Like alcohol and tobacco, legalizing marijuana will increase kids’ access to the drug

By Gilbert Mora

Mainstreaming recreational marijuana sets a bad example for kids

Mainstreaming recreational marijuana sets a bad example for kids

The author is writing on behalf of the Westside Impact Coalition, a community group working to improve public health and safety in Venice.

A proposal to legalize the recreational use of marijuana will likely make the November ballot.

Wherever you fall on the issue personally, one fact cannot be ignored: Legalization will increase youth use of the drug throughout the state and, yes, in Venice.

Research has demonstrated time and again that the more accessible a substance is the more youth will use it.

Children of parents who smoke marijuana are more than three times more likely to use it themselves, a 2014 nationwide survey commissioned by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation’s Center for Public Advocacy found. Among young adults (ages 18 to 25) whose parents had used marijuana, 72% had used it also. Conversely, only 20% of those whose parents had never used marijuana reported having used marijuana themselves.

But alcohol and tobacco provide the best case studies. Decades of research on these two legal substances reveals that youth usage rates are considerably higher in places where there is easier access for adults (in the form of more stores selling the products, for example), despite the age restrictions that are supposedly in place.

Most people say yes to legalization without thinking about the consequences of a powerful and financially motivated marijuana industry.

What about the inevitable proliferation of marijuana dispensaries throughout our communities?

What about the potential of marijuana advertising in print, on billboards and online?

What about public use?

Of course there will be efforts to regulate all of it, but there is no denying that once the vast mechanism of a “Big Marijuana” industry is in place our communities will be much more saturated.

We cannot underestimate the impact this will have on the youth around us. What is viewed as socially normative deeply influences young people. If teens are inundated with marijuana messages and imagery, or, if they’re regularly seeing the adults in their lives smoking pot, they’re more likely to do the same — three times more likely, according to the research.

All of this matters, of course, because marijuana use hurts youth – more so than it does adults. Research shows that marijuana has significant detrimental cognitive effects
on the developing brain. Youth can’t regularly use marijuana without long-term consequences.

I believe strongly that it is our duty as adults to protect our kids from harm. I hope you feel the same.

If we don’t protect our children, who will?

Visit westsideimpactproject.org for more information about the Westside Impact Coalition.

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