[In response to the AP article “Easing of State Marijuana Laws Poses Challenge for Parents”]
No one can deny that the number one goal of a parent is for his or her children to grow up healthy, and be able to make responsible decisions about everything from their friendships and lifestyle, to their safety. Parents do this by sitting down and having open honest conversations about issues that will inevitably affect them in the future.
Education gives children the tools and understanding to help them cope with the challenges they have already experienced, and will continue to face further down the road. Creating a government regulated system for marijuana legalization, which will include everything from age limits to promotional and advertising restrictions (and obviously impaired driving regulations), will actually help parents address this issue with their kids. Several studies have already shown that states with regulated marijuana programs have not seen an increase in teen use. Some have even seen a decrease in pot use among their youth population.
The prohibition of marijuana sends the message “marijuana is morally wrong” and implies that there is no such thing as a responsible marijuana consumer. This ignorant policy improperly allows the government to interfere in the parent’s job of teaching their kids about moderation and responsibility. Scare tactics and rhetoric are disingenuous and do not help children understand the realities of the world we live in.
It is socially acceptable for parents, alcohol distributors, and even the government to teach children about safe drinking practices (with a full understanding that alcohol is directly responsible for thousands of deaths every year), and the state regulation of marijuana will allow parents and educators do the same for the plant (whose non-lethal and relatively harmless side effects inevitably make the latter substance the safer choice).
We did not have to outlaw cigarettes to reduce the use among minors. A policy of education and regulation (not prohibition) has created an environment in which cigarette usage has fallen to an all time low. The same goes for alcohol. A sustained and concerted effort on responsible drinking practices by the government, alcohol companies and educational institutions have driven teen alcohol use down to a record low as well, according to the 2011 Monitoring the Future Survey. Age restrictions, government regulation and education have proven to be one of the most effective elements in reducing youth access to adult-only recreational substances. None of these controls apply to marijuana.
As it currently stands, marijuana is illegal and sold on the black market to anyone willing to pay for it. Drug dealers don’t ID. Today, young people report that they have easier access to illicit marijuana than to legal beer or cigarettes. This is because the latter is legally limited to adults only.
Children need accurate information to make informed decisions. They need to be educated on how consuming marijuana can effect their body’s development specifically, and how to reduce any harms associated with its use – as well as how to distinguish between use and abuse. Just as it is socially acceptable for parents to speak with their children openly about their use of alcohol, with an emphasis on that fact that it is only appropriate for adults in moderation, the legalization of marijuana will allow parents to openly discuss their (possible) past or current use and be able to objectively and rationally speak to their children about pot. The controlled regulation of marijuana will send a message of moderation and responsible use. It will also undercut the black market, which in turn will reduce teen access. It’s as simple as that, and it’s a win-win for everybody.