Over the last several months I have had so many teachers, parents and students ask my thoughts on the affects marijuana will have on teens now that it is becoming legal. Here are my thoughts. Eight states have recently legalized recreational marijuana use for adults over age 21. Some might see this as a progressive step forward, but in truth, it’s a major setback for teenagers and the future of our Country.
The effects of both legal and illegal marijuana use are impacting youth in America in a major way. Substance abuse experts already see a correlation between the legalization of marijuana in these states and increased use among teens. Studies have shown that even before these laws were in effect, teens were abusing this drug at a high rate: two-thirds of first-time marijuana users are under the age of 18, and one in six teens who tries marijuana becomes addicted to it.
Our culture glamorizes drug use in movies, in music and on television. Teens are bombarded with these messages, and the devastating consequences of marijuana use are almost never portrayed. Now, several other states are considering following this trend in legalizing marijuana.
While some might say that legalizing marijuana gets it out of the hands of unscrupulous dealers, and therefore protect teens, we should all know better. Creating a culture more tolerant of drug use makes drug use more “acceptable” in the minds of teens. In fact, Colorado is among the states with the highest teen marijuana abuse and usage is increasing while the perception of risk is falling.
We need to help our teens understand that marijuana use isn’t glamorous, and it isn’t safe. Not only are there risks to their health and brain development, but driving a vehicle under the influence of marijuana can be just as a dangerous as a driving drunk.
Besides, why would we want to send a message to a generation ripe with potential that getting hooked on a chemical is an okay thing? We are talking about the future leaders of our nation. All of the “Just say no!” messages fly out the window when we make laws that say, “Well, this particular drug is okay.”
Marijuana takes away motivation and passion for life and for work. When is the last time you heard of any great inventions coming out of Amsterdam, where pot has been legal for a generation?
Do we want an addicted generation? Or do we want a generation that values a sober mind and responsible behavior? The teenagers of our nation are yearning for more from life. They crave a meaningful life. Instead of pushing a message that tells them “life is hard, so ease it with a drug,” let us instead inspire them to take on the challenges of life with ingenuity, creativity and dedication.