in Idaho reports three teens ages 14, 15 and 17 have been charged in nearby Asotin County with felonies that could net them up to five years in prison. The offense was previously a misdemeanor with a maximum 90-day jail sentence.

Asotin County Prosecutor Ben Nichols says Senate Bill 5052 contains the new language.

Bill sponsor Republican Sen. Ann Rivers of La Center says the tougher penalty was designed to deter minors from trying an adult drug.