It is important to me as a father, as a concerned citizen, but particularly as a recovering drug addict, that my children grow up in a country that rejects the ineffective and damaging policy of marijuana prohibition.
Believe it or not, but legalizing marijuana will be better and safer for our children.
I would like to believe my kids won’t ever head down the same road of destruction I was on, but whatever happens, I know that prohibition does not stop kids from using marijuana.
As someone who's been there, done that and regrets doing that, I am still of the persuasion that my marijuana use had nothing to do with my trying and becoming addicted to amphetamines, cocaine or heroin. As with most drug users and addicts, I too had a curious nature that got me to try pot, then all the other drugs as well. I would have tried each and every other drug even without having been exposed to marijuana.
There are those however, that stop with marijuana, not feeling the urge or need to continue experimenting. It is these people who risk being exposed to other drugs because the person selling them the pot also sells cocaine and heroin. These harmless pot smokers would never even come in contact with harder drugs if marijuana were legal.
My kids and grand kids will be exposed to marijuana along with other risky behaviors. After all, about a third of high school seniors have used marijuana within the last year, a figure that has been relatively stable over decades across the country and has not been affected by variations in laws and enforcement. Moreover, it has long been easier for kids to get marijuana than it is for them to get alcohol. The plain fact is drug dealers don’t require ID, and legitimate businesses do. By taking marijuana out of the black market and placing it within the confines of safe, regulated, and licensed businesses that only sell to those 21 and over, Proposition 19 would actually reduce underage access to marijuana.
While we don’t want our kids to try marijuana, much less use it regularly, but as it stands now, if they do it can lead to very harsh consequences if they are caught, even for actions that are not harmful to others. And this next part is really scary: when a person is convicted of a marijuana offense, he or she is precluded from receiving federal student loans, will forever have a drug record that diminishes job prospects, and is precluded from many other benefits, not to mention being arrested, possibly serving time, and other harsh and harrowing outcomes. We don’t prevent even violent criminals from getting student loans. Or underage drinkers, for that matter. I don’t want people to have their lives derailed for a youthful indiscretion. Do you?
To truly serve public safety, we should control and tax marijuana, since under present policies, thousands of violent crimes go unsolved, while police spend valuable and scarce resources targeting thousands of non-violent adult marijuana users. Arrests for simple possession of marijuana have tripled over the last two decades. The $300 million California spends each year on marijuana enforcement would better serve our communities spent on solving and preventing violent crimes. Any new tax revenues would better serve our children if spent on drug education, drug rehabilitation, and of course shoring up our crumbling public education system.
We know our children are going to make decisions for themselves, probably at an age we think is too young. Laws are not going to be nearly as effective in guiding those choices as the messages we send to them as parents and in our public education efforts. We need to help kids navigate into adulthood with the judgment to moderate their intake of so many substances capable of abuse, from sugar to caffeine, to alcohol, to prescription drugs, and of course, marijuana. Not to mention making good decisions about sex, Internet usage, driving, studying, and extracurricular activities. As a father, grandfather, uncle and just plain caring person, thinking through the list I am not most terrified by the choices they might make regarding marijuana. How about you? So let’s treat marijuana like alcohol, explain to our kids why they should avoid both, at least while they are young, and teach them how to be responsible about various choices in life.
This month, my 19 year old bought himself a sports car. He goes fast, and has a lot of confidence. I breathe a sigh of relief when he checks as she pulls out of the driveway. And I hope that he will learn to internalize that check against his daredevil tendencies. I will do my part, and I don’t want the state hovering over my shoulder, reflexively criminalizing behaviors that happen to make mothers gasp. As parents, we know that education is often more effective than punishment, and in some cases punishment is not effective at all.
Women were instrumental in bringing about repeal of prohibition in 1933, and you can be again when it comes to determining when marijuana prohibition is reversed. In my view, Proposition 19 is the right choice, not just for true law and order, but for our kids.
Amongst other things, regulations could include “age restrictions, restricting driving or operating machinery while intoxicated, limiting hours of sale and outlet density, restricting bulk sales and limiting potency of legal cannabis.”
Boiled down, this is the same message that MPP and others have advocated for years: marijuana regulation is a far superior policy alternative to the chaotic and ineffective nature of prohibition.
According to Gallup’s most recent polling average, 44 percent of Americans currently approve of President Obama’s job performance. More Americans now support legalizing marijuana than approve of President Obama’s job performance!
Gallup found that support for making marijuana legal was highest among liberals (72%), 18- to 29-year-olds (61%) and people living in the West (58%). Majority support also exists among Democrats, independents, men, and moderates.
No matter what happens on Election Day next week, these numbers show that nationally, support for ending prohibition continues to trend in the right direction. “If the trend of the past decade continues at a similar pace, majority support could be a reality within the next few years,” according to Gallup
- The annual overall budget for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy increased by more than 600%; growing from approximately $1.5 billion in 1981 to more than $18 billion in 2002 (the last year reliable figures were available).
- Between 1990 and 2006, marijuana-related arrests increased by 150%, while marijuana seizures increased by more than 400%.
- The estimated retail cost of marijuana decreased from $37 per gram in 1990 to $15 per gram in 2007.
- Marijuana has remained almost “universally available” to American youth during the last 30 years of prohibition.
- Today, over 100 million Americans admit to having tried marijuana, and 14.5 million say they have used it in the past month.1 A study released in December 2006 found that marijuana is now the leading cash crop in the U.S., exceeding the value of corn and wheat combined.2 According to government-funded researchers, high school seniors consistently report that marijuana
- is easily available, despite decades of a nationwide drug war. With little variation, every year about 85% consider marijuana "fairly easy" or "very easy" to obtain.3 There have been almost 9.5 million marijuana arrests in the United States since 1995, including 872,720
- arrests in 2007 – more than for all violent crimes combined, and an all-time record. One person is arrested for marijuana every 36 seconds. About 89% of all marijuana arrests are for possession – not manufacture or distribution.4 Every comprehensive, objective government commission that has examined the marijuana phenomenon
- throughout the past 100 years has recommended that adults should not be criminalized for using marijuana.5Cultivation of even one marijuana plant is a federal felony.• Lengthy mandatory minimum sentences apply to myriad offenses. For example, a person must serve a
- five-year mandatory minimum sentence if federally convicted of cultivating 100 marijuana plants — including seedlings or bug-infested, sickly plants. This is longer than the average sentences for auto theft and manslaughter!6 A one-year minimum prison sentence is mandated for "distributing" or "manufacturing" controlled
- substances within 1,000 feet of any school, university, or playground. Most areas in a city fall within these "drug-free zones." An adult who lives three blocks from a university is subject to a one-year mandatory minimum sentence for selling an ounce of marijuana to another adult — or even growing one marijuana plant in his or her basement.7 Federal government figures indicate there are more than 41,000 Americans in state or federal prison
- on marijuana charges right now, not including those in county jails.8 That’s more than the number imprisoned on all charges combined in eight individual European Union countries. A recent study of prisons in four Midwestern states found that approximately one in ten male inmates reported that they had been raped while in prison.9 Rates of rape and sexual assault against women prisoners, who are most likely to be abused by male staff members, have been reported to be as high as 27 percent in some institutions.10 Civil forfeiture laws allow police to seize the money and property of suspected marijuana offenders
- charges need not even be filed. The claim is against the property, not the defendant. The owner must then prove that the property is "innocent." Enforcement abuses stemming from forfeiture laws abound.11 According to estimates by Harvard University economist Jeffrey Miron, replacing marijuana prohibition
- with a system of taxation and regulation would save between $10 billion and $14 billion per year in reduced government spending and increased tax revenues.12 Another researcher recently estimated that the revenue lost from our failure to tax the marijuana industry could be as high as $31 billion!13
Written By: Tom Retterbush
- MPP - Marijuana Policy Project (mpp.org)