Pubdate: Fri, 24 Jul 2015
Source: Marin Independent Journal (CA)
Copyright: 2015 Marin Independent Journal
Authors: Charles M. Collins, Don Carney, Jennifer Puckett
Note: Charles M. Collins is president and CEO of YMCA of San 
Francisco, Don Carney is director YMCA Marin County Youth Court and 
Jennifer Puckett is coordinator YMCA Marin County Youth Court.


It's pretty easy to get your hands on marijuana in Marin County high 
schools and middle schools. Sounds like a problem, right? But maybe 
we can fix it.

How about we make it even easier for youth to get, but we raise money 
for programs to help them once they become dependent?

Or we smoke it in front of them and tell them they shouldn't, because 
telling a teenager to "just say no" usually works for them, right?

If this reasoning makes sense to you, then you'll be happy that Lt. 
Gov. Gavin Newsom's Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy agrees with you.

The commission concludes that since youth can already easily get pot, 
we should legalize it, and then spend a portion of the taxes to help 
youth who become dependent on the drug.

There is nothing new in the commission's plan to limit youth access. 
It's a fact that more kids will experiment with marijuana and the age 
of first use will drop with legalization.

In sharp contrast to the commission's belief is research in the field 
of prevention science. It's proven that limiting access protects 
youth. Adults who work with youth are consistently seeking ways to 
limit availability of alcohol; the same should be done for marijuana.

But marijuana is harmless, right? It helps people with cancer, right? 
It's great for stress relief, right? What about the increase in 
potency? Does that make marijuana more dangerous?

Colorado hospital admissions data documents the disastrous impact of 
increased potency.High grade pot will increase the number of youth 
who experience the onset of schizophrenia due to the substance by 100 percent.

There are studies showing the possibility that early marijuana use 
might cause a dramatic and permanent drop in IQ points. Do you want 
to take that chance with your child's brain? Should this generation 
of students be our experimental guinea pigs?

What about an eighth grader who tells us that he smokes before school 
every day, he tried to quit, but started again because he just never 
felt like himself. Do you want to tell him it's not dangerous? That 
it isn't addictive? That limiting his access is not necessary?

What about the girl in his class who abstains because it's illegal, 
but she watches her friend's mom have a smoke after dinner and thinks 
that doesn't look too bad?

But don't lament, once its legal we will have funding to help these kids.

There is an alternative to legalization that still addresses adult 
needs, stops over-burdening our criminal justice system, and allows 
for advances in the study of marijuana for medical use. We can 
decriminalize instead of legalize.

Decriminalization mitigates the legal damages without normalizing use 
and prevents big corporations from taking over of the marijuana 
market. We saw what happened with the tobacco industry, do we really 
want to create another corporate monster?

We do not need a tax generated by legalization to address issues of 
marijuana use in our schools.

The YMCA Marin County Youth Court in collaboration with the Novato 
Unified School District, Healthy Novato Initiative and the Novato 
Blue Ribbon Coalition for Youth have successfully worked together to 
reduce 11th grade 30 day use of alcohol and marijuana by 10 
percentage points in only two years.

The war on drugs and zero-tolerance school policies provided 
disastrous results. Legalization of marijuana will not rectify the 
damage caused by these failed policies.

We need to have a serious discussion about the future of our youth 
and develop strong public health strategies that address marijuana's 
impact on the developing brains of young people.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom