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Why Legalizing Marijuana Protects Young People

Submitted by smorgan on
Jann Gumbiner, Ph.D. has a post at Psychology Today pondering how young people will be affected by marijuana legalization. She has more questions than answers, but it's interesting to see what concerns come up for a parent who's undecided on the issue.

Her conclusion strikes me as quite sensible:

As a parent, I ask myself, "what are the dangers to teens?" And, what are the likely scenarios? If pot is still illegal to anyone under 21, how will teens get it? I think the most likely scenario is the same as beer and cigarettes. Older brothers and sisters, with IDs, will legally buy packaged marijuana cigarettes at gas stations and share them with younger ones on Friday night parties. As a parent, I ask myself, "how do I feel about this?" And... after a little thought, I actually feel better knowing my child is with trusted friends, ingesting measured substances than on a corner at night buying an illegal substance from a stranger.

Bingo. It's a pretty rational conclusion, but one that can only be reached by accepting the reality that marijuana will be available with or without legalization. Too often, opponents of regulating marijuana sales appear to believe that it only becomes available once it's legal. I'm afraid it's not nearly that simple.

As a teenager, I witnessed firsthand a world in which it was easier to get marijuana than alcohol. I don't just say this now because it suits my agenda; it's the truth. If my friends wanted booze for a party, they planned days ahead. If they wanted pot, they just made a phone call. The difference was that old, but very true, cliché that drug dealers don’t check ID. That's why research has repeatedly shown that teenagers have easier access to marijuana than beer. What can never be quantified, however, are all the other harms that go along with this vast underground, underage drug economy that continues to thrive thanks to marijuana prohibition.

To be clear, I doubt this is the argument that's going to turn things around. If that were true it would have happened already. People don’t seem to get this, maybe because those darn kids have a nasty habit of not telling the grown-ups about their pot hook-ups. Instead, I would simply add this to the long list of reasons that legalization will work even better than most people expect.

That's right parents. Prepare to be pleasantly surprised.

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