Monthly Archives: May 2016

No, legal weed is not ‘dumbing down’ the nation’s teens

By Christopher Ingraham

(Washington Post illustration; iStock)

(Washington Post illustration; iStock)

The marijuana policy landscape changed rapidly between 2002 and 2013. During that time, 13 states passed medical-marijuana laws, 10 states relaxed penalties for marijuana use, and Colorado and Washington became the first states to fully legalize recreational pot use.

Opponents of marijuana liberalization warned that these changes would bring devastating consequences, particularly for kids: “But what about the children?” was the common refrain. The president of National Families in Action, an anti-drug group, warned that commercial marijuana would “literally dumb down the precious minds of generations of children.” Psychiatrist Christian Thurstone, an outspoken opponent of Colorado’s marijuana legalization, argued in 2010 that “the state’s relaxed laws have made the drug widely available — and irresistible — to too many adolescents.”

Given the widespread liberalization of marijuana laws and huge changes in public acceptance of the drug, you might expect that by now we’d be seeing more marijuana use — and more problematic use, such addiction and dependency — among the nation’s teens. But in fact the exact opposite has happened, according to a new study from Richard Grucza and colleagues at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

The number of American teens with marijuana-related problems — such as dependency on the drug, or troubles with family and school due to marijuana use — fell by 24 percent between 2002 and 2013. The overall number of teens using marijuana fell, too. And the teens who do use marijuana are less likely to experience problems due to the drug.

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“We were surprised to see substantial declines in marijuana use and abuse,” Grucza said in a statement. “Whatever is happening with these behavioral issues, it seems to be outweighing any effects of marijuana decriminalization.”

Grucza and his colleagues analyzed …read more

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Why the costs of bad weather in the summer could be worse than people realize

By Jim Tankersley

People walk along the beach as they await the arrival of Hurricane Patricia in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Friday, Oct. 23, 2015. (Rebecca Blackwell/AP)

One of the best songs ever written about a hangover is also the perfect anthem for the next week in the United States: Jimmy Buffett’s “Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season.”

It starts in a hammock, continues through a Bloody Mary and ends with a warning about wind speed. Keep it on loop in the coming days, through your barbecue indulgences, your unsteady return to the office and, on Wednesday, your festivities to mark the official opening of hurricane season in the Atlantic — a season that should maybe scare your wallet more than you knew.

Forecasters said Friday they expect a “near-normal” number of hurricanes during that season this year, somewhere between four and eight, though the experts say it’s a particularly difficult year to predict.

Here’s the scary side of that: Economic research published this week suggests that we’ve been undercounting the cost of past hurricanes to taxpayers, by a lot.

The paper, from Tatyana Deryugina at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, examines hurricanes from 1979-2002 and follows the effects of each one for a decade after. It finds that on average, each hurricane resulted in about $155 to $160 over official government disaster assistance, per person affected by the storm. That’s what you might call our official estimation of the fiscal cost of those hurricanes.

Where the price tag soars, Deryugina finds, is in what you might call the unofficial costs of the storms. In the 10 years after a county is hit by a hurricane, she estimates, it receives a lot more government assistance through safety-net programs, such as unemployment insurance and medical benefits.

It’s an intuitive finding — storms disrupt economies and hurt people …read more

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