HAGELIN: Say ‘no’ to pot and ‘yes’ to extracurriculars
Culture challenge of the week: Marijuana, the “harmless” drug
Weed won on Election Day.
Two states, Colorado and Washington, passed voter referendums that legalized marijuana use, effectively sending teens the wrong message about drug use.
The Colorado measure allows adults to possess and businesses to sell marijuana to anyone 21 and older. Similarly, Washington state legalized marijuana possession for adults, 21 and older. (Both states are on a collision course with federal law, as the Supreme Court has affirmed Congress‘ right to outlaw marijuana use.)
Although two more states — Oregon and Massachusetts — rejected efforts to liberalize marijuana laws, the pro-marijuana forces dominated media coverage.
While a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that young Americans age 18 to 29 do support efforts to legalize marijuana (55 percent support versus 45 percent oppose), Americans in general still think it’s a bad idea (50 percent oppose versus 48 percent support). Women are more likely than men to oppose legalization, and a strikingly high number of Hispanics (65 percent) stand firmly against marijuana legalization — not surprising, given the drug wars that plague Central and South American countries.
Even so, the victories for pot in Washington and Colorado embolden advocates of “recreational” drugs. And while they couch their arguments as adult “freedom” to use marijuana, that message recklessly rolls downhill. Teens uncritically accept the lie that marijuana is harmless — and naively pursue the “adult” pleasure of getting high.
Should you be worried? Absolutely.
According to a recent Yale School of Medicine study, 40 percent of teens report having used marijuana at least once, and one-quarter report using it within the past 30 days.
“My kid would never do such a thing! ” That’s the typical reaction of most parents — but 40 percent of parents are wrong.
Marijuana users span all races and backgrounds. While boys are slightly more likely to use marijuana in the first place, girls more quickly become regular users. White girls are more likely to be marijuana users than black and Asian girls, but black and Hispanic boys are more likely to use marijuana than boys of other races.
What’s driving the increased marijuana use? The cultural messages that dominate sports and entertainment — and the poor example of our public “superstars.” When two out of three of our most recent presidents have admitted that they smoked marijuana, why should our teens believe smoking pot will hinder their long-term success?
It’s not just presidents, either. Role models, from Olympian Michael Phelps to country star Toby Keith, have used marijuana openly.
In the process, our teens internalize a dangerous message: Marijuana will not hurt them. According to a recent study from the University of Michigan, fewer than half of all 12th-graders believe that regularly using marijuana carries a “great risk,” down significantly from 1991, when nearly 80 percent perceived great risk from marijuana use. As perception of harm declines, marijuana use increases, the Michigan study reports.