Pubdate: Thu, 26 May 2016
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Page: A19
Copyright: 2016 The Toronto Star
Author: Calvin White
Note: Calvin White is an author and former high-school counsellor 
living in British Columbia. His books include Letters from the Land 
of Fear (Guernica) and The Secret Life of Teenagers (Key Publishing House).


Of course marijuana will be legalized. Only the misplaced morality of 
our previous Conservative government was impeding the logic that 
crime will be lessened, tax largesse will be increased and consumer 
rights will finally be recognized. How could any reasonable person 
argue that alcohol should be legal but marijuana not?

However, legalization does raise a tricky issue with which we have a 
responsibility to grapple: kids and marijuana.

All of us on the front lines of youth mental health and well-being 
know too well the disastrous results of frequent marijuana usage by kids.

Young habitual users are usually less present, less motivated to 
excel, less comfortable with their natural state and less able to 
create meaningful engagement with peers and studies.

We know it is not the same as the toking of past generations. 
Scientific analysis shows how, in current strains, the THC potency is 
tenfold higher and the anti-psychotic chemical component has been 
eliminated. This means the potential for pot to lead to psychosis is 
a clear and present danger for our kids and their developing brains.

This is not to say that a teenager who smokes marijuana once in a 
while is at significant risk. There is not the research to determine 
what frequency or duration is safe or not safe. Yet, if we look into 
who smokes and why, there is a frightening pattern. Too many teens 
are smoking it every day or several times a week.

They are, for all intents and purposes, addicted. They use it to go 
to sleep, to take the edge off stress or boredom at school and to 
create amiable socialization with peers. They use it in order to not 
feel what they would feel if they did not use it.

In short, for so many kids, being high feels better than not being 
high. So why wouldn't kids practise that form of "self-care"? We 
shouldn't denigrate them for it. It makes perfect sense.

Getting stoned also fills the need to rebel and to enact one's own 
independence, which are natural to the teenage stage of life. These 
kids mistakenly believe they are in control.

This is why it is so extremely difficult to persuade a teen to stop 
using. Added to the challenge is the ubiquitous wink of approval that 
marijuana gets from the media and the adult world.

The silly "police oriented" admonition that it is a gateway drug long 
ago revealed itself as a total scam since kids grow up with parents 
and parents' friends who toke up. For years, political platforms have 
discounted any risks.

Thus, it is essential that we begin to see the legalization of 
marijuana not as a moral issue but as a perilous public health issue. 
Once the laws change, the message will irrevocably be that marijuana 
is just fine and the sliver of hesitation caused by its illegality 
will be gone.

There is every reason to assume that usage by children will increase. 
We will see more mental illness in their ranks.

The normalization of being stoned or under the influence will be 
entrenched with the sad consequence that growing up will be impaired.

What does that mean? It means that rather than a kid going through 
the natural process of ups and downs, learning to cope or adapt or 
bounce back as realities fluctuate and, through those experiences, 
developing a firm and knowing relationship with their true self, they 
will instead be chemically insulating and moving through reality 
within that shroud.

Instead of developing confidence in the relationship between their 
true selves and empirical reality, they will be learning dependence 
on something external that they must ingest in order to make it. How sad.

Adults dictate what happens in the world. In their wilfulness to 
cater to their own wants, they inevitably ignore, deny or minimize 
the effects of their choices on their children. When it comes down to 
it, we adults want what we want and we prioritize our right to have it.

We will legalize marijuana because it makes sense to us and, in the 
process, we will give lip service to protecting our kids. But will we 
take the latter seriously by creating and funding widespread, 
comprehensive educational and intervention programs? And, if not, 
will we accept our responsibility when we discover the consequences that arise?
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom