More American teens are smoking pot, and fewer are drinking alcohol, according to a new survey that's at the very least interesting and could be a push for policymakers to start thinking about how we regulate marijuana.
As the father of two kids, I'd like to start off by stipulating: High schoolers are going to try to alter their consciousness. They're also going to try to have sex. I did it, you did it, we all did it (well, we all drank and smoked pot. Some of us got laid and some of us didn't, but speaking personally, I can say that for those who didn't, it wasn't for lack of trying).
My sainted mother used to tell my brother and me that she'd rather have us hang out in the basement with our friends than go out and drive somewhere at night, and she never adhered to the Catholic doctrine of pretending kids shouldn't know about birth control. Her mantra: "As long as nobody gets pregnant or killed in a car accident, whatever you're doing can't be that bad." Which isn't such an awful parenting lesson.
And when it comes to getting pregnant or killed in a car accident, I'd say it's probably better that kids smoke pot than drink. Not saying either one is a great choice for a 16-year-old, just saying that drunk driving, blackouts etc. are a product of alcohol and that the risks of really bad outcomes from smoking pot are a bit lower.
But there's a larger point here, coming from the Marijuana Policy Project:
“This report, once again, clearly demonstrates that our nation’s policymakers have their heads buried in the sand when it comes to addressing teen marijuana use,” said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. “Political leaders have for decades refused to regulate marijuana in order to keep it out of the hands of drug dealers who aren’t required to check customer ID and have no qualms about selling marijuana to young people. The continued decline in teen tobacco and alcohol use is proof that sensible regulations, coupled with honest, and science-based public education can be effective in keeping substances away from young people. It’s time we acknowledge that our current marijuana laws have utterly failed to accomplish one of their primary objectives – to keep marijuana away from young people – and do the right thing by regulating marijuana, bringing its sale under the rule of law, and working to reduce the easy access to marijuana that our irrational system gives teenagers."
Yep: Education and intelligent regulation works. When I was in High School, I was one of the very few kids that didn't smoke cigarettes. Today, the number of teen smokers is much, much lower. And the new study says kids aren't drinking as much -- again, no doubt a result of health education and strict regulation.
So if harm reduction is the goal (and it ought to be), why aren't we legalizing and regulating pot?