Think about the Children

This gateway drug cannot be legalised. Think of all the kids who'll start using it and become addicted…

This is one of the strongest arguments of those that are against marijuana legalisation. Legalising and making it acceptable will lead to an increase in usage by underaged children. Time and time again, I have argued differently.

The more it is legalised, standardised, and organised, the harder it will make it for the black market to supply it.

Think about it…would you rather buy a bottle of wine for your dinner party on Saturday night from a registered bottle store down the road, where you can buy an award-winning wine, or from your dodgy neighbour 5 houses down, who wants to give you a high-quality bottle of Uncle Jim's famous Southern moonshine? 

California offers the best understanding of the true relationship between legalisation and teenage usage. Why? Because it legalised for medicinal use in 1996, had dispensaries for those 18 and over from 2000, and then full recreational in 2018. They have had the eco-system around the kids for the longest. Yet usage is…declining among teenagers. Surprise surprise.

A statewide study in California has found that cannabis use by teens in the state has declined. Results of the California Healthy Kids Survey were released by the California Department of Education on Monday. The results – pretty imperial – cannabis use in teenagers has. Steadily declined. The study is funded by the state's health and education departments and is conducted every two years.

"The declines in substance use are striking."

 – California Health Kids Survey Report, 2017

Consider the facts

Let's start with the ridiculous. 7th graders.

According to the research, 4.2 percent of them reported that they had used cannabis at any time between 2015 and 2017. That figure represents a 47 percent drop from the last survey when 7.9 percent of 7th graders reported using marijuana from 2013 to 2015. Bottom line – 7th graders should never be using it. But legalisation (control) has made it harder for them to get their hands on it.

Among 9th graders, 17.4 percent reported that they had used cannabis at some time during 2015 to 2017. That is a 25 percent decline from the 23.1 percent who reported using marijuana in the previous study.

And finally, the 11th graders. Well, the report showed that they too, had a reduction in usage, albeit only 16%. Still, the figure sits under 40% and keeps declining. This is proof it is having the opposite effect that your mother-in-law's best friend thinks is the gateway to her teenage daughter becoming a "stoner". Got to give it to the governments. Not since the Nazi's used mass scale propaganda to install the belief that the Jews were the enemy, has a government so effectively swayed public opinion on an issue.

Think through the logic

Ellen Komp, deputy director of California NORML, said in a blog post from the advocacy group that the legalisation of recreational cannabis is actually a factor in the decline of use by teens.

"These initial reports confirm that legalising and regulating cannabis doesn't increase youth marijuana use, but rather it has the opposite effect. The fact that the biggest drop in reported use came from younger age groups is a particularly encouraging indicator of the success of regulation," said Komp.

The report did not, and probably was not, able to define exactly why usage had declined but did point to a factor that helped position the decline better

"Between 2002 and 2015, we observed a 27% overall reduction in the relative proportion of adolescents ages 12-17-and a 42 percent reduction among those ages 12-14-reporting that it would be "very easy" to obtain marijuana. This pattern was uniformly observed among youth in all sociodemographic subgroups. … Despite the legalization of recreational and medical marijuana in some states, our findings suggest that … perceptions that marijuana would be very easy to obtain are on the decline among American youth."

– Trends in perceived access to marijuana among adolescents in the United States: 2002-2015, Journal of Studies of Alcohol and Drugs, 2017.

It has made it significantly harder get, outside of the system. Think about it. Street dealers used to thrive on the entire market. 95% of their customer base would have been those 18 and older. These people can now buy it legally. They have zero reasons to go outside the legal system and risk criminal convictions. With 95% of their client base dried up, the street dealer is essentially out of business. This makes it harder for the kids to find another dealer.

Then dispel the myths.

Oh, and about that "gateway drug" status symbol

Consider first the following. In 2017,

  • 72,000 Americans died from a Drug overdose (you can include Prince in there)
  • 88,000 Americans died from alcohol-related deaths, and of course the big one,
  • 480,000 Americans died from Tobacco use

Pretty scary numbers actually. Over 1300 Americans die every day as a result of tobacco use. Quick post note on this. No one has ever died from a marijuana overdose. Ever.

Now the naysayers will immediately respond and say that we have cherry picked the above stats to ensure the danger is cannabis is severely downplayed. Well, reports have also proved the fact that

  • The vast majority of cannabis users do not move onto more dangerous drugs.
  • The vast majority of cannabis users do not develop a substance-abuse problem.

I get asked this question a lot and thought it fair to show that facts are being produced that directly oppose the "assumptions" that the PR campaigns have out in place. No, legalisation does not lead to increased teenage usage. Quite the opposite actually. And those that are still trying it, are not all getting addicted and becoming "stoners".

Like sunlight bursting through rainclouds after a stormy downpour, so the truth behind this miracle plant is starting to break through the government imposed, brainwashing propaganda. 

Think about the children. That's exactly what we're doing.

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Mark Bernberg
Mark Bernberg

Mark Bernberg is a long-time cannabis investing enthusiast and founder of The Green Fund, Asia Pacific's preeminent media house, positioned at the forefront of the global cannabis industry.

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