The Drug Class Blog

Oct 29


Youth and Legalization of Marijuana What Effect Has It Had?

Over the past few years recreational marijuana usage has been legalized in 4 States and the District of Columbia and 24 states have legalized it for medical purposes.   There is a big difference between the medicinal use of marijuana and abuse and that is a topic for another time.  Though the real question is what is the impact In States where recreational usage is legal, such as Washington, Colorado, Alaska, and Oregon, you can go into a dispensary and buy the once illegal drug as long as you are over the age of 21, just like if you were going to buy alcohol. People who smoke pot no longer have to go through illegal channels in order to procure the drug and the State even receives tax revenues from the sale of the pot.

 This shift towards legalizing marijuana has been a long time in the making and for a number of years now there has been a push by advocacy groups to legalize pot.  Proponents of its legalization say that it is less harmful than alcohol and that the current American legal stance on the drug is antiquated and arcane. They believe that the since the War on Drugs has been such an abysmal failure, we need to shift towards total legalization of the drug so that we do not continue to punish and jail non-violent marijuana users.

 There are those who do not believe that marijuana should be legalized and they maintain the stance that the drug is not as harmless as people make it out to be. They believe that the drug is a gateway to harder drugs and to make it legal for recreational usage across the board, would open a floodgate of potential social problems that we can not be predicted.

 Since the legalization of marijuana is so new in this country there isn’t much evidence as to its impact on communities where the drug is now legal. Even in Colorado, where the drug has been legal now for a couple of years, there is still fervent debate as to whether the effect of legalization has been positive or negative. There are those that feel that the instances of driving while high, and the prevalence of the drugs in school is much greater now than before legalization, and there are those that believe the tax revenues and openness with which people can smoke pot has done nothing but improve the state.


So while it may be a couple of years until we see the actual effects that the legalization of marijuana has had on communities around the country, there have been studies done to show the potential impact of legalization, in particular on youth populations.


Granted marijuana is still illegal for people under 21 and so technically speaking the drug is still not legal for youth users, but a majority of the studies on how legalization will affect children, suggest that the drug should not be legalized because of the negative impact it could have on the youth. They cite the negative health and psychological effects that the drug can have on a person as the reason for their suggestion to not legalize the drug, and they believe that legalization will make the drug more available to youth users.


Once again there are people who disagree with this stance and they point to the fact that certain polls show that marijuana when it is illegal, is easier to obtain for teens than alcohol is, but a recent study done by Politifact showed that this was not true. They found that it is easier for teens to get alcohol than marijuana.


While at this time it cannot be stated definitively whether the legalization of marijuana has had a negative or positive impact of youth in this country, I would like to interject what I personally have seen due to decriminalization and legalization. I want to state outright that this is only my opinion, based on a particular experience that I had, and I do not claim to be an expert in sociology or psychology, but only a person who witnessed something peculiar when it came to the decriminalization of marijuana.


I was Portland a little while back and I happened to notice that there was a tremendous amount of what appeared to be homeless youth hanging out by the river. At first, I thought it was sort of strange and didn’t put two and two together as to why there was such an abundance of young looking homeless kids, but it dawned on me later when I had an interaction with one kid.


I was there with my friend’s brother, who smoked pot and as we came out of a shop and walked a few feet down the sidewalk, a kid came up to us and asked if we wanted to smoke. I didn’t but my friend’s brother did, so the two of them went off with towards the car and  got high. When the kid came back I talked to him for a little bit and he told me that he was sort of just drifting around Northern California and Oregon. He told me that he had left home and that he didn’t really have, or want a place to stay. He told me that one of the things that drew him to the area was the fact that they were lenient on their marijuana policy and so to him, it was a sort of mecca.


It was at this point that I realized why there were so many young looking homeless kids around the city; it was because they could leave home, come to a place like Portland and smoke pot freely.


I believe it would be too overarching for me to claim outright that this is the actual case, but it was my impression when I was there and my friend’s brother who lives outside of Portland told me that I was probably right. He said that he ran into a lot of kids that weren’t originally from Oregon who were there to smoke pot and find something that they were looking for, so it would make sense that a lot of the kids that I saw were there for that reason. This means that the decriminalization, in this particular case, lead to an influx of at risk teens flocking to a certain area where they could get high with impunity, or at least that was what I concluded. And so I believe that legalizing marijuana will have a similar effect, and states where it is legal will become welcome destinations for such kids, which could cause a lot of problems. 


It will interesting to see what effect the legalization of marijuana has on the youth of this country in the long term. I think to a certain degree that legalization will help the already overtaxed prison system and will keep non-violent drug users out of prison, but in terms of communal values it is hard to say which way legalizing marijuana will swing. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.


  Rose Lockinger is a passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.


You can find me on LinkedIn, Facebook, & Instagram


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