- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 21, 2002


Teenagers say it's easier to buy marijuana than cigarettes or beer, according to a national survey.

More than one-third of teens polled by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse said they could buy marijuana in just a few hours, 27 percent in an hour or less.

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For the first time since the study began in 1996, marijuana edged out cigarettes and beer as the easiest drug for teenagers to buy 34 percent said it is the easiest of the three, compared with 31 percent for cigarettes and 14 percent for beer.

Overall, however, 75 percent of students said they have not smoked marijuana.

The annual survey of 1,000 teenagers was released yesterday. It did not specify whether drugs were easy or difficult to buy at school, but 63 percent of students said their schools were "drug-free," nearly double the number who said the same in 1998.

Joel Willen, principal of Pershing Middle School in Houston, said teachers and administrators are seeing less drug activity.

"I think the kids are not bringing whatever it is they're doing, if they're doing it, to school," he said.

The school's drug-prevention programs, such as Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE), are paired with a get-tough policy that includes twice-yearly, random locker and backpack searches by drug-sniffing dogs, Mr. Willen said. Students caught using or selling drugs can be sent to an alternative school or expelled.

"They know we take a real hard line on drugs," he said.

One in 12 students believes there is a teacher at their school who uses illegal drugs, according to the survey. A fourth of students said they have seen illegal drugs being sold at school, and a little more than half said they would report someone they see selling or using drugs, the highest level since 1996.

Gerald Tirozzi, executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, said student drug use has been dropping for the past four or five years as communities begin financing anti-drug programs.

"I think we're starting to see the fruition of some of those programs," he said.

More than half of students said they don't drink alcohol in a typical week and about as many said they have never had a drink.

While one in four pupils said at least one parent smokes cigarettes, 69 percent said they never have smoked.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that, by the time they complete high school, 47 percent of teenagers have smoked marijuana, 24 percent have used another illicit drug and 81 percent have drunk alcohol. The agency also estimates that 70 percent have smoked cigarettes.

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, based at Columbia University, polls teenagers on drug use and the presence of drugs in schools. This year's random telephone survey of students ages 12 to 17 was conducted Dec. 27 to Feb. 6 by QEV Analytics. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

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