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EDITORIAL: More pot is not good for our kids

By: The Gazette editorial board
December 29, 2017 Updated: December 29, 2017 at 12:06 pm
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photo - Getty Images
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To believe surveys, we must pretend Hillary Clinton is president.

And this: increase the pot supply, and consumption by kids goes down. It must be true, because "surveys" say so.

Hallelujah. More is less. Let's flood the streets with cigarettes and beer, and maybe teens will smoke and drink less.

If soft red gumdrops fell from the sky, a survey would tell of declining rates of gumdrop consumption, obesity and diabetes.

"More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette!" said an old tobacco ad, when Big Tobacco promoted the myth that cigarettes were "physician" tested and approved.

Counterintuitive claims make for easy and valuable headlines.

Ann Reid, director of the National Center for Science Education, wrote in the Huffington Post about a "scientific study" that proves "scientific studies can't prove anything." She explained the position of an increasing chorus of critics who question the motives and tactics of surveys.

"Incentives that reward novelty and discourage replication," Reid explained, "created an environment in which fraud is more likely to go undetected, perhaps even encouraging systemic fraud."

Americans are onto it. A survey by the data investment management firm Kantar found 75 percent of Americans "believe that most polls... are biased toward a particular point of view."

Minor wording changes can cause dramatically different results. A "scientific" CNBC poll found 46 percent of Americans opposed "Obamacare," but the number fell to 37 percent when surveyors asked the same respondents if they opposed the "Affordable Care Act." Same law, different description.

Surveys tell us Americans hate "the death tax" and love "the estate tax." Same tax, different brands.

Combine confusion with dishonesty among survey respondents, and the outcomes are little more than junk.

"Ask some survey data experts and you'll hear that up to 50 percent of people in any given sample will provide dishonest responses on any given survey," explains an article titled "5 reasons why survey respondents don't tell the truth," published by Infosurv Research.

The prospect of truthful survey results becomes even lower when dishonesty and confusion meet the motivation of guarding personal interests.

Ask any pot-using teenager about the forbidden activity and a lie will typically ensue. The teenager perceives no gain, under any circumstance, by confirming drug use to an inquiring adult. In fact, teens who appreciate marijuana legalization may feel compelled to protect the law by downplaying its effect on young people.

"State and federal surveys have declared that Colorado youths are not using marijuana more than before the drug became legal... and that use is actually dropping," explained the lead of a recent story by David Migoya in The Denver Post.

Anyone who believes this has no regular exposure to a large number of teens from diverse backgrounds.

The story told how law-enforcement officers "who interact with students each school day... offer a starkly different perspective."

Officers explained recent data are flawed by the fact they issue fewer citations for teenage marijuana use because of a 2012 law that eliminated "zero tolerance" toward pot in schools. Another policy revision authorized each school to devise its own policies regarding pot use among students, creating new challenges for obtaining and managing data.

A survey of Colorado school resource officers found 86 percent believe marijuana use among students has risen "dramatically" since legalization and commercialization.

The Post found institutional underreporting of pot infractions, including among schools within Colorado Springs District 11. The district's mandatory report to the state claimed no contacts with law enforcement during the 2015-16 school year, while the Colorado Springs Police Department documents handling 64 marijuana incidents at D-11 schools during the reporting period.

ColoradoPolitics.com found another group of professionals who balk at surveys that claim a reduction in teen pot use since legalization and commercialization.

"High school principals in parts of Denver with high concentrations of pot businesses say the opposite is true, and an organization that works with homeless youths says marijuana use is up sharply in recent years," explains a ColoradoPolitics story by Earnest Luning.

Surveys told us Clinton would win. They were observably false, just like those that say Big Commercial Pot is good for kids.

For the real story, ask principals, teachers, social workers, and cops. They don't need polls to explain the damage this free-for-all is doing to Colorado's next generation of adults.

The Gazette editorial board

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