Pubdate: Mon, 10 Aug 2015
Source: Burlington Free Press (VT)
Copyright: 2015 Burlington Free Press
Author: Ben Simpson
Note: Ben Simpson, of North Bennington, is a student at Bennington 
College and a member of the Bennington Incarceration Task Force and 
Veteran of the Iraq War.


Once again the debate over marijuana regulation in the state of 
Vermont is heating up. In the latest salvo from the prohibitionist 
side, some of Vermont's high school counselors have voiced concerns 
about regulation in the state and the potential impact on Vermont's children.

Their hearts are in the right place, but they are blinded by their 
good intentions.

I detected four main arguments offered by the counselors: 1) Use of 
marijuana will rise among Vermont's youth because of a change in how 
young people "think"  about the drug. 2) Not enough attention or 
funds are being allocated for prevention and treatment for youth 
using and abusing marijuana. 3) Because medical marijuana has been 
regulated in Vermont, much of the marijuana in Vermont's high schools 
originates in the medical marijuana production stream. 4) Marijuana 
will be "in our homes"  which, will allow youth more access to the 
drug. I will take each point in order.

The data from states that have medical marijuana regulatory regimes 
do not show usage rates increase among youth.

In a January 2015 Technical Report, the American Academy of 
Pediatrics made clear that the "data have shown that state-specific 
legalization of medical marijuana has not led to an increase in 
recreational use of marijuana by adolescents."  The preliminary data 
from states that have legalized and regulated the entire marijuana 
market also do not show an increase among young people.

There is some evidence that young people's perception of risk from 
the use of marijuana decline because of regulatory policies.

But, just like other (more harmful) legal drugs, this perception can 
be changed by persistent and effective public communication by health 
authorities, schools and the government. The campaign against 
cigarette use among youth is an example of this. Taxes collected from 
legalized sales can be directed towards similar efforts with 
marijuana (and even better, alcohol). We know that these public 
messaging campaigns work - the campaign against cigarettes shows 
that. We also know that criminalization does not - decades of 
prohibition demonstrate that.

The second objection is the easiest to address.

If you want more money for treatment and prevention programs, tax the 
drug that you seek to reduce the usage of and use those tax monies 
for treatment and prevention programs.

It is that simple.

The third claim is simply outlandish. Vermont's students are not 
being inundated with medical marijuana.

The RAND Corp. estimated that Vermont's unregulated marijuana 
industry is worth about $125 million-$225 million per year. With the 
state limit of four dispensaries, it beggars belief to suggest that 
the majority of this large market is dominated by such a small and 
heavily regulated dispensary system.

The counselor quoted in the Burlington Free Press article bases this 
claim on his discussion with students.

I would hazard to guess that most students do not know the entire 
production stream of the marijuana market within their school and 
hence, neither does the quoted counselor.

This fails the common sense test.

Alcohol is the most deadly drug available in Vermont. It is sold by 
the state and available in every town. It is in many Vermont homes. 
24 percent of adult Vermonters either binge drink or drink heavily. 
(Compare this to the 7 percent who use marijuana, an empirically 
safer drug.) This alcohol usage is above the national average.

If the prohibitionists were logically consistent, they should be 
advocating for the prohibition of alcohol, as well as marijuana.

They are not. Why? After all, alcohol is a far more destructive drug. 
Marijuana is not safe. It takes its pound of flesh like any other 
drug. But, those negative consequences pale in comparison to alcohol.

So again, why not advocate for its prohibition? I would hope it is 
because the marijuana prohibitionists understand that prohibition of 
alcohol in the United States was an utter failure.

Marijuana prohibition has also been a failure. It is time for the 
prohibitionists to accept that and start advocating for regulation, 
taxation and spending on their real policy priority: helping young 
people struggling with their drug issues and the mental health issues 
that drive them.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom