The Message the Kids Got About Marijuana
How wrong does must someone be, time and time again, before they are no longer considered an expert on a subject by the media?
There are numerous examples of TV talking heads who keep being elevated to pundit status despite being obviously, repeatedly, terribly wrong about economic, political, and social trends. Think about the screaming finance guys who completely missed the housing bubble and resulting Great Recession. Or the military experts who swore there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and we’d be in and out in a six-month war that would pay for itself. Or the babbling Biblical literalists who prophesied an apocalypse if we allowed gay people to marry (wait, Trump’s president – I’d better hedge my bet on this one).
But none are so colossally wrong with no consequence to their incessant media bookings as the marijuana prohibitionists. Despite being proven obviously, repeatedly, terribly wrong by five years of marijuana legalization and twenty years of medical cannabis access, they keep showing up on the TV, spouting some newly-fabricated fake outrage about legalization, never held to account by the media for their past failed predictions.
“What kind of message would marijuana legalization send to the children?” the prohibitionists asked the public. For decades, we’d hear from drug czars and addiction counselors and child experts on our TV who told us that legalization would make it seem like society approved of it. More kids would want to use marijuana and it would be easier for them to get some once it was legalized. The results would be increased marijuana use by more kids at younger ages.
In every single case, they were wrong, wrong, wrong.
The latest (2016) National Survey on Drug Use and Health has been released. It shows that for people aged 12 to 17, lifetime, past year, and past month marijuana use is down. Just 14.8 percent of teens have tried marijuana, 12 percent used last year, and 6.5 percent used last month.
This national survey has been conducted in its current form since 2002. Back then, 20.6 percent of teens had tried marijuana, 15.8 percent used last year, and 8.2 percent used last month. In the current century, these figures for marijuana use by teens are the lowest that have been recorded.
Why are fewer kids using marijuana these days? Because it is lame!
I don’t mean that marijuana is lame because it doesn’t get you high or have medical benefits. It’s lame to kids these days because it’s now cool to their parents. Smoking a joint these days is as hip and rebellious to teenagers as mom’s glass of chardonnay and dad’s Mötley Crüe playlist.
These teens are using marijuana less even though they fear it less.
Asked in 2002 if using marijuana was a great risk, almost a third (32.4 percent) agreed monthly use was risky and over half (51.5 percent) thought weekly use was risky.
In 2016, monthly use risk is just 27.1 percent and weekly use risk is at 40 percent.
That shouldn’t be surprising, considering that around 2002 we were telling teens their marijuana use helped terrorists to kill innocent families and might make them shoot their friends. For today’s high school senior, there have always been multiple medical marijuana states, as well as legalized states since they were freshmen.
Legalization is also proving to make access for teenagers more difficult.
Asked in 2002 if it would be easy or fairly easy to score some pot, 55 percent said yes.
In 2016, that figure is down to 44.7 percent.
I’ve never understood why prohibitionists thought that selling marijuana in adults-only stores that check identification would somehow make it easier for teens to get marijuana. Kids who are smoking pot already have their hook-up. The more legal opportunities exist to sell marijuana, the fewer dealers will take the unnecessary risk of selling to kids.
Finally, when teens do take up marijuana use, they are waiting until they are older.
In 2002, the median age at which somebody first tried marijuana was about age 17, and had hovered around age 17 or 18 since the 1980s.
From 2015 to 2016, the median age went up from 19.0 to 19.3.
What more evidence do the prohibitionists need to prove that if you care about the children, maintaining the status quo is unacceptable? Only legalization of marijuana can reduce the harms from marijuana and better protect our teens.