Sunday March 22, 2015
One of the most common arguments against marijuana legalization is worry about the effects it will have on our children. Concerns about its availability to young, developing minds coupled with more lax views of the subject in general have many parents still questioning whether or not marijuana legalization is really safe for our children.
For those who are concerned about the safety of marijuana and the business it brings, I say to you: marijuana regulation can and does protect our children in a number of ways. From helping to keep it out of their hands to funding their education on the matter to less strain on family, marijuana legalization is good for the family.
The black market doesn't care about age
Whether marijuana is legal or not, if there is a demand for it, there will be a market for it. If this market is conducted illegally (the infamous "back alley" sort of deal), then there is no age limit or other restrictions for obtaining the product -- if you're willing to risk a pot violation, that is. If your kids are willing to risk the fine, chances are that they will have no difficulty finding a sack of weed.
Also, according to DrugWarFacts.com, those who do attempt to illegally purchase or sell marijuana are more than twice as likely to be charged with a misdemeanor than adults; a charge that could follow them well into adulthood by blocking their ability to receive government-funded student loans and find employment, and pinning them with costly fines and lawyers’ fees when they should be paying for college.
Regulation reduces product contaminants
Another concern aside from getting caught is the risk of contaminants. Toxins like mold and bacteria are rarely tested for in illegal cannabis and can cause many health problems. Legal, regulated dispensaries, however, must have their products tested for mold, bacteria, heavy metals and solvents. If they fail, they are not allowed to sell from that batch.
Marijuana sales help generate money for schools
One of the major selling points to legalize marijuana in the first place was to put a percentage of the tax revenue towards Colorado schools -- and it worked. During 2014, Colorado was able to generate $16 million in excess marijuana taxes to put toward the grant program, Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST). Using this money (in addition to other funds), the BEST program will be able to build or expand schools, purchase new equipment and supplies, and hire more health care workers (nurses, counselors, social workers and psychologists).
Drug education is more effective than scare tactics
Anti-marijuana campaigns have often gone for the scare tactic to get teens to avoid drug use, but studies have shown that these methods are not necessarily effective. In fact, one study showed a slight dip in risk assessment for meth directly following a negative ad campaign. This suggests that, though scare tactics are strong in theory, they are not necessarily effective.
What seems to work better with teenagers today is education, empowerment and action. Instead of trying to scare our kids into thinking weed will make them couch-locked zombies, we should educate them about the real risks associated with cannabis (impaired ability to drive, friction within close relationships, dependency and addiction, for example); we should empower them to avoid addiction; and we should offer them active ways to deal with the stressors of life instead of leaving them to their own resources. Marijuana tax dollars help this happen.
Over-the-counter highs are dangerous
Whether getting drunk off of hand sanitizer or huffing spray paint, some kids will do just about anything to get high, results of which can be deadly. Though the obvious preference is for all children to refrain from drug use at all, in cases in which that is not possible, marijuana is a safer option.
But I'm not the only one who thinks this. According to Aaron E. Carroll, Professor of Pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine, "When someone asks me whether I’d rather my children use pot or alcohol, after sifting through all the studies and all the data, I still say “neither.” Usually, I say it more than once. But if I’m forced to make a choice, the answer is “marijuana.”
No more broken families because of a misplaced drug war
One in 28 children has a parent in prison, largely due to a drug war that incarcerates people instead of rehabilitating them. Even without a sentence, marijuana convictions can make it very difficult for families to get by. They may experience disqualification for government assistance, healthcare coverage and certain employment opportunities; trouble attaining homes and college degrees; and difficulty maintaining strong interpersonal relationships. In short, as long as marijuana remains illegal, it will continue to put undue strain on the family structure.
A happy home is a healthy home
Depression plagues 15 million Americans at some point in their lives, and can affect anyone of any age. Causing persistent feelings of helplessness and despair, when a loved one has depression, it can be difficult to know what to do, especially since some antidepressants can exacerbate the symptoms if not lead to a life-long dependency on them.
Marijuana, however, seems to counter the effects of depression, at least in some individuals. Depending, of course, on the strain and dosage, marijuana has been shown to relieve depressive symptoms and may even contribute to a reduced number of suicides and fatal accidents.
While many cases may warrant a doctors intervention, if someone in the home is depressed, marijuana may help treat depression, too. This is especially important for men who are less likely to seek help for their depression. They are also more likely to self-medicate with things like alcohol, sex and risky behaviors; and more likely to express their anger in ways that could be destructive to the family structure (aggression, avoidance, or over-working, for example).
In other words, marijuana can be a viable middle ground for someone suffering from depression, especially if they are having trouble coming to terms with their illness.
As parents, we naturally want the best for our children, and the uncertainties surrounding marijuana legalization make it hard to know the best action to take. When we’ve been told about the dangers of marijuana for most of our lives, it can be difficult to see things from the other side. But marijuana legalization is the safer option for our children and for our society.
There are many reasons to support marijuana legalization. What’s yours?