You know what bothers me? Yes, high treason by a flaccid, racist, sociopathic Nazi-lover who lost the popular vote by 2,864,974 votes, of course.
But I’m none too wild about the arguments used by prohibitionists who oppose regulated cannabis programs, either. Now that legalization has had a few years to provide information for researchers, we’re getting a better idea of whether these prohibitionist arguments are valid. This week, I’ll start analyzing these arguments—“cannalyzing,” if you will—as a regular feature of the column.
ARGUMENT: Cannabis use in youth will increase when a recreational cannabis program is established.
Look, unless it’s for medical issues, cannabis should not be used by kids. (Cautionary tale: I consumed copious amounts of “the reefer” in high school, and look how that worked out. I would have been far better off drinking daily instead! Right? ...Right?)
I have never spoken to anyone in the cannabis industry, regulated or otherwise, who has sought out children in order to sell them weed, in any form. (Can Big Tobacco say the same?) Growers and dispensaries are required to take extensive and expensive steps to restrict cannabis access to anyone, but especially those under 21. The penalties for blowing it are high.
(And hey, why do you never hear these concerns when a town opens a liquor store? No one ever screams about how the rates of underage drinking of alcohol—a taxed, regulated adult consumable—will increase. And since liquor stores do not sell to kids, ever, then underage drinkers must have gotten their hooch from their parents, which is poor parenting, and never a reflection on the industry as a whole. Plus, liquor comes in super-childproof containers like “bottles” and “cans,” and leaves the store in a special exit bag that I like to call a “paper sack.”)
New studies give clearer insight as to what truly happens when a recreational cannabis program is established. This month, Marijuana Moment looked at a paper published by the Drug and Alcohol Review by researchers at the University of Waterloo in Canada. The study analyzed responses from an online survey of 4,097 US teens aged 16 to 19 who live in three types of states: prohibitionist, those with an established recreational program, and those with a newly established recreational program.
In states that had well-established recreational programs, youth cannabis use was slightly higher. Prohibitionist states were at 13.3 percent, new rec 17.6 percent, and established rec had 20.30 percent.
But researchers qualified that finding: “Relatively few differences were observed between states with an established market and those that only recently legalized, which suggests that differences between legal and non-legal states may be partly due to pre-established trends and a type of ‘self-selection’ effect, in that states that legalize non-medical cannabis typically have higher rates of cannabis use anyway.”
How cannabis is used differs as well. The respondents from states with established rec programs used tobacco with cannabis in a blunt or joint at 20.5 percent, while prohibition states had 32.7 percent who did. Prohibitionist states had a higher rate of users who drive within two hours of smoking, and were less concerned about the long-term health effects of cannabis use.
Colorado and Washington have determined that the kids are all right. In Colorado, both state and federal studies show that juvenile use of cannabis is actually down since legalization, according to the Denver Post’s Cannabist publication, and a large majority of Colorado students are not using cannabis regularly or are doing so infrequently. Of all students, a majority have never even tried cannabis.
In Washington, a three-year study by the Washington State Institute of Public Policy (as reported in the Seattle Times) has determined that cannabis use among youth has not increased since cannabis legalization. A Washington Department of Health biannual study of students in the sixth, eighth, 10th, and 12th grades showed cannabis use was either unchanged or had slightly declined since the beginning of their legalized cannabis program.
In states with recreational programs, the agencies regulating those programs have been implementing wide-reaching public education and awareness campaigns about restricting cannabis access to youth. Having a recreational program puts far more funding and attention toward the matter of underage cannabis use than a prohibitionist state does. Restricting regulated access is not making children any safer, and may be more harmful than helpful.