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article imageOp-Ed: Teen drug use declines as more states relax drug laws

By Glen Olives     Dec 20, 2014 in Lifestyle
As more and more states relax drug laws, particilarly with respect to marijuana, drug use among young Americans continues to decline. Yes this is counterintuitive, but perfectly explicable.
A recent study by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, and reported by Sophie Keeman this week, found that teen marijuana use fell in 2014 across every age group. This is despite 25 states now having liberal marijuana laws (either decriminalized or legalized for various uses). The most recent states to do so were Colorado and Washington. Even the Texas legislature is considering marijuana liberalization.
Despite these unarguable trends, tough drug advocates like Andy Harris are still saying things like, Relaxing [marijuana] laws clearly lead to more teenage drug use. It should be intuitively obvious to everyone that if you legalize marijuana for adults, more children will use marijuana because the message that it's dangerous will be blunted.
This statement is so wrong on so many different levels that I am almost at a loss as to where to begin. I'll be brief. First, it is based on a false premise that marijuana is dangerous. Although any substance can be abused, studies have shown that marijuana is much less dangerous than alcohol. Second, both history and empirical evidence show us that making popular substances illegal makes them more available, not less available. This is counterintuitive, to be sure, but also true. As I pointed out in a recent piece for The Baffler, During the time of alcohol prohibition in the U.S. (1920-1933), drinkers didn’t stop drinking because alcohol was illegal. They just bought their alcohol from different sources. Bootleggers and gangsters like Al Capone saw the profit to be made in black market alcohol, and took advantage of an enormous untaxed business opportunity provided by Prohibition. Violent clashes between rival gangs vying for territory, and between the police and these gangs, turned into a low-grade, asymmetrical war, in which thousands of lives were lost. Not surprisingly, the homicide rate increased drastically during Prohibition, and fell drastically after it was repealed. Equally important is the fact that alcohol use increased during Prohibition.
The same is true of marijuana. It is easier for a teenager to buy marijuana than beer in states where it is still prohibited. This is because marijuana is totally unregulated. Dealers don't ask for IDs. Empirical data suggests that in jurisdictions where drug sales are legal, regulated, and controlled by the government, drug use goes down, not up. Anti-legalization advocates in Florida have recently taken out ads saying, "Your child could soon find easier access to marijuana." Wrong. If cannabis is legalized in Florida, kids will find access more, not less, difficult.
Macro Cannabis Bud
A close-up of a dried, potent, Mountain Jam Cannabis bud
Ryan Bushby (CC BY 2.5)
In the 1990s, when the U.S. War on Drugs was approaching its apogee, marijuana was at its all time high among teens. Now it is at its lowest point among many age groups since 1997, and in all age groups it has been declining in direct correlation with the liberalization of marijuana laws.
This is counterintuitive. But so is the fact that the Earth revolves around the sun, yet we know it to be true. It is time that the pro Drug War advocates stop their stupid preachments based on nothing more than unsubstantiated personal convictions, and start looking at the evidence. It is perfectly accessible, and often published by the very government prosecuting the War on Drugs, perhaps the saddest commentary of all.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about US drug laws, teen drug use, drug prohibition, illegal drug use
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