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Juvenile marijuana use: The fatal flaw of Initiative 502

Post by TNT Editorial Board / The News Tribune on Sep. 15, 2012 at 5:52 pm with 7 Comments »
September 14, 2012 5:57 pm

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

Initiative 502 has the virtue of acknowledging a reality: The state is already rife with marijuana, and criminalizing it hasn’t made it go away.

Give its authors credit for honesty. Unlike the charades and subterfuges of “medical cannabis,” I-502 is a straightforward attempt to get pot out of the black market and into state-licensed retail stores.

Give them credit, too, for a good faith effort to keep the drug within bounds. The measure contains serious restrictions on would-be sellers, store locations and driving-while-stoned. Something like I-502 would be a reasonable way to deal with adult use of marijuana ­– though this is ultimately a federal and not a state issue.

But adult use is not the chief issue with marijuana. People who get past high school before they try it are unlikely to become compulsive users. For juveniles, the odds are much worse.

Any psychoactive drug – including alcohol – tends to have a much greater long-term impact on adolescents than on adults.

It’s a matter of brain development. Kids who get in the habit of smoking dope at, say, 15 often become heavy users because their brains get wired to crave it.

Compulsive marijuana use is damaging. It can derail educations, jobs, relationships, emotional maturity – life in general.

There are other threats. Considerable research has linked adolescent marijuana use to early-onset schizophrenia. A newly released study, which followed more than 1,000 New Zealanders 38 years from youth through adulthood, found significant IQ impairment among heavy users who started smoking pot at an early age.

I-502 again deserves credit for recognizing the problem. It prohibits anyone under 21 from possessing cannabis (not that that’s been a great success so far). It would earmark marijuana taxes for research and public education designed to discourage juvenile use.

But recognizing a problem isn’t the same as solving it. Legalization would likely produce a surge of dope smoking among teenagers who now avoid it simply because it is stigmatized as illegal.

Kids notice what adults consider acceptable, and not all of them are hell-bent on rebellion. Federal data suggest that most adolescents either avoid alcohol and drugs, or only experiment with them.

Of those who’ve gotten in deep, roughly twice as many drink as smoke marijuana (or drink and smoke marijuana). Marijuana is easier to conceal, easier on the body and probably as easy to come by.

Some of that difference can be explained by perceptions of what is legal among their elders. Legality will inevitably make marijuana more attractive to youth. Mere advertising campaigns aren’t likely to counteract that effect – especially since marijuana marketers will be doing their own advertising under I-502.

The initiative also wouldn’t shut down the black market or the drug cartels, as its supporters hope. For example, sales would still be forbidden to those under 21 – but does anyone believe that dealers will stop selling to them?

There may be ways to legalize or decriminalize marijuana for adults without creating a wider snare for juveniles. It would be nice if I-502 could do that. It’s likely to have just the opposite effect.

Leave a comment Comments → 7
  1. malcolmkyle says:

    I totally agree—We should continue to save our nation’s children from the deadly disease of marijuana!

    I’m against legalizing marijuana, and not just to save our very precious children, but also because marijuana addiction is a terrible, and often deadly, disease. A panel of US health experts headed by “abort every black baby” Bill Bennet has declared as such, as have many credible-looking websites such as the ONDCP’s.

    I live in a city that is at the center of the deadly marijuana trade, yet I have never been near this dangerous and disgusting stuff. Diseases possess some very evil and inherent form of agency—They can severely infect our dear beloved children.

    Classifying hard marijuana addiction as a very deadly disease does at least acknowledge the horrors that it unleashes on our defenseless children. Unlike the far less-harmful and rightfully-legal-substances: alcohol and tobacco, marijuana totally destroys the pitiful lives of most of it’s disgusting abusers, who surely all wish to injure and maim our defenseless and innocent children.

    For our tiny, cuddly, defenseless, and totally innocent, babies we must not fail to completely rid ourselves of this very evil, rather deadly, and very smelly, green-scourge!

    Now where did I put that bottle?

  2. slarssen says:

    Where are my cigarettes, beer/wine/liquor and prescription meds? Gasp and swoon, I just caught the vapors.

  3. @Malcolm: Have you even tried marijuana, or seen people use it who did not go overboard? Be very careful with considering alcohol and cigarettes less dangerous than marijuana. The long-term physical and mental effects of cannabis are debatable, while they are certain with alcohol, which causes liver failure, esophageal cancer, kidney damage, tooth decay, oral cancers, and a terrible addiction. If you want to disagree with me on this then I can give my life story of growing up with a violent alcoholic.

    Americans deserve a choice. You honestly support draconian policies of restraint and flip-turned information, along with prohibition which wastes millions of dollars annually and prevents freedom from flourishing in the country?

    Most people I know who smoke marijuana leave fine and productive lives. Good jobs, happy spouses and are generally content with things. On the other hand, everyone I know who drinks heavily is horribly depressed, lost their jobs etc. Something being legal does not equal it being good.

    I dislike the use of the term “dope” for marijuana because it is a term more associated with heroin and methamphetamine, both of which are worlds more nasty and destructive than cannabis can ever be. And it certainly is not a “nasty green scourge”. There are far worse things to worry about on the streets. Don’t believe me? Take a walk under any bridge or through any project and observe the zombie-esque people shooting up or smoking with straws and foil.

    As I said, adults deserve a choice. Kids will always find ways to get their hands on anything we withhold from them. They are clever. What we need is not harsh laws, but more parents who do their jobs and instill the correct messages into their kids’ heads. Sometimes, crap happens.

  4. EDIT my previous comment: Not sure if Malcomkyle be trollin or serious.

  5. Lynnwoodfats says:

    This editolial appears in two different palces, so I will comment to both;
    What a load….
    I started smoking weed at 15, I retired at 54, I’m 60 now, my house is paid for. I have enough (legally obtained), money in the bank to last the rest of my life. I have never taken money from the government.
    Quit running around waving your arms like chicken litte, and try to remember that this was supposed to be a free country.

  6. Harry_Anslinger says:

    ‘Fatal flaw’? That pretty much sums up the level of disengenous non-professional juvenile journalism that the TNT can’t seem to rise above.

  7. “Fatal flaw”? The prohibition of Cannabis is a crime against humanity. THERE is your fatal flaw. Whom do you believe, Sir William Brooke O’Shaughnessy or Harry Anslinger?

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