The rest of the nation appears to be catching up to Santa Cruz County in one unfortunate aspect: marijuana use among teens.

According to a new government report released this week, one in 15 high school students in the U.S. smokes pot on a near-daily basis.

Near daily.

Not only is that a startling figure, it also reflects what appears to be the highest use since the druggy 1970s, and goes against other substance abuse trends showing use of alcohol, cocaine and even cigarettes declining in the same population.

And here's another way to consider the drug use data: If the numbers are true, then one in 15 high school students is either already addicted or well on the way to becoming addicted to increasingly potent marijuana.

Oh, but pot isn't addicting, runs the counter-argument. And, in purely physiological terms, that might be true, at least not like heroin is addicting.

Psychologically, however, it's all too true.

We bring up Santa Cruz County because marijuana and alcohol use have been significantly higher among high-schoolers in this community than among peers statewide.

In the latest national figures, about 25 percent of high-schoolers reported using marijuana. In Santa Cruz County, however, 30 percent of 11th-graders reported they had used marijuana, compared to 20 percent of 11th-graders statewide. More than 40 percent of local 11th-graders also reported drinking alcohol.

Correspondingly, the acceptance among Santa Cruz County adults of marijuana for recreational use, while declining slightly over the past two years, remains high -- about half of all adults surveyed still find it acceptable. The acceptance rate is higher among white and North County adults than in the primarily Latino South County.

The medical marijuana movement also is prevalent in Santa Cruz County and has burgeoned throughout the state. Federal drug authorities say they believe the uptick in teen pot use is partially due to the increasing prevalence of medical marijuana, which is available in dispensaries regulated in this community by local governments.

According to an inpatient director at the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, it's also not uncommon for young adults who enter the center because of substance abuse or addiction issues to show up with medical marijuana cards.

The message in recent years that has gone out to young people is that marijuana is good medicine. And while that's true for some seriously ill people, the prevalence of medical pot cards only drives this point home.

The teen survey also showed that teens are also influenced by their parents. It might seem to many parents that young people don't pay attention to them, but that really isn't true. If parents aren't bothered by their son or daughter smoking pot -- or if they smoke marijuana themselves somewhat regularly -- then guess what? It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the teens who were smoking pot even more prevalently 30 years ago are today's parents.

Since there are fewer drug prevention resources available today than just a few years ago with government funding in a free-fall downward, that means parents are the primary adult figures who can speak into their teens' lives about what chronic drug use does to a person's mental, physical and spiritual life.

The question is, do they really believe that's true? Do you?