One of the things prohibitionists love to go on about is protecting our youth. And how do they want to do it? By taking away the rights of young people (pee in a cup, get sniffed by dogs) and by passing harsh criminal penalties for drug crimes near schools and parks, etc.
None of these methods are very effective, and none even come close to paying off in value compared to the negative effects they have on society.
On the other hand, we have a system that is far from perfect, but could be useful for reducing youth marijuana use — it’s called regulated sale with age restrictions (used for products like alcohol and tobacco). It’s likely to be more effective than the methods we use now, without the negative effects.
But there’s one other point that people don’t talk about much.
Travis is a regular reader of Drug WarRant. He’s 17, and he wrote to tell me about a conversation he had recently with some of his friends of the same age.
One of them said:
“Yeah, but if they were to legalize it, it wouldn’t even be fun anymore. It wouldn’t even be worth doing.”
Taking away the lure of the forbidden.
There’s a whole lot of truth here. Kris Millegan recently noted:
Once a substance is banned and enters a black market, the age of the users goes down, the volume of abuse goes up, and civil and criminal corruption rises.
Part of that shift in the age of users is due to black market sellers targeting that group, but also part of it is the allure. And when you remove it from the black market, the reverse happens.
In the Netherlands, where you can legally buy marijuana at the local coffee shop, teen marijuana use rates have been lower than in the United States. I’ve read numerous stories of travelers and locals (including law enforcement officers) saying that since it’s legal, it’s perceived by young people as not being as “cool.”
That doesn’t mean that people don’t use it, but that there’s less of a reason for young people to join in.
Recently in The Guardian, Zoe Williams wrote about the changes in classification for marijuana in Britain:
Since it was reclassified from class B to class C at the beginning of last year, cannabis has lost its lustre, especially for the young. …
It has made everyone lose interest. You might just as well have dressed this drug up in a sailor suit and sent it on tour with Geri Halliwell. It just isn’t cool anymore.
Legalize it. You know — for the kids.