Mason Tvert sees good news in survey showing teen marijuana smoking up, binge drinking down

Keep Westword Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

A new University of Michigan survey shows binge drinking among teenagers declined over the last year, but more tenth and twelfth graders used marijuana.

Panic time? Not for Mason Tvert, founder of SAFER (Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation). He's repeatedly stressed that marijuana is less risky than alcohol, even writing a book on the subject (and promoting it with a little help from his mom).

This morning, Tvert is on a train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris -- the perfect opportunity to answer some questions about the survey via e-mail. Look below for a Q&A on the subject:

Westword (Michael Roberts): A University of Michigan survey shows marijuana use among teens is up, while binge drinking is down. What's your reaction?

Mason Tvert: Although it would be preferable if young people used neither, they are without a doubt far safer using marijuana instead of alcohol. Every objective study on marijuana has concluded that it's far safer than alcohol to the user and to those around them.

WW: Some observers may respond to these results with alarm. Should they instead be pleased by them? If so, why?

MT: Alcohol use alone can be deadly, whereas there has never been a single marijuana overdose death in history. Drinking also contributes to countless incidents of sexual assault, domestic violence, and serious injury, whereas marijuana has never been linked to such problems.

WW: Do you see these results as an indication that teens are realizing what you have long argued -- that alcohol is more dangerous than marijuana use?

MT: There is no logical reason why our government or any parent should prefer young people use alcohol instead of marijuana. Unfortunately, however, we have laws and other policies that steer people toward drinking and away from marijuana, making the more harmful of the two substances seem more acceptable. Alcohol and marijuana are the two most popular drugs in our society. It's time we start teaching young people the truth: marijuana is safer.

WW: The anti-drug crowd may react to results like these with a backlash against marijuana. Is that something you fear?

MT: When the facts are on our side, we need only fear the extremists who perpetuate feel-good myths rather than the facts, and in doing so steer our young people toward far more harm than they might otherwise encounter. When it comes to sex, abstinence-only policies and education don't work; when it comes to drugs, alcohol-only policies and education are just as ill-fated.

WW: Are you at all concerned that some teens may use marijuana to excess, as opposed to in moderation, as a result of these changing perceptions?

MT: The notion that a young person might use any substance to excess is certainly a concern. But there is no doubt that marijuana -- even in excess -- is far safer than the excessive use of alcohol that is quickly becoming the norm in our society.

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.