Cannabis Prohibition: Is It Really Keeping Our Children Safe?

Many a bored teen will hang out with friends and be faced with choosing to use drugs or not.  Many government officials as well as parents tout the War on Drugs as a savior to our children.  They say that it keeps the drugs out of the hands of minors, off the streets and out of schools.  With the economy shining a spotlight onto finances one can quickly see how big of a budget the War on Drugs consumes.  With taking all the different facets of this war into account some wonder if its really working.

The War on Drugs has been waging for over 40 years.  It has cost the tax-payers over $14 trillion, billions annually.  There have been surges and wanes over the 40 years in intensity in the pursuit to eradicate drug use.  Over the years we have witnessed many tragedies and successes.  We have seen harmful drug use drop among the population but especially minors.  We have also seen over the last 18 months an intensity like never before in the use of intimidation tactics, SWAT style raids against state legal patients, abuse, or lethal force when pursuing cannabis users.

With more education and information available to teens today many are able to see through the hypocrisy and lies.  Teens can see you are lying especially when they try cannabis, realize that it is not going to kill them and that they actually like the effects.  With alcohol, who’s effects are similar to cannabis but with much more harm at stake, not only available for sale but advertised everywhere including major sports events it is hard to see the difference.  When they see you are lying about cannabis they question other “truths” you have been telling them.

Simple cannabis possession or other non-violent cannabis related offenses can claim your driver’s license, student loans, subsidized housing, or federal grants.  It can jail a parent or guardian even if they are state and county legal.  With a parent jailed it costs tax-payers more to incarcerate and breaks up a family where the children are thrown into the broken foster care system.  All of us should be asking if this is really what is best for our children.

Children that go into the system cost tax-payers millions each year.  It costs the child emotionally and psychologically.   Children that grow up in the system are bounced around to different homes causing them to act out, perform poorly in school, drop out, get into legal trouble and end up repeating their parents mistakes.  Should we really treat cannabis related offenses this harshly?  Are these tactics really working?

Cannabis use was slightly higher this year but more harmful drugs, including alcohol, were reportedly down according to a recent study among teens use.  Those that take a quick look around or have a conversation with a teen will learn how easily drugs are accessible.  Each year D.E.A. officials boast of their catches but in reality they have barely scratched the surface.  Even with officials raiding and confiscating thousands of plants, California’s number one cash crop was still cannabis.  The plain truth is that it is a plant that can be grown in anyone’s home.  It can be kept from anyone’s knowledge provided the grower is smart.  It can be accessed through many avenues including access through children.

Drug cartels have taken notice of America’s love of drugs and has very outstretched networks that effect our children.  The violence and corruption that comes along with the cartels are infiltrating our schools.  The cartels lure children with money or threats using them as drug runners, smugglers or sellers.  They know that if children are caught the punishment is less.  The also know that it takes less money to impress children.  In this way they have been able to utilize children to sell to others including their peers thus spurring not only more drug use but recruiting even more children.

California has a heavily burdened prison and welfare system.  They have a large amount of incarcerated inmates for cannabis related crimes.  Our nation has been fighting this war for far too long.  Even our children see the truth about cannabis.  Isn’t it time we started talking about this subject from a new perspective?  Our law enforcement agencies have received cuts across the states including here in California.  Our streets are not safer.  Drug use has not been eradicated even after over 40 years.  Families are broken, children are effected, states are bankrupt and in the end drugs are still easily accessible at any school.  Isn’t it time we end the War on Drugs and start with a new approach?

Cannabis and Teens

Since 1975 the “Monitoring the Future” study has recorded the self-reported use of various substances by middle and high school students. Each year it reveals what is really going on with teen drug use.  In 2011 47,000 teens participated with interesting results. Although many, including the US Drug Czar, took the findings as negative and just one more way to attack cannabis use what it revealed was more proof that teens just like most of us want to do what is best for our bodies.

Many Americans today have tried or use cannabis with no adverse side effects.  During the 90s there was a huge push with D.A.R.E. and other programs that educated school children on all dangers of drugs.  With the population becoming more educated on the actual dangers associated with cigarettes, alcohol and other harmful substances we have seen a shift in use.  People including teens  have also realized the real harms and benefits of cannabis as well.

With this realization people have turned to cannabis with its relatively mild side effects and no lasting damage or threat of death.  Data backs up that use of harmful substances such as cocaine, steroids and heroin have steadily fallen down almost 50% from peak.  Alcohol and tobacco use is down 50% as well actually reaching historic lows.  It would seem that the population of teens have weighed out the dangers and chosen for themselves.

Cannabis use by contrast in the last four years has increased but not noticeably.  Some wonder then why many saw this report as a call to action against cannabis.    Some blamed the medical use movement for not only exposure but access as well.  This argument does not entirely hold up.  Medical marijuana was in the mainstream media and nation-wide topic in 1996 when CA first tried to legalize for patients.  Access for minors in states that have legalized has been restricted and taken crime off the streets.

In 2011 it was reported that 6.6% reported consuming cannabis daily which is greater than previously reported.   The attitude towards cannabis by teens as a whole has also changed with about 45% of them viewing cannabis as harmful.  That is a huge difference considering in the early 90s it was at 80%.  One caveat is that during the time from the early 90s and throughout most of 2000 teen use of cannabis also fell.

Anyone who lives in the real world will attest that you can only shield your children for so long before you have to let go and let them make their own choices.  When it comes to that point all the training that they have received will guide them.  Teens will always party and always break the rules.  We will never live in a society where there is not a teenage party going on somewhere.  While I don’t support teen use of cannabis, when weighing out the harms against use of alcohol and other harmful substances I would rather see teens choose a natural plant that does not cause death.

There of course are risks with using cannabis not only from using the drug but also the consequential side effects and one’s actions.  The earlier in one’s life cannabis is used the more potential there is for risks.  With that, when weighing out the cons, the potential risks of using cannabis is far less severe than many other substances including prescriptions.

While Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske and other national media look negatively at the study others walk away with a sense of pride that our nation’s youth are choosing more wisely.  Today more people, including teens, perceive cannabis to be less harmful than alcohol and tobacco.  Someday our leaders will see the light and come to the same conclusion as the rest of us.  The War on Drugs has made cannabis an evil that is not neccessary.