WASHINGTON — The Obama administration sounded the alarm Wednesday over rising marijuana use among the nation's youth, saying that softening attitudes about the perceived risk of the drug are responsible for the increase.
Sixty percent of 12th-graders do not view regular marijuana use as harmful, and more than 12 percent of eighth-graders said they used the drug in the past year, according to a survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
"Making matters worse, more teens are now smoking marijuana than smoke cigarettes," said Gil Kerlikowske, President Barack Obama's drug czar. "Well, this isn't a recipe for raising a healthy generation of young people who are prepared to meet America's challenges."
He criticized the legalization of marijuana in Washington state and Colorado, calling the plans "a very large social experiment."
And he delivered a clear shot aimed at pro-legalization advocates, saying: "For some to say that it is less dangerous than other substances is a ridiculous statement."
The survey found that 23 percent of high school seniors used marijuana in the past month, compared with 16 percent who smoked cigarettes.
Among 12th-graders, 6.5 percent said they smoked pot every day, and more than 36 percent said they had smoked it in the past year. Among 10th-graders, 4 percent said they used marijuana daily, with 18 percent reporting past month use, and 29.8 percent said they had used it in the previous year.
"These are very high numbers, considering that these are kids at school," said Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.