Proposition 203 will increase teenage marijuana use, and regular marijuana use is especially harmful to teenagers.
Research shows that teenagers who smoke pot frequently have difficulty with memory, attention and problem-solving, find it harder to learn, get lower grades, and are less likely to finish high school or college. Once they’ve finished or left school, they have higher job turnover, less satisfying careers and earn less money than non-pot-smoking peers. No parent wants this for their children. Medical marijuana laws increase teenage marijuana use, so all these problems become more common.
Most teens are actually pretty smart about drugs, using the ones they consider to be safe and avoiding the ones they believe to be harmful. That’s why cigarette smoking and binge drinking have decreased sharply among teens. Teenage marijuana use also showed an overall decrease between 1999 and 2006 as teens recognized the very real problems it can cause. But the decrease has been far less in states with medical marijuana laws.
By the way, some pro-marijuana advocates use only half this statistic, pointing out that teenage marijuana use is decreasing in medical marijuana states and claiming that proves medical marijuana laws don’t increase teen pot use. What they’re not mentioning is that teen marijuana use has decreased everywhere, and is decreasing far faster in states without medical marijuana laws. It has decreased twice as much in non-medical marijuana states.
In a 2006 ranking of states based on the percentage of teens who used marijuana over the past month, medical marijuana states came out on top. The 3 states with the highest rates of teen pot use were all states with medical marijuana laws. At the time there were only ten states with medical marijuana laws, but half of the top ten were medical marijuana states. Maine went from 28th to first in the nation in just a few years after passing a medical marijuana law.
These statistics show that states with medical marijuana laws have higher rates of teenage marijuana use than states without these laws. And teens who use marijuana regularly do worse in school and worse later in life.
One reason teenagers smoke more pot in states with medical marijuana laws is that they begin to see pot as a benign medication for everyday aches and pains rather than as a harmful, addictive drug. Also, medical marijuana laws, especially loosely-written ones like Prop 203, make marijuana more available for everyone. In an NPR story earlier this year, teenagers in California were quoted saying marijuana is always available, either from dispensaries or from friends who have medical marijuana cards. When a drug is more available and seen as safe, more people use it, especially teens.
Parents should know that one of the main results if this proposition becomes law is that their children are much more likely to have friends who smoke pot and more likely to smoke pot themselves. And if they do smoke pot, they will probably start at an earlier age and smoke it more often.
Medical marijuana laws also teach kids dishonesty. When they see drug abusers and doctors gaming the system, and getting away with it, they think that’s what normal people do.
To join or learn about the group opposing Proposition 203, go to KeepAZDrugFree.com