Hub goes to pot By Kimberly Atkins Friday, June 17, 2005 - Updated: 01:14 PM EST Boston may be at sea level on the maps, but its residents are the highest in the country, a federal drug-abuse report says. More than 12 percent of people over the age of 12 admitted to having used pot within the past month when recently surveyed, the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported yesterday. Behind Boston, which ranked No. 1 in the country, five of the top 15 regions with the highest rates of marijuana use were in Massachusetts. ``It's not a surprise to see Boston and other places in Massachusetts ranking so high,'' said Michael Botticelli, assistant commissioner for substance abuse services at the state Department of Public Health, noting the more than 200,000 college students in Boston. ``While I certainly think college use is a factor, I don't think that diminishes our concern,'' he said. But don't blame college kids entirely. The researchers whose findings were released yesterday steered clear of dorms. Botticelli said increased pot use in the state has already caught the attention of Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey and state lawmakers, leading to legislation boosting funding for substance abuse services by $20 million in the past year, including initiatives targeting college students. But Boston University spokesman Colin Riley said school administrators have had little indication chronic marijuana use is a major problem on their campus. ``The number of kids that come to our attention more than once is extremely small,'' Riley said. Many local residents said they were surprised at Boston's ranking as the top pot-smoking region, but admitted they knew many people who use the drug recreationally - including many in high school and even younger. ``I know a lot of people who use it,'' said 16-year-old Boston College High School student Chris Hallet. ``But I am surprised that Boston is No. 1.'' Michael Cutler, an attorney for NORML, a pro-marijuana legalization group, said the study ``shows that prohibition doesn't make a difference.'' But Suffolk District Attorney's Office spokesman David Procopio disagrees. ``We stand firm in believing that marijuana use needs to remain a criminal infraction,'' Procopio said, adding that heroin, cocaine and OxyContin - not marijuana - are still the most prevalent street level drugs, according to detectives. ``But that doesn't mean that marijuana is not a problem.'' Anti-drug groups said the numbers belie a bigger issue of self-medication, which is symptomatic of other problems like depression. ``Some use marijuana to make them feel good, but some use it to make them feel better,'' said David Rosenbloom, director of Join Together, a Boston-based substance abuse resource center. The Hub edged out Boulder, Colo., where 10.3 percent of those surveyed admitted recent pot use. Regions with the lowest rates of pot use are northern Iowa and southern Texas, where less than 3 percent of those surveyed reported recent use. sorry, no link, just a quote.