- - Wednesday, August 16, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

What’s good for American children is good for America’s future. A growing number of states are forgetting that — if not in word, then in deed. The trend toward increasing legalization of marijuana is resulting in rising numbers of kids requiring medical treatment or hospitalization for narcotic intoxication. It’s a destructive front in the culture war that exposes children to the distractions that adults crave to help them manage their roller-coaster lives. The innocence of youth is priceless, and its loss is unconscionable.

Colorado is leading the way along the path of debasement, having been one of the first states to legalize recreational cannabis in 2012. In a study cited Monday in USA Today, Dr. G. Sam Wang, a pediatric oncologist at Children’s Hospital in Aurora, Colo., found that between 2005 and 2011, the rate of calls to poison control centers for children’s exposure to marijuana increased 30.3 percent per year in states where the drug was decriminalized. In states transitioning toward decriminalization, the annual rate was 11.5 percent, and remained unchanged in nonlegal states.

In 2015, Colorado conducted its own Healthy Kids Survey, which concluded that pot use among middle and high school kids “remains relatively unchanged” since legalization. That’s not exactly a cause for celebration, that we only have to worry about the kids when they need medical treatment for an overdose.

In France, where marijuana is still illegal but widely used, the number of emergency room visits for unintentional pot intoxication of young people climbed a stunning 133 percent over an 11-year period, according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics. Child abuse comes in many forms.

Potheads in the steadily increasing number of pot-legal states probably consider it merely quaint that the National Institute of Drug Abuse still warns of short-term effects of pot use, including impaired body movement, difficulty with thinking and problem-solving and impaired memory. And long-term, “people who started smoking marijuana heavily in their teens and suffered a continuing marijuana disorder, lost an average of 8 IQ points between ages 13 and 38.” The foolhardy folks who endanger young people by granting them access to marijuana represent the proof that marijuana saps intellectual horsepower.

Recreational cannabis is legal in eight states and the District of Columbia, and 29 states allow residents to purchase the drug for medical purposes (a loophole often abused), though it is still illegal under federal law. Ironically, some of those states are caught in the throes of an epidemic of opioid abuse that when fully tallied, probably claimed 60,000 American lives last year. Only Ohio and Arizona have successfully turned back bids to legalize recreational pot.

Substance sophisticates laugh off any effort to equate the deadly effects of opioid addiction with kicking back to enjoy a joint after work. But when abused, both drugs constitute only a crutch for coping with the challenges of school, marriage, work, finances or health.

A government does no favors when it endorses the business of serving up mind-altering substances to its citizens, and then taxing them to pay for weaning them from their new dependency. If children learn by example, showing them a gateway to America’s enervating drug culture is one lesson the kids can do without.

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