[ Editor’s Note: This article was written in response to a recent op-ed posted on the Christian Science Monitor titled Put our kids first, Mr. Holder, and enforce federal law against marijuana. ]
If our society truly cares about the well-being of its children we’ll embrace cannabis legalization, and put behind us years of propaganda that refuses to accept the reality that cannabis prohibition is a disastrous policy, and cannabis is a non-lethal, therapeutic and medicinal plant.
Despite decades of absurd, ofttimes laughable rhetoric in opposition to cannabis legalization, a majority of American citizens are now in support of such a move, and over 80% support cannabis legalization for medical purposes. Years of lies and reefer madness have been thrown aside as people begin to understand just how foolish this prohibition is.
This is good for our children.
Cannabis prohibition enriches criminal organizations. By taking a plant like cannabis – which is one of, if not our nation’s top cash crops – and putting it underground, it creates a massive, unregulated and dangerous black-market. When you create a black-market as large as this – just as with alcohol prohibition – you allow criminals to run-wild; they control the market. This gives criminal syndicates an easy and consistent way of making money; and a lot of it. For example; Mexican drug cartels, which are responsible for over 100,000 deaths in the past decade alone, get a majority of their profits from selling cannabis directly to Americans. This source of funding would be immediately cutoff if cannabis is legalized in the U.S. The same is true of domestic gangs, which rely heavily on the illegal drug market – particularly cannabis – to remain functional.
[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”28%”]The black-market puts our children at risk, and brings violence to otherwise peaceful neighborhoods.[/pullquote]The black-market puts our children at risk, and brings violence to otherwise peaceful neighborhoods. On top of this, maintaining this black-market has done nothing to reduce usage rates – in fact, they’re the highest they’ve ever been.
“The damage of marijuana – and these laws – is clear. Legalization of marijuana for “medical” use and recreational use in those states has resulted in more marijuana use, particularly among young people”, states David Evans (Executive Director of the Drug Free Schools Coalition), author of the above-mentioned Christian Science Monitor editorial. This is statistically inaccurate, and entirely deceitful.
A study released today, conducted by researchers at the University of Florida College of Medicine, found that states which have legalized medical cannabis saw absolutely no increase in cannabis use among teenagers. This study, which is published in the American Journal of Public Health, validates past studies on the subject, including one from earlier this year which found teens actually use cannabis less in Arizona since they approved their medical cannabis law.
To say that legalization will increase youth usage rates has absolutely no basis in reality, and is simply propaganda (the whole cliche of “drug dealers don’t ID” is true – a regulated market with a defined age limit will make it more difficult for children to obtain cannabis).
In David Evans’ editorial, he notes that marijuana “can permanently impair brain development”. To cite this, he links to the DEA’s position paper on cannabis. Yes, we thought the same thing; “Really?” It’s obvious that he has no legitimate source to back this claim, so he relies on the Drug Enforcement Administration, the ultimate propaganda-machine. A study released last year which “found” that marijuana lowers the IQ of teenagers has since been debunked because of the faulty research method that was used.
Even if cannabis did damage the developing brain of a child – which there’s no indication of – it’s an absolute moot argument when it comes to the legalization of cannabis for adults. No serious legalization effort in the U.S. is aiming to legalize cannabis for anyone under 18. Given that studies (as mentioned-above) show that medical cannabis legalization doesn’t effect youth-usage rates (and may in fact reduce them), the opposition screaming “what about the children” seems backwards.[pullquote align=”right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”28%”]what type of message are we sending our children when we have to explain that alcohol and tobacco are legal, yet our government controls our bodies to the point where we can’t consume a non-lethal plant without fear of arrest[/pullquote] Not to mention; what type of message are we sending our children when we have to explain that alcohol and tobacco are legal, yet our government controls our bodies to the point where we can’t consume a non-lethal plant without fear of arrest.
“Marijuana is the number one drug causing young people to enter treatment and there has been a substantial increase in the people in treatment for marijuana dependence”, states Evans, once again linking to the feds to cite his source.
This is one of the stalest arguments made in opposition to legalization.
When an individual – whether a child or adult – is charged with a minor (non-felony) cannabis charge, often times they’re given the option of jail, or rehabilitation (sometimes they’re simply forced into rehab, or jail and rehab). Once that individual is put into rehab, either by force or as their only means of avoiding prison, the feds count that as a “marijuana addict” seeking treatment. This dramatically skews the numbers, and instantly debunks Mr. Evan’s claim; given that the majority of drug-related arrests are for simple marijuana possession, and given that rehabilitation is often mandatory, it only makes sense that a majority of those entering treatment are for cannabis – the big discrepancy is that it wasn’t by choice, and that these people weren’t “addicted”. They were simply caught.
According to Evans; “A past evaluation by several federal Department of Health and Human Services agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the National Institute for Drug Abuse, concluded that “no sound scientific studies supported medical use of marijuana for treatment in the United States, and no animal or human data supported the safety or efficacy of marijuana for general medical use””.
This is ridiculously inaccurate. We encourage everyone to click here for an article we published earlier this year which includes some recent scientific research regarding cannabis, most of which, by themselves, show the quote above to be undeniably false (and these are just several, among hundreds). The scientific research surrounding cannabis – in addition to the fact that the federal government consistently blocks research – are the primary reasons that the American College of Physicians (the nation’s leading group of internal medicine physicians with over 130,000 members) supports medical cannabis legalization.
Beyond the medicinal and therapeutic potential of cannabis, its legalization (at least for medical purposes) has led to a drastic decrease in overall suicides, especially among young adults, according to a study released in 2011. An additional study found that states which have legalized medical marijuana have seen a significant reduction in traffic fatalities and drunk drivers, something that obviously benefits adults and children alike. These are the type of benefits that legalization will bring; the public is beginning to realize this.
In conclusion: As society continues to debate whether or not cannabis prohibition is something that should be put to an end, one thing that prohibitionists and legalization-supporters can agree on, is that we need to consider the impact such a move will have on our children. However, we also need to examine the impact prohibition has had on our youth. Research shows that the impact is greatly detrimental, due in large part to the dangerous black-market it creates.
Legalization will solve these problems – and then some – without bringing forth an increase in youth usage rates.
It’s time we put our kids first, and legalize cannabis.