Commentary: Legalization of Marijuana and the Impact on Children

In many state legislatures around the country, or by ballot (direct voter) referendum, important decisions are or will be made as to legalization of marijuana in some form. Before voters cast their ballots, or their elected officials decide, think about what will happen to children if marijuana becomes accessible to adults, much like alcohol.

California is one example. There, proponents are collecting signatures for one of four initiatives headed for California’s 2012 ballot to legalize the production, distribution and sale of marijuana for recreational use. The Regulate Marijuana like Wine Act of 2012 will legalize the drug and regulate it like alcohol.

Science reveals that the brain develops throughout adolescence and does not mature until ages 22 to 23 for young women, 24 to 25 for young men. Also, the younger kids are when they start using addictive drugs, the more likely they’ll become addicted. Children who start drinking or smoking pot at age 14 or before are eight times more likely to become addicted to alcohol, six times more likely to become addicted to marijuana than those who start in their 20s, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

If California is going to regulate marijuana like alcohol, how good a job does the state do at preventing underage drinking? We can anticipate how many California kids will smoke legal pot tomorrow by asking how many drink legal alcohol today, despite a legal purchase age of 21. The answer is terrible: alcohol use is double that of marijuana use among the state’s 5th and 7th graders and nearly double that of 9th and  11th graders, according to the 2008-2010 California Healthy Kids Survey.

Worse, the number of 7th graders who started using alcohol at age 14 or before is more than three times greater than the number who began smoking pot at those ages. For 9th graders and 11th graders, twice as many started using alcohol as marijuana during childhood. The actual numbers are staggering: one-third of California’s 7th graders (29 percent) and half of its 9th graders (47 percent) are at risk of becoming addicted to alcohol before they reach the legal drinking age because they had access and started drinking as children.

These statistics may be the same, or worse, in any state in the nation. 

Keeping drugs illegal prevents commercial industries from emerging, ones that are free to advertise and market to increase consumption and free to target children, a given percentage of whom will become addicted—and lifetime customers. We’ve been there, done that with alcohol and tobacco, whose business models depend on addicting children to replace users who die from tobacco- and alcohol-related diseases and accidents.

Everyone, Californians included, must get serious about protecting children from being exploited by commercial industries that sell addictive drugs. Much tougher provisions than those governing alcohol and tobacco will be required to force a marijuana industry to keep its hands off kids. Until such provisions are included in legalization initiatives, legislators and voters should reject proponents’ calls to turn another addictive drug into a commercial industry…unless they’re willing to declare war on children.

Sue Ruche is the President and CEO of the National Families in Action (NFIA). In 2010, NFIA launched its But What about the Children? Campaign which calls for 12 provisions to protect children and adolescents that must be in any law that legalizes marijuana.

141 Responses to Commentary: Legalization of Marijuana and the Impact on Children

  1. Jason | December 16, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    I think people need specific examples. Legalizing recreational marijuana will provide marijuana companies with the same 1st ammendment protections as liquor companies, and marijuana companies will market to youth as alcohol companies have with alcopops. It’ll also concentrate the marijuana revenue into the hands of a few who will use it to intimidate and manipulate politicians as happened in California and is the reason the alcohol tax didn’t pass despite public support.

    • John | December 18, 2011 at 8:02 am

      Speaking from a completely science point of view alcohol is a depressant which literally stuns the brain into intoxication whereas the active molecule in Cannabis (THC) actually has a receptor site in our brains which have evolved over many thousands of years and proves we have evolved with it (thus why we have the receptors which are very specific to this molecule THC). What im getting at is if my daughter was smoking a joint and got so stoned that she fell a sleep, I wouldn’t be half as mad than if she got inebriated vomited on herself/got raped/ hurt someone. Furthermore I much prefer to cure my very own Insomnia with Cannabis infused tea than with highly addictive Benzopines that my doctor has prescribed and guess what ….. I only use the tea when I need it (thus not addictive as people make it out) .

      - Background (3 yrs PQE Lawyer , graduated from a Top ranking University)

      • Sue Rusche | January 4, 2012 at 5:45 pm

        John has the science partially right, but only partially. All addictive drugs act at various receptor sites in the brain, but it is a mistake to infer that a specific kind of receptor exists to be activated by an addictive drug. Receptors are on neurons, which make up the brain’s intricate communications system. They receive chemical messages, called neurotransmitters, from other neurons and respond to those messages by sending them on or ending them. The cannabinoid receptor receives a neurotransmitter called anandamide. The fact that THC has a similar chemical shape and can therefore activate the cannabinoid receptor is accidental, as is the case with other addictive drugs as well.
        If you are interested in learning more about how drugs act on the brain, here are two books that will help you:
        False Messengers: How Addictive Drugs Change the Brain, David Friedman and Sue Rusche, Harwood Academic Publishers imprint, part of the Gordon and Breach Publishing Group, Amsterdam, 1999.
        The Addicted Brain: Why We Abuse Drugs, Alcohol, and Nicotine, Michael Kuhar, Pearson Education Inc., publishing as FT Press, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, 2012.

        • Perry Kaplan | November 12, 2013 at 1:10 pm

          Ms. Rusche unfortunately has, as she has in most of her posts over the past couple of years, completely missed the point. Marijuana will continue to be used whether it is legal, decriminalized, or criminalized. The issue is not whether using it is against the law, the issue is whether we as country are going to continue to waster millions of dollars trying to enforce unenforceable laws that put large numbers of mostly minority, mostly young, and most male individuals in prison/jail because they don’t have the resources to mount an effective legal defense. Drug abuse will be with us for a long time. It remains a complex, poorly understood phenomena that has genetic, chemical, environmental and learning components, and which has existed for more than 5000 years. It is sheer hubris to think that a law–any law–is going to solve a drug problem–any drug problem. The best we can do is use the resources that are currently being wasted on enforcement and incarceration (not to mention pointless treatment) to train parents to raise healthy kids, teach kids about how to make good choices, and offer easy access to evidence-based treatment for those who need it. Drugs would do far less damage to individuals and society as a whole if we abandoned the myth that the addict had to be made to suffer and hit bottom in order to recover. Some do. Most don’t. Since there’s no test yet to discriminate between them, we need to be offering help to everyone, not punishing everyone and waiting for a few to beg for help.

          • bongstar420 | March 9, 2014 at 7:08 pm

            I showed up to class high all the time. I would have been fine if they didn’t prefer me to be on Amphetamines/Methylphenidate instead. The serious consequences for being “addicted” (remember that all non-medical is “abuse” and therefore qualifies you as an “addict”) for me has always been the way other people treat me as a consequence. I’ve had a few problems directly related to inebriation, but its a learning curve. They didn’t occur more than a couple of times max.

            BTW, I was like a tutor despite a low gpa in HS. I went to college and graduated earning a 3.2 with plenty of drug usage, slacking, and little studying. Don’t get me wrong though, my IQ is like 130-140, so I can afford a great deal of dimming before random people could notice (I still make most sober people look like dumbasses even when I’m blasted on shrooms, weed, and alcohol even after 15 years of moderate to heavy consumption which includes memory tasks).

      • Laura Truesdale | January 20, 2012 at 1:16 pm

        It really bothers me when one person’s use of a drug somehow means that research is not accurate. I work with teenagers who are very much addicted to marijuana and have serious consequences because of their use. Research shows that the younger a person is when they first use, the higher the risk of becoming an addict. Does anyone really want to take that chance with our children and hope they aren’t one of the teens who develops a life long addiction? Do people really think that legalization is the answer or do they just want a reason to excuse their own behaviors?

        • joebanana | March 30, 2012 at 2:21 pm

          Consider this, When you were in school, how many kids would meet behind the backstop to buy alcohol? How many “drink pushers” did you know? Did you ever stand outside a liquor store and ask someone to buy you beer, or have been asked to buy beer, and complied? Now, how many drug dealers ask for ID? Which is easier to get at school?

        • Frank Smith | September 19, 2012 at 10:07 am

          Did Prohibition work? Most people say no. I say it did.
          It stop people from drinking.
          Now we have a big teenage drinking problem.
          Frank Smith

          • Jennifer Alexander | October 26, 2012 at 7:02 am

            Actually prohibition didn’t stop people from drinking. In fact, prior to alcohol prohibition – drinking was primarily an activity for “gentlemen” – saloons prohibited women in most cases, and definitely prohibited children (they would lose their licenses, according to Pauline Sabin, if they allowed children in – but during prohibition, there was nothing to obstruct children from entering – much like the fact that drug dealers don’t ID today). During prohibition, alcohol became something that men, women AND children did – you were as likely to see a child standing in a speakeasy as you were to see a man. And because everyone present was engaging in unlawful activity, it was not possible for adults to tell children that what they were doing was “wrong” because the child knew that what the adults were doing was just as “wrong.” Children grew up disrespecting the law, much as they do today. I would recommend you read the congressional testimonies provided as alcohol prohibition was being repealed. If alcohol prohibition HAD worked, it wouldn’t have been opposed by the very people who fought to put it into place!

      • Mike Mitchell | April 27, 2012 at 3:00 pm

        The argument between personal experience and science is interesting, especially when those supporting the legalization of marijuana are also users of the drug. Cannabis remains an active agent in your blood for at least 30 days, which means it also remains an active influence on thinking. We know that cannabis affects the pre-frontal cortex (executive decision-making). Typically there is a scale of gradual increase of rationality when smoking marijuana. I once smoked marijuana incessently. I began smoking it intermittently, monthly. My ability to refuse someone else or my own urges to smoke at inapportune times (school, work, driving) decreased. It made me calm and peaceful and fun. I became increasingly resistant to friends and family who attempted to talk about declines in my ability to connect with them on an emotional level or discuss other negative impacts marijuana was having on my everyday life. I changed. I was a different person with marijuana than without. To me, it was a good change. To those with whom I smoked marijuana, it was a good change. My family and friends saw me in a different light. They weren’t smoking marijuana and that was the difference. It affects you. Abraham Lincoln said, “You can swing your fist all you want until you hit the other man’s nose.” Why are we even talking about legalizing/legitimizing a drug that often has the effect that I experienced. I am thankful for my fear of needles, as I did try stronger drugs. Marijuana’s action on my brain didn’t weaken, IT WAS ALWAYS THERE! Something stronger was needed to take my now daily stoned reality in which I no longer felt stoned to a new reality where I didn’t have to face the emotional impact my drug use was having on friends and family. You want this for your family and friends? Can we perpetuate an environment for our friends and family where life is experienced without mind/mood altering chemicals? Yes, there could be some indications for medical use. If so, it can become a controlled substance.
        First, show me any legimate research that provides a replicable result of cannibas providing a better medical intervention than any current FDA approved drug available. This isn’t a philosophical game or debate. These are people’s lives. Marijuana is not an innocent purveyor or fun or medical relief. There is a price to pay. This isn’t about who ends up with the money. Why should our state/federal governments get in bed with drug dealers? I know that people will continue to use marijuana if it isn’t legal. I know that there are criminal penalties for that possession/use and that those penalties place some people in jails/prison with those who are violent and more criminalized. Tell me this – why are they taking a chance to end up there? I believe it is due to their impaired thinking brought on by cannabis. I used to enjoy the hippie movement; “Onward thru the fog,” the Fabulous Freak Brother comics, etc. I never enjoyed music after beginning my drug use than I did before it ever came into my life. I currently have medical conditions whose effects could be alleviated by pot, say some friends of mine who recently began using it for pain relief. No thanks! Been there, done that. There are better ways.

      • Carlos | November 11, 2012 at 6:29 am

        Now that Evidence Base Evidence is becoming popular, all we have to do know is understand the scientific design, validity reliability and all of those mathematical doohickey that go along with the studies. Rather than just read the conclusions at the end of the reports. Hopefully we’ll evolve along with in our abilities to read all of those boring journals we hate to read so much in college. Or journals ought to become more entertaining. I wander if our brain in adulthood. Maybe one day we’ll develop a receptor site for journals. Before an active molecule becomes active before something else happens.

      • Janice Morabeto | April 4, 2013 at 7:57 am

        I think that we are all aware of the fact that alcohol and marijuana have very different effects on the body. Your point is that alcohol, our legal drug, is so much worse, why not have an alternative to getting drunk? So, legalize pot to give kids another choice? Chances are, if pot becomes legal for recreational use, kids will drink and smoke pot!

        • Yuchmich | August 6, 2013 at 1:35 am

          Imma let you in a little secret.

          Kids already drink and smoke pot. It has no relevance if these activities are legal or illegal for any segment of the population. Kids smoke pot and get drunk. They also snort coke and shoot H, guess what . . . those are illegal too!

          Holy crap!

          • PSKITTY | October 26, 2013 at 3:14 pm

            Making it legal will give the state some control, not to mention revenue, but those who want to smoke it will find it, no matter what laws are in place. Now I’m not talking about meth, heroin, coke, speed. Just pot.
            Kids who want to smoke whether it’s pot or cigarettes, or who want to drink will do it. Everyone has a brother or cousin, an older friend and that’s all it takes. Sad but true.

    • JX | January 11, 2014 at 9:35 pm

      This science is a lie, it is incorrect and false.

  2. Josh | December 16, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    Interestingly, less teens smoke tobacco (legal at age 18) than marijuana (illegal)due to government regulations and strategic public education campaigns. Considering marijuana is objectively less harmful for society and the individual than alcohol and tobacco, we should probably regulate marijuana and educate our children about its harms like we have done for tobacco. Then and only then, will be able to decrease teen usage.

    • Sue Rusche | December 18, 2011 at 6:08 pm

      “. . .we should probably regulate marijuana and educate our children about its harms like we have done for tobacco.”

      Our ability to educate children effectively about tobacco harms is financed by the tobacco industry, which agreed to pay the states huge sums of money every year for tobacco education programs. The industry also agreed to stop marketing cigarettes to children and to finance a national tobacco education and smoking cessation effort by an independent nonprofit organization, the American Legacy Foundation. These agreements resulted from a lawsuit which led to the Master Settlement Agreement of 1998 between the tobacco industry, 46 state governments, and five U.S. territories.

      National Families in Action believes there is a lesson to be learned here if marijuana is legalized for recreational use. We call for 1) a ban on marijuana advertising, 2) a fee which the marijuana industry will pay for every underage marijuana user, and 3) if these provisions fail to prevent the industry from marketing to kids, an automatic repeal of all marijuana legalization laws if underage use reaches certain levels. The goal of these three provisions is to force a legal marijuana industry to self-regulate, to take responsibility for ensuring that none of its segments market, advertise, or sell marijuana to anyone under age 21. Another provision is an industry-financed fund to pay for education, prevention, and treatment of marijuana-related diseases. To read more about these and other provisions and their rationales, visit

      • Steve Heilig | December 19, 2011 at 5:30 pm

        I think the 3 “conditions” proposed are good – but would make #2 even stronger, with a ‘fee’ for every sale, not just to kids. Such funds would ideally further go to the science-based educational and treatment resources so badly needed, for youth and others.

        • Sue Rusche | January 4, 2012 at 6:01 pm

          To Steve Heilig–Provision 2 should have said “a penalty fee” for every underage user. The concept is to penalize the marijuana industry by calculating the money it could make by marketing to each underage child who would use marijuana over a lifetime and then adding 10 percent to that amount to establish how much the fee should be. A penalty fee that would cost the industry more that it could make on an underage user over a lifetime adds up to a powerful disincentive for the industry to even think about marketing to underage young people. Provision 5 of the 12 provisions we think should be in any law that legalizes marijuana addresses the point you make here.

      • Jeff | August 10, 2012 at 12:08 pm

        Hi Sue. I would agree with your goal of child protection but necessarily your methods. Some of the “protections” you suggest would simply be so onerous that legalization would mean nothing since it would either never be really enacted or simply cut off shortly afterwards. I think there is a balance here to be found. We are doing a fairly good job of mitigating tobacco use among children (not perfect I’d agree) but there are certain risks that come with living in a “free” society. None of us should have any expectation that authority can/should outlaw everything dangerous to us. Rather we practice acceptable risk with certain norms while attempting to live “free”. I myself am not a user and probably would not use even if legalized. However, IMHO that gives me no right to decided for others what is acceptable and what is not (within limits of course). IMO the risks can be managed within a legalized atmosphere.

      • Barbara | May 14, 2013 at 2:20 pm

        In North Carolina, those Master Settlement funds are NOT being used for prevention or education. The state legislators are using that money for shortfalls in the budget. That was a loop hole that both the tobacco industry and the state decided would be “good” for our children in North Carolina. My guess is, that will be exactly what happens if “provisions” are put on marijuana legalizations.

      • Marcia Kirschbaum | June 8, 2013 at 7:16 pm

        I think these are good rules too. What I don’t understand, is why such stringency in on one of the most harmless of drugs out there, while Big Pharma advertises on every venue known to mankind, our prescription addiction epidemic is by far worse than street drugs combined, prescriptions are killing far more children, not to mention their parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors, classmates… and yet we don’t impose these bans and fees on them. Why?

  3. susb | December 16, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    I would prefer to have my teenager smoke legal marijuana than drink alcohol any day of the year! Alcohol kills, kids od ON alcohol and it can cause complete memory loss, unpredictable and volitile behavior. When has marijuana been known to do any of these things? It basically relaxes them and calms people. Studies are showing that states that have legal medical marijuana are having fewer DUI violations/charges and fewer accident and deaths related to alcohol. As people are chosing the safer alternative which is marijuana over alcohol. I fully support legalizing it if something has to be legal. I mean how can something as awful as alcohol be legal??

    • TESS | December 17, 2011 at 5:44 pm

      There is a third choice for your child. NO alcohol or marijuana and a healty developed mind.

    • Sue Rusche | December 18, 2011 at 6:12 pm

      “Studies are showing that states that have legal medical marijuana are having fewer DUI violations/charges and fewer accident and deaths related to alcohol.”

      The “studies” you refer to is a single paper published a few weeks ago online by a German labor agency. It is a discussion paper, not a study. No scientist has reviewed it to assess the scientific accuracy of its methods or its data. No scientific editors have reviewed it to determine whether it merits publication in a scientific journal. Until those two things happen, the paper’s results cannot be considered valid, particularly in light of studies that have met these criteria and have different results. Read the discussion paper here:

  4. Steve Heilig | December 16, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    The “war on children” rhetoric above is pure hyperbole, much like the “war on drugs.” The research and concerns about cannabis’s impacts on neurodevelopment and the need to deter use among teens are very important. However, there is no evidence that our legal approaches have worked in deterring use – quite the contrary, as recent use data shows. There is also no evidence that lessening legal penalties, while increasing regulation and education, would increase use. And nobody should want teens, especially, to be exposed to prison or kicked out of school for cannabis use. Unlike stubborn rates of cannabis use, we’ve reduced tobacco use by half in recent decades, and that fight continues. Therefore, new approaches are warranted to cannabis policy; with appropriate regulation, taxation, and education, (and unlike with alcohol and tobacco, banning any form of advertising), we might even decrease use while saving much money for better uses. This is why the California Medical Association has called for decriminalization and regulation. See:

    SH (past Join Together Fellow)

    • Sue Rusche | December 18, 2011 at 6:15 pm

      “There is also no evidence that lessening legal penalties, while increasing regulation and education, would increase use.”

      Au contraire. Alcohol consumption was the lowest in U.S. history during and just after Prohibition (no we are not advocating for a return of Prohibition) at 0.97 gallons of ethanol per person age 15 and older in 1934. “Lessening legal penalties, while increasing regulation and education,” did increase use – to 2.8 gallons per capita in 1980, when alcohol use reached its highest levels in our nation.
      These data are presented in Substance Abuse—The Nation’s Number One Health Problem: Key Indicators for Policy, Schneider Institute for Health Policy, Brandeis University for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Princeton, New Jersey, February 2001, which can be downloaded here:

      • Steve Heilig | December 19, 2011 at 5:28 pm

        The Prohibition-era alcohol use estimates – which is what they unavoidably are, estimates, not data – are not considered by many to be very reliable. Drinking was illegal and not reported! It is likely that the amount of drinking under prohibition was substantially higher than reported – some say much, much higher.

        • Sue Rusche | January 4, 2012 at 6:04 pm

          To Steve Heilig—I cited my source. You might want to cite yours.

          • Patti Herndon | December 11, 2012 at 6:00 pm

            These comments inspire depth of thought on subject marijuana legalization/ decriminalization, etc. Well…right up until the moment I read the word “au contraire”. Now, I’m distracted and having a hankering for some fries. You know the ‘french’ kind ;-)

      • Malcolm Kyle | December 23, 2011 at 3:20 pm

        Alcohol consumption actually increased durring alcohol prohibition:

        Here is part of the testimony of Judge Alfred J Talley, given before the Senate Hearings of 1926:

        “For the first time in our history, full faith and confidence in and respect for the hitherto sacred Constitution of the United States has been weakened and impaired because this terrifying invasion of natural rights has been engrafted upon the fundamental law of our land, and experience has shown that it is being wantonly and derisively violated in every State, city, and hamlet in the country.”

        “It has made potential drunkards of the youth of the land, not because intoxicating liquor appeals to their taste or disposition, but because it is a forbidden thing, and because it is forbidden makes an irresistible appeal to the unformed and immature. It has brought into our midst the intemperate woman, the most fearsome and menacing thing for the future of our national life.”

        “It has brought the sickening slime of corruption, dishonor, and disgrace into every group of employees and officials in city, State, and Federal departments that have been charged with the enforcement of this odious law.”

        And the following paragraphs are from WALTER E. EDGE’s testimony, a Senator from New Jersey:

        “Any law that brings in its wake such wide corruption in the public service, increased alcoholic insanity, and deaths, increased arrests for drunkenness, home barrooms, and development among young boys and young women of the use of the flask never heard of before prohibition can not be successfully defended.”

        “I unhesitatingly contend that those who recognize existing evils and sincerely endeavor to correct them are contributing more toward temperance than those who stubbornly refuse to admit the facts.”

        And here is Julien Codman’s testimony, who was a member of the Massachusetts bar.

        “we will produce additional evidence on this point, that it is not appropriate legislation to enforce the eighteenth amendment; that it has done incredible harm instead of good; that as a temperance measure it has been a pitiable failure; that it as failed to prevent drinking; that it has failed to decrease crime; that, as a matter of fact, it has increased both; that it has promoted bootlegging and smuggling to an extent never known before”

      • Malcolm Kyle | December 24, 2011 at 10:29 am

        Alcohol consumption actually increased durring alcohol prohibition:
        Here is part of the testimony of Judge Alfred J Talley, given before the Senate Hearings of 1926:
        “For the first time in our history, full faith and confidence in and respect for the hitherto sacred Constitution of the United States has been weakened and impaired because this terrifying invasion of natural rights has been engrafted upon the fundamental law of our land, and experience has shown that it is being wantonly and derisively violated in every State, city, and hamlet in the country.”
        “It has made potential drunkards of the youth of the land, not because intoxicating liquor appeals to their taste or disposition, but because it is a forbidden thing, and because it is forbidden makes an irresistible appeal to the unformed and immature. It has brought into our midst the intemperate woman, the most fearsome and menacing thing for the future of our national life.”
        “It has brought the sickening slime of corruption, dishonor, and disgrace into every group of employees and officials in city, State, and Federal departments that have been charged with the enforcement of this odious law.”

        And the following paragraphs are from WALTER E. EDGE’s testimony, a Senator from New Jersey:
        “Any law that brings in its wake such wide corruption in the public service, increased alcoholic insanity, and deaths, increased arrests for drunkenness, home barrooms, and development among young boys and young women of the use of the flask never heard of before prohibition can not be successfully defended.”
        “I unhesitatingly contend that those who recognize existing evils and sincerely endeavor to correct them are contributing more toward temperance than those who stubbornly refuse to admit the facts.”
        And here is Julien Codman’s testimony, who was a member of the Massachusetts bar.
        “we will produce additional evidence on this point, that it is not appropriate legislation to enforce the eighteenth amendment; that it has done incredible harm instead of good; that as a temperance measure it has been a pitiable failure; that it as failed to prevent drinking; that it has failed to decrease crime; that, as a matter of fact, it has increased both; that it has promoted bootlegging and smuggling to an extent never known before”

      • Profbam | July 13, 2012 at 12:04 pm

        Correction: Alcohol consumption was at its lowest the year that the 18th Amendment passed, then rose slowly during and even after Prohibition. Look at the NIH report and you will see an apex in 1910 and a nadir in 1919-1920: the SOCIAL PRESSURE to pass Prohibition, not passage, caused drinking to decline. That is a very important lesson!

  5. Jim | December 16, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    It is not society’s job to take over the role of PARENTS, the ones who should actually be stopping minors from drinking, smoking, etc. “But what about the children?” You mean my children or yours? Otherwise, it is someone else’s duty to ask this question.

    • Sue Rusche | January 4, 2012 at 6:11 pm

      To Jim–Children are highly influenced by commercial forces over which parents have no control. There is a direct relationship, for example, between tobacco advertising which targets youth, and youth smoking. This is nicely summarized by Ronald M. Davis, MD, in testimony he gave as an expert witness in tobacco-related litigation for the city of Chicago in 1998. That same year, the attorneys general of most states and the tobacco industry entered into the Master Settlement Agreement of 1998, in which, among many other stipulations, the industry agreed to stop marketing cigarettes to children and to finance tobacco education and prevention efforts by independent public health agencies at both state and national levels. As a result, youth cigarette use has dropped to the lowest levels since national surveys began tracking it.

  6. Doug McDowall | December 16, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    Alaska has legislation that has proven especially effective in preventing sales of alcohol to minors. The ‘Brown Jug Law’ rewards sellers and bartenders for preventing sales to minors with monetary fines paid by the minors when prosecuted for attempting an alcohol purchase in their establishments. Why hasn’t California and the rest of the country adopted similar legislation?

    • Sue Rusche | January 4, 2012 at 6:12 pm

      To Doug McDowall—Anything that can reduce Alaska adolescents’ access to alcohol will help, given that alcohol use among Alaska’s teens is higher than that of their counterparts throughout the nation.

  7. Dave | December 16, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    Perhaps we should make selling or supplying alcohol, tobacco or nicotine to people under the age of 21 a felony. I agree that we do not want to create more child candidates for addiction. But there are compelling arguments for legalization that balance this risk: with legalization we begin to put an end to the criminal industry that has sprung up around this and other illegal substances. We also make it possible to have a rational discussion around harm vs benefit in using this substance. For example the recent research that demonstrates health benefits for moderate drinking: research that would not have been done if we still had alcohol prohibition. Finally some day we have to figure out just what we as a species wants to do about our love affair with mood altering substances. Banning them, like fundamentalism, is one choice, but like most black and white solutions results in more bad than good.

    • Sue Rusche | January 4, 2012 at 6:14 pm

      To Dave—People appear to be so polarized about the issue of marijuana legalization that most of those who have provided comments on this article have completely missed its point. Rather than argue against legalization, we call for measures that will prevent a marijuana industry from marketing its products to children, like the alcohol and tobacco industries do, if marijuana is legalized. A minimum age will not be enough, based on lessons learned from these two legal, commercialized drugs: six of ten new smokers in 2010 were under age 18; eight of ten new drinkers were under age 21.

  8. Jeffrey Kennedy | December 16, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    Why is it everyone talks of California. When their are a total 16 States & DC Where Obama goes to work everyday!! And they have laws that protect medical Cannabis patients just like California!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So why is it they are never talked about?

    One more thing, The reason why some people claim Medical Cannabis is a gateway drug to Heroin & Cocaine is because once kids try Cannabis,they find out they have been lied to. So if they lied about Cannabis? What else could be a lie!!!!!!!!

    Cannabis not only is great for so many different medical reasons, But the HEMP PLANT, could & would fix this broken america that our leaders have created with their greed!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Sue Rusche | January 4, 2012 at 6:15 pm

      To Jeffrey Kennedy—You are right that this article is about California, perhaps because it is the only state thus far where proponents are trying to place four initiatives on the state’s 2012 ballot that will legalize marijuana for recreational use. There is nothing in the article about medical marijuana.

  9. Sandra | December 16, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    Children and teenagers must not use drugs. They do, however, and prevention is essential. Advertising like that allowed for alcohol, or even that allowed for tobacco products, which is more restrictive, is not sufficient for a new legal drug like marijuana, so regulations need to be made if legalization is achieved. Will, however, marijuana be more available to youngsters than before legalization? Probably not. Anyone who seeks will find. Marijuana is already more easily available in High Schools than alcohol, but legalization might reduce prices. On the other hand, with the profit gone, illegal channels which make pot available to youth would dry up, and it would be relatively as hard to obtain marijuana as to get alcohol.

    Interdiction and punishment is a very inefficient way to control drug abuse, and even if we assume that availability of marijuana increased slightly, we would still have the advantage of freeing teenagers from the juvenile justice to prison highway that leads nowhere, the violence of the street gangs that runs on cannabis, the broken homes with mothers and fathers far from home on long prison sentences for non-violent crimes of possession of marijuana with intent, selling, growing, and so on. Teenagers could have programs to provide activities other than hanging around the streets if California’s biggest cash crop were taxed and legalized. If the legalization of Cannabis were done nationwide then real research on medical, agricultural, and industrial uses of Cannabis could proceed unhindered by Federal law and stigma. The prison-industrial complex, though, is extremely unlikely to let legalization happen, though, let alone the treatment professionals, especially those for whom any use or possession by juveniles is a serious addiction requiring expensive rehab (if white) or juvenile justice system intervention (if black).

    • Sue Rusche | January 4, 2012 at 6:18 pm

      Sandra asks, “Will, however, marijuana be more available to youngsters than before legalization? Probably not.”
      Rand estimates that if California legalizes marijuana and licenses it like alcohol, the state will have some 8,000 marijuana outlets; if like tobacco, some 38,000 outlets. RAND researchers further predict that legalization will reduce the price of marijuana significantly, perhaps by as much as 80 percent, and marijuana use will consequently double.

  10. recoverydefender | December 16, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    Ms. Rusche,

    I fully understand not wanting children to have yet another opportunity to use drugs or alcohol, but the legalization of marijuana is not going to cause more harm than what the failed drug war already has. I assume you are speaking out for children within the U.S., but if you cross the border into Mexico you will see what keeping marijuana illegal has done to children. With over 48,000 deaths in just the past few years related to the drug war in Mexico, legalizing marijuana will save lives. Some people may not care about what happens over the border:that’s their right. I cannot and it is inhumane for any human being to turn a cold shoulder to the violence that has devastated so many lives. This is a global crisis, not an American one.
    If you want to keep the discussion local, how did the prohibition turn out? Has the drug war in the U.S. been a success or a complete failure and waste of time and resources? We are no better off than when the drug war was introduced. Legalizing marijuana regulates it, decriminalizes it, and makes it possible for an adult to have a choice. Drugs and alcohol exist and people are going to use them, marijuana is definitely the lesser of two evils. It has a medical purpose-alcohol does not. Alcohol negatively affects every system in the body-marijuana does not. Alcohol causes more automobile accidents, causes more in home violence, affects the developing portions of the brain more than marijuana. I could go on, but I think you understand where I am coming from.
    As a recovery advocate and counselor, I help people recover from drug and alcohol addiction. In my experience both personal and professional, alcohol destroys more lives ten times more than marijuana yet it is the drug we are free to consume. There are legal drugs such as bath salts and smoke able incense that children are much more likely to get their hands on. While laws are being put into place to make these designer drugs illegal, they still exist and are extremely dangerous.
    Again I understand your point of view and I respect it, but if you had to choose one drug to legalize- would you choose alcohol or marijuana? I would choose the latter.

    • Jerry Epstein | December 16, 2011 at 4:41 pm

      Thank you for remembering the innocent victims of our policies.

      How can one morally equate the deaths of thousands with the pipe dream that prohibition actually has any significant impact on the amount of drug abuse or addiction.

    • Sue Rusche | January 4, 2012 at 6:26 pm

      To recoverydefender—If we knew then what we know now about both tobacco and alcohol, I don’t think we would have allowed either addictive drug to become a commercial commodity that is free to market and advertise to increase consumption when both do so much harm to users. Every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some 443,000 Americans die prematurely from smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke. The CDC also reports that “Another 8,600,000 live with a serious illness caused by smoking. . . .An estimated 88 million nonsmoking Americans, including 54 percent of children aged 3–11 years, are exposed to secondhand smoke. . . . Secondhand smoke exposure causes serious disease and death, including heart disease and lung cancer in nonsmoking adults and sudden infant death syndrome, acute respiratory infections, ear problems, and more frequent and severe asthma attacks in children. Each year, primarily because of exposure to secondhand smoke, an estimated 3,000 nonsmoking Americans die of lung cancer, more than 46,000 die of heart disease, and about 150,000–300,000 children younger than 18 months have lower respiratory tract infections.”
      Alcohol kills some 2,500,000 people worldwide each year, according to the Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health (World Health Organization, 2011), from both alcohol-related diseases and injuries, including cardiovascular diseases, neuropsychiatric disorders, liver cirrhosis, unintentional injuries, intentional injuries, cancers, and prematurity and low birth rate.
      Americans have been smoking cigarettes since tourists brought them back from Europe in the early 1860s. It took a century of sustained smoking, first by men and later also by women and children, before science could pinpoint the link between smoking and lung cancer, other cancers, other lung diseases, heart disease, and so forth. And it took two decades after the first Surgeon General’s report in 1962 before Americans got the message and began quitting smoking to protect their health.
      Marijuana smoke and tobacco smoke are very similar, containing some 6,000 of the same chemicals. But marijuana use did not begin on a large-scale basis in the U.S. until the 1960s. In 1962, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, less than two percent of the population age 12 or older had ever tried any illicit drug, including marijuana. Today, almost half (42 percent) of Americans have tried the drug, according to the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Australian researchers conducted a comprehensive search of the peer-reviewed literature to assess risk of cannabis-related mortality. Their conclusions in their own words: “There is insufficient evidence, particularly because of the low number of studies, to assess whether the all-cause mortality rate is elevated among cannabis users in the general population. Case-control studies suggest that some adverse health outcomes may be elevated among heavy cannabis users, namely, fatal motor vehicle accidents, and possibly respiratory and brain cancers. The evidence is as yet unclear as to whether regular cannabis use increases the risk of suicide. There is a need for long-term cohort studies that follow cannabis using individuals into old age, when the likelihood of any detrimental effects of cannabis use are more likely to emerge among those who persist in using cannabis into middle age and older.”
      Again, our article is not about whether marijuana should be legal or illegal. It is calling for legalization proponents and lawmakers who write legalization ballot initiatives and/or laws to include provisions that will prevent a marijuana industry from marketing, advertising, and selling the drug to anyone under age 21.

      • Treatment Works | June 20, 2012 at 4:05 pm

        The problem with the study you cited about the damage marijuana smoke causes to an individuals lungs is that the researchers make 3-4 joints per day sound very common. Having consumed a large amount of marijuana in my life, I know how much that really is (it’s a lot) and know that a typical user does not smoke nearly that much every day.

        I also believe that it is a logical fallacy to assume that marijuana usage will follow the trajectory of alcohol consumption if legalized.

      • Mason Sanders | April 11, 2013 at 12:58 am

        “If we knew then what we know now about both tobacco and alcohol, I don’t think we would have allowed either addictive drug to become a commercial commodity that is free to market and advertise to increase consumption when both do so much harm to users.”

        Sue, since you seem to favor total prohibition why have you not mentioned banning certain prescription drugs that are much more addictive, have been proved to have serious side effects, and cause thousands of more deaths annually than marijuana, which is zero?

  11. Ned | December 16, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    Sorry, but these substances are here to stay. Making them illegal may suppress them to some extent but it causes very serious ongoing widespread problems beyond basic abusive use. And by the way, not all use is abuse. We are better able to cope use issues if that’s the only issue, rather than add in all the additional problems of prohibition.

    The majority of the population is over 21. It is never going to be fair or functional to prohibit use for adults. It hasn’t worked and won’t work. The added value the prohibition creates insures a very harmful black market will continue. Many many teens in the past 40 years have been diverted from their life paths as much by the financial temptations of the black market as by the drug. Once diverted, they become part of a underground subculture that further isolates and segregates them, making it that much harder to reach them. And remember NOT ALL use is abuse. Millions of Americans began their alcohol use as minors and DID NOT become alcoholics. The same is even more true of marijuana. The fact that some do develop problems does not justify attempting alcohol prohibition and the same is true for marijuana.

    You really must take a longer view, teens do not engage in alcohol production or sales because its legal status provides no opportunity, that means the only problem to deal with is abusive use. There are no alcohol gangs out there. Legality in fact reduces the OVERALL problem. I firmly believe that legal marijuana may see some increase in use but much. Why? Because nearly everyone interested in trying it can get it now. Prohibition hardly reduces availability at all. And as we are seeing with tobacco, legality combined with HONEST education can reduce use over time, without additionally harming their lives with the criminal justice system.

    I must take issue also with your notion that marijuana is more scary or dangerous than alcohol. It is absolutely positively less dangerous. The traditional definition of addiction has been watered down by the recovery industry to mean any habitual use, that’s wrong and does not serve us well. Addiction is a powerful physical dependent need that overpowers the conscious will of users. Opiates, nicotine and alcohol can be addictive like that, marijuana is not. That is important. A teen can die from one single episode of alcohol poisoning and many have, but it’s legal. That is impossible to do from marijuana and it has never happened. Marijuana has no toxicity. It’s negative effects are a concern but they happen very slowly over time, far more slowly than alcohols. Legality will address many prohibition harms domestically and internationally, while at the same time, allowing far more resources to be used to in campaigns like anti tobacco campaigns, which are succeeding. There will never be zero use, so let’s stop foolishly seeking that goal. That’s what prohibition means, zero use. It’s a simplistic, extreme 19th century policy concept that has not and will not work in the 21st century. The smart thing to do is wisely cope with reality.

    • Jerry Epstein | December 16, 2011 at 4:49 pm

      Thank you Ned for all your comments.

      All use is indeed not abuse. Abuse is fairly rare.

      Of about 37 million who have tried cocaine (including crack) we now have about 1 million problem users and for most of 2002 through 2010 the number has been steady around 1.5 million despite some 6 million new users.

    • Sue Rusche | January 5, 2012 at 10:03 am

      Ned says, “I firmly believe that legal marijuana may see some increase in use but [not] much. Why? Because nearly everyone interested in trying it can get it now.”
      If that’s the case, why do you think twice as many children and adolescents in California use alcohol as marijuana?

  12. ChrisKelly | December 16, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    I think legalization will make pot LESS available to minors. Here in Wash DC you can buy pot all over the city, and no one “checks ID”. We also are spending WAY too much money on law enforcement around pot.

    • Sue Rusche | January 5, 2012 at 10:07 am

      To Chris—So why do you think the data show otherwise? Some 7.5 percent of 12 to 17 year olds in the District are current users of marijuana, compared to 15.4 percent who are current (past month) users of alcohol, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (see Table 28). For 18 to 24 year olds, it’s 19.5 percent for marijuana, three and one-half times that for alcohol (71.7 percent).

  13. Jenifer Valley | December 16, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    Alcohol and tobacco actually kill users, while marijuana has never killed anyone. It would make no sense whatsoever to have stricter regulations on marijuana than you do on alcohol or tobacco. In fact, they should be much more relaxed, if anything.
    If you don’t want kids doing drugs, do something about the economic inequality in this nation and give parent living wage jobs so they can spend time with their kids and actually be parents. Have education and sports programs so kids have something to do besides drugs. But the war on marijuana has got to end.

    • Sue Rusche | January 5, 2012 at 10:10 am

      Jenifer Valley says, “Marijuana has never killed anyone.” Please see our comment to recoverydefender, above. Also, in the first ever analysis of drug involvement in traffic fatalities, the Fatal Accident Reporting System of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that one in three fatally injured drivers with known drug test results had drugs in their systems in 2009. Many of those drugs were marijuana.

      • Dwayne | April 9, 2012 at 4:20 pm

        They my be rite about marijuana was in their systems but the Question is when did they smoke the marijuana because depending on how fat a person is will depend on how long it stays in your system and what other drugs including alcohol were involved?? Because I have never heard of any fatal car accidents that were caused from marijuana only and if there are some I would like to see the proof of such docs

  14. Concerned Citizen | December 16, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    I concede that legalization will lead to greater problems fighting substance use disorders among children. There must be greater focus on prevention and treatment. Success of well funded prevention and treatment programs are well documented. The prohibition and criminalization approach to addressing the problem of youth substance abuse has resulted in the incarceration of millions of people, disproportionately poor and minority people. The criminalizatin of recreational drugs is a human rights violation of staggering proportions and is not justified by our county’s lack of investment in prevention and treatment.

    • Sue Rusche | January 5, 2012 at 10:11 am

      To Concerned Citizen–Please see our comment to Dave, above.

  15. maxwood | December 16, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    Sue, please take a look at the “Either-Or” side of the issue. This very week a study was published showing REDUCTIONS in teen drinking and alcohol-related traffic accidents in states where medical marijuana was legalized. (And the same might happen to the 6,000,000-deaths-a-year $igarette industry which has been desperately funding anti-cannabis Republican candidates.)

    • Rick Eash | December 17, 2011 at 8:06 am

      Find a Democrat who has supported legalization like Ron Paul(R)or any Libertarian.
      Lets take the hundreds of millions we spend on enforcement and incarceration and make an investment in evidence based treatment for those who ARE addicted.

      • Sue Rusche | January 5, 2012 at 10:17 am

        To Rick Eash—We agree that it is foolish to send sick people to prison when treatment is what they need. However, we will never treat our way out of the drug problem. We must also invest in prevention in order to hold the number of people, especially children, who initiate drug use to a minimum and therefore, ultimately, reduce the number who will develop addiction and require treatment. Also, holding those who traffic in drugs accountable is helpful to keeping children, families, and communities safe.

    • Sue Rusche | January 5, 2012 at 10:14 am

      To Maxwood–Please see our comment to susb, above.

      • maxwood | January 5, 2012 at 9:40 pm

        Thanks for reply. Yes, high percentages of drivers in accidents are found to have used cannabis– but here’s how the statistics may be skewed: the safest way to avoid being detected using, and getting arrested, prosecuted, blacklisted etc., is to confine use to when you are in… the car.

  16. Jerry Epstein | December 16, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    Prohibition is a disaster for children. it is the declaration by its promoters that drug dealers and cartels will do a better job of protecting children than legitimate, regulated business.

    MTF reports that over the past 20-30 years there has been a decrease in the use of the two major legal drugs and an increase in prohibited marijuana.

    MTF also says marijuana has been “universally available” to 12th graders since 1975. In addition SAMHSA says some 900.000 aged 12 to 17 sell drugs and a similar number carry guns. WE could not do worse.

    Knowing the high rate of experimentation we invite diaster by exposing users to drugs of unknown potency that may be contaminated and may not even be the drugs the seller claims.

    EVERY serious effort by experts to rank drugs by danger has found marijuana to be significantly less dangerous than alcohol. A recent set of expert rankings published in The Lancet had alcohol ranked as the most dangerous drug of all by a wide margin and marijuana number eight.

    Virtually every youngster who used alcohol in the past month has tried marijuana (NSDUH). NIAAA (NESARC) research shows that almost no one develops a problem with marijuana who is not also abusing or addicted to alcohol at the same time or had such an alcohol problem previously. Indeed, the entanglement of abuse of other drugs with alcohol abuse is even greater than the estimated 92 percent for marijuana and alcohol. Of course, alcohol is normally used before marijuana. Data may be found at Drug Use, Abuse and Dependence (Addiction) In America

    None of this is to deny that marijuana has dangers and it is certainly not appropriate for the young (but, like alcohol, it will be used despite my wishes). It is simply to say that prohibition is the worst possible system for controlling the drug supply. As Lancet has observed, people who want the drugs get them anyhow and research, prevention and treatment all suffer from the side effects.

    • Sue Rusche | January 5, 2012 at 10:18 am

      To Jerry Epstein—Again, we refer you to our comment to Dave, above.

  17. Katie | December 16, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    The high cost of treating illnesses and the debilitation they cause makes preventing them far more important. The same is true of drug abuse and addiction. Preventing drug abuse and addiction is as essential as any public health immunization campaign to prevent harmful and/or debilitating diseases. Federal, State, and Local Governments spent $468 billion in 2005 on the abuse of alcohol and illegal drugs. Every $1 invested in substance abuse treatment has been shown to have a return of $7 in cost savings from reduced health costs, crime, lost productivity, etc Every $1 invested in substance abuse PREVENTION has a return of $9.60. There isn’t anyone investing in either his retirement or the stock market who wouldn’t be thrilled with such an investment return. Treating alcohol and drug abuse is expensive, labor intensive, and, unfortunately, has a high rate of recidivism. It begs two questions: 1) Why is alcohol and drug abuse prevention not given the same priority as preventing harmful and/or debilitating diseases? 2) Why is alcohol and drug abuse prevention combined with the treatment of alcohol and drug abuse with which it has little in common?

    • Sue Rusche | January 5, 2012 at 10:18 am

      To Katie—We couldn’t agree more. Great question!

  18. Mary Lynn Mathre | December 17, 2011 at 10:09 am

    Ms. Rusche,

    I hope you read all of these comments with an open mind. You have demonized a valuable plant using “what about the children?” as a justification for the cannabis prohibition. I invite you to The Seventh National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics that will be held in Tucson on April 26-28, 2012 (see for more info). The theme for this conference is: The Endocannabinoid System: Clinical Implications for Health Care. I doubt you are aware of this newly discovered system, but if you open your mind to this new science you may understand how and why cannabis has so much therapeutic potential. I am a certified addictions registered nurse (CARN) and would like to share an idea with you: Drugs are not either “good” or “bad”, but rather their manner of use may be good or bad, healthy or unhealthy.

    • Sue Rusche | January 5, 2012 at 10:19 am

      To Mary Lynn Mathre—Please see our comment to Dave, above.

  19. Tim | December 17, 2011 at 10:57 am

    Kudos to you Sue, and to the majority of others like you who would rather help our future generations shed America’s weakness for drug use.

    As this string of comments symbolizes, your viewpoint is not be as well propagated in the blogging/SM realm, but it is wholeheartedly embraced by the moms, dads, brothers and sisters who would rather be part of a brighter future for our kids. We stand strongly behind you.

    It may feel gratifying for some of my friends above to vent their frustrations through a willful contortion of the facts, but the clear truth is that more marijuana use means more addiction, more crime and yes, more deaths. I wonder why these copious studies are not mentioned or explained in the above comments.

    Treatment rates for marijuana addiction have gone up in ALL of the states where medical Marijuana laws have been in effect for more than 5 years. (By over 10% in California alone.) Youth use rates have skyrocketed in these states too, and even ardent pot supporters accept that as a bad thing. Nearly everyday the national newsgrid contains another story of someone who killed themselves or another by driving with THC in their system. Are these not cannabis related deaths?

    Rather than comparing marijuana to ATOD’s, why don’t we all just compare the pro-drug life in general to one which is free from recreational drug use period. A life that doesn’t need to look outside ourselves for artificial happiness, recreation or mood medication.

    Impossible? Improbable? No. Just implausible for those who have given up on us already. We can do it and people like Sue will help bring us there. Walk with us guys. It’s a better way.

    • Francis | December 23, 2011 at 10:35 am

      “the clear truth is that more marijuana use means more addiction, more crime and yes, more deaths”

      Actually, it would mean quite the opposite. Cannabis and alcohol, as recreational intoxicants, are SUBSTITUTES. And as far as Americans are concerned, they’re the “Big 2.” And alcohol is infinitely more dangerous both to the individual and to society than cannabis. Alcohol is toxic. People can and do die from alcohol overdose. Cannabis is non-toxic. It’s literally impossible to fatally overdose on cannabis. Alcohol is the third-leading cause of preventable death in the United States. (It turns out that drinking poison isn’t good for you.) In contrast, cannabis use does not increase mortality. Alcohol is addictive. You can be so addicted to alcohol that you can literally die FROM WITHDRAWAL. Cannabis is not physically addictive. If you want to talk about “psychological addiction,” be my guest (of course that’s also possible with alcohol… or sex, or shopping, or video games, or a thousand other things that people find pleasurable), but let’s all at least acknowledge that there is no cannabis equivalent to delirium tremens. And (I think, most importantly), alcohol, as a disinhibitor, is a MASSIVE contributor to violence. It’s involved in something like half of all violent crimes and 70% of domestic abuse cases. (Stop and think about those numbers for a second.) In contrast, cannabis use has never been linked to violence. If anything, it DECREASES the risk of violence by pacifying the user. While they can be overstated, there’s a reason we have the stereotypes of the “belligerent drunk” versus the “mellow stoner.” I know which one I prefer to be around. All cannabis prohibition does is encourage adults to use a far more dangerous (but legal) drug.

      Well, ok that’s not ALL cannabis prohibition does. It also empowers and enriches organized crime, fuels gang violence, undermines respect for the law, locks millions of non-violent people in government cages for the “crime” of unlawful plant possession, squanders billions of taxpayer dollars every year (all borrowed, of course), promotes official corruption, undermines respect for the law, erodes our fourth amendment and other constitutional rights, and drives a huge wedge between police and the communities they’re supposed to “serve and protect.” And yet for all that death and destruction, cannabis is still readily available to anyone *cough* who wants it.

      • Sue Rusche | January 5, 2012 at 10:23 am

        To Francis—Please see our comment to Dave, above.

    • Sue Rusche | January 5, 2012 at 10:22 am

      To Tim—We at National Families in Action are calling for everyone to study the U.S. alcohol and tobacco models to find ways to prevent another commercial industry from emerging, if marijuana is legalized, that will target children as potential lifetime customers. Thanks to the advice of some of the most valiant leaders in the nation, who work to prevent underage smoking and drinking, as well as to some of those who work to prevent other drug use and to treat addiction, we have formulated 12 provisions that lawmakers should include in any law that legalizes marijuana in order to achieve this goal.

  20. Leroy Casterline | December 17, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    You asked “If California is going to regulate marijuana like alcohol, how good a job does the state do at preventing underage drinking?”

    That’s an interesting question, and I don’t know the answer, but I’d guess they do a significantly better job than your local street-corner drug dealer. And unlike the drug dealer, they won’t be trying to ‘suggestive sell’ meth or cocaine.

    • Sue Rusche | January 5, 2012 at 10:24 am

      Leroy Casterline says, “That’s an interesting question>”
      If you read the rest of that paragraph and the one after it in our original article, you’ll find the answer to that question.

  21. Carl Veley | December 18, 2011 at 2:16 am

    Ms. makes a critical mistake when she assumes that legalization would make drugs more accessible to kids than they are now. Legalize does NOT mean to lift distribution restrictions, it means to APPLY restrictions. Legalize does NOT mean to condone, it means to regulate and control. Under drug prohibition, as we have now, the only thing controlling drug distribution is the profit motives of criminals who have no license to protect. That’s why kids find it much easier to buy pot than to by liquor. No licensed dealer will sell to them and there are almost no bootleggers or illicit dealers because there’s no profit in it for them. They have to steal liquor and chances are good they will be caught, but they don’t have that worry when buying pot from an illicit dealer. Legalization makes drugs LESS avaiable to kids.

    • Sue Rusche | January 5, 2012 at 10:27 am

      To Carl Veley—So why do you think twice as many children and adolescents use alcohol as marijuana in California? Perhaps you could join forces with Ned, Jerry Epstein, and Chris Kelly in formulating an explanation. We would be interested in hearing why you think that is.

  22. Meg Squier | December 19, 2011 at 9:14 am

    The war on drugs has not only been an abysmal failure, but a hypocritical one as well. I live in Appalachia where the biggest drug concern is the abuse of LEGAL, LETHAL pharmaceuticals. Every day Americans, including teens and young children, watch ads pumping the use of these drugs for anything from headaches to insomnia to depression to hair loss! Many of these drugs are available to teens via their parents medicine cabinets, all perfectly legal thanks to the big pharma industry that wants to keep making a profit at the expense of people’s lives. West Virginia leads the country in deaths by overdose of pharmaceuticals, yet where is the concern about prohibiting access to these kinds of drugs? Prohibition has never worked. Young people need to be educated about the choices they make, not ushered throught the criminal justice system, kicked out of school or fed lies about what drugs are harmful and what are acceptable.

    • Sue Rusche | January 5, 2012 at 10:28 am

      To Meg Squier—The story of how Purdue Pharma marketed OxyContin and created a major drug epidemic is well told in the book Pain Killer by Barry Meier, a business writer for the New York Times.

  23. Jan C | December 19, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    What I find more harmful than marijuana is how kids are punished. My son was suspended from school for 3 months after being caught and totally cooperating with school officials for having trace amounts of what he’d used over the weekend (he never used while in school) in his bag. He almost didn’t graduate because of this suspension – and what good would that have done him? He managed to graduate only through Herculean efforts that any marginalized child would never be able to make. When I extrapolate what they did to him to all the other kids who get caught and punished in similar ways, I have to say I’d rather he smoked marijuana than get caught. If the consequences of getting caught were helpful rather than harmful, I might go along with the arguments that marijuana should not be legalized. But until that is true, lay off our kids!

    • Sue Rusche | January 5, 2012 at 10:31 am

      To Jan C—We are sorry that happened to your son. There were many more productive ways to handle that and clearly your son’s school did not employ them.
      I’ll repeat: we are not arguing against legalization. We are calling for measures that will protect kids from being exploited by a commercial industry–if marijuana is legalized–interested only in the money in their jeans rather that their health and well-being.

  24. doogiem | December 19, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    Oi! Where do I begin? Once again, prohibition is held out to be a viable solution to a public health problem! (What a card to play, eh? “Save the Children!!!” Save me the drama, pla-eeeeeese!). Don’t get me wrong: Making it illegal to kill whales does indeed help save and replenish the whale population. And making it illegal for minors to drop out of school or to possess nicotine, alcohol, or cannabis will help young brains and minds to develop. But making the substance (or activity – prostitution; gambling, etc.) illegal for all adults????? Gimme-a-break! What part of h-i-s-t-o-r-y don’t you understand, Ms. Ruche? We have a current prescription drug epidemic because of accessibility, advertising, and pure human (limbic) nature. Do you want “opiate prohibition?” Access is certainly something to consider and study and research. Let’s base public health policies on science and research. Drug War money is better spent on wise and effective prevention, education, detection, treatments, and – yes, better enforcement of accessibility. Prohibition merely serves, sooths, and comforts the authors and enforcers of such policies; it does very little if anything at getting to the heart (science) of the matter: humans have limbic systems that are easily coopted and corrupted by pleasurable substances and activities. This is the perennial problem/challenge. Some use religion; others prefer science and research; still others wanna use the legal system. All are attempts at taming the devil, or the limbic circuitry, or punishing the criminal.

    • Sue Rusche | January 5, 2012 at 10:32 am

      Doogiem says, “Oi! Where do I begin?”
      I share your sentiment! Please see our comment to Dave, above!

  25. Ken Wolski | December 20, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    Think what impact the War on Drugs has on children. When their parents are locked up, children are deprived of parental guidance and loving discipline, a stable home environment and financial and emotional support. This has a far greater impact on children than whether they use more or less marijuana in their lifetime. Children without parents are left to run wild on the streets until they, too, fall victim to the criminal justice system. I helped to take care of kids like these for the eight years of my life that I worked with incarcerated teenagers in New Jersey. The War on Drugs does more harm than good. It is ineffective in controlling drug use by Americans of any age. The only thing the War on Drugs is effective at is perpetuating itself as an industry for generations to come.

    • Sue Rusche | January 5, 2012 at 10:33 am

      To Ken Wolski—Please see our comment to Dave, above.

  26. Kevin C | December 21, 2011 at 10:03 am

    I’m a therapist. It’s my job to help people come to terms with reality. We as a national culture have a tendency to approach life in sound bites. The science on Prohibition’s impact on alcohol consumption is a probability, not an absolute known fact. What we do know as a Prohibition fact is that alcohol manufacture and consumption went underground and increased crime; so too presently with marijuana. The lesson learned: the only way to control it is to regulate it. With millions of users across the United States, I promise you, children are getting it even now from adults who have access and in some cases, I’ve known adults to have gotten it from children. Seriously, children obtain alcohol illegally, accessing it from adults, but how many kids actually manufacture or sell alcohol? I think it is time to bring pot consumption out in the open, control that market, and quit pretending it will go away as long as we do not legalize it. Thousands of police officers across this country are firm believers that legalization will reduce crime and shift the focus toward more serious offenses. In any case, the only realistic avenues available to protect children are to prosecute adults who give kids marijuana (or alcohol or tobacco) and engage children in prevention and education programs from an early age. Although I don’t entirely agree with her perspective, kudos to Sue Rusche for caring and speaking up! At least she’s acknowledging the problem and trying to do something about it.

    • Sue Rusche | January 5, 2012 at 10:34 am

      To Kevin C—No matter how one feels about legalization, we had better be prepared by ensuring that any law that legalizes marijuana contains strong provisions to protect children—provisions that are far stronger than just a minimum purchase age, which has done little to prevent the alcohol and tobacco industries from marketing to underage young people.

  27. Rajeev | December 21, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    Believe me. We as a nation have greater problems than smoking weed. By outlawing marijuana, our well-intentioned government unintentionally transforms naturally free people into an underclass of individuals with criminal records, a problem (more perilous and endangering than smoking weed) that will indeed follow them throughout life. Our govenrment earns a good part of its living by locking up your harmless children with real, violent animals and ruining their opportunities for employment. The problem is the government-enforced black market. Please think before you give away your freedom and right to make your own decisions and responsibility to learn the lessons of living free.

    • Sue Rusche | January 5, 2012 at 10:34 am

      To Rajeev—take a look at our comment to Dave, above.

  28. MARK MITTEER | December 22, 2011 at 11:45 pm

    I must say if you support the “Prohibitionist’s” stance in keeping Marijuana illegal that is certainly your choice. However consider this, if you will.
    If I were a drug dealer, I certainly would support prohibition.
    1. Prohibition keeps the prices up.
    2. Tax free income
    3. No regulations to follow; like checking I.D. for proof of age or maintaining disease free product
    4. the only requirement to buy is to have the cash.
    5. It’s often easier to steer buyers to a more profitable substance, preferably addictive so they will keep coming back.(they learned this tactic from big tobacco)
    6. Addictions often begin well before the teen years (get a clue) sugar, caffeine.

    So if you want to protect the kids from addictive substances you should really start well before the age of 5yrs old. At least try to be realistic when making claims of protecting the kids. If you really wanted to protect the children, repeal prohibition and have addictive substances (like opiates) monitored by a physician. That is much better than letting the Cartels are recruit dealers to keep drugs away form the kids, well the ones that can’t afford it at least.
    A little common sense goes a long way!

    • Sue Rusche | January 5, 2012 at 10:34 am

      To Mark Mitteer—I agree with your last sentence and refer you to our comment to Dave, above.

  29. Richard P Steeb | December 23, 2011 at 11:55 am

    Store clerks check ID for adulthood. Street dealers, not so much.
    The prohibition of Cannabis is a crime against humanity. It shall NOT stand.

  30. A Critic | December 24, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    “Keeping drugs illegal prevents commercial industries from emerging, ones that are free to advertise and market to increase consumption and free to target children, a given percentage of whom will become addicted—and lifetime customers.”

    The commercial industries exist now. They are owned by gangsters. While corporations have their many downsides, they are better than gangsters. Why do you want our kids to become dependent on addictive products controlled by gangs?

  31. Shawn | December 28, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    Sue Rusche has a good point about the need to include restrictions on advertising in all legislation to regulate marijuana like alcohol, but her argument that child use of marijuana will increase if legal like alcohol fails. It is no wonder that alcohol use is so high among 7th, 9th, and 11th graders, because alcohol is used in almost every household in California. Most only use alcohol on special occassions and likely allow their children to drink on those same occassions. Marijuana is only used by about 10% of people, mostly young people. Ms. Rusche’s whole argument fails unless the legalization of marijuana causes all adults to begin maintaining a supply of the flower in their home. It is unlikely that legalization will increase adult use given that trends of marijuana use are about the same or lower in cities, states, and other countries where marijuana use is legal as in places where it is illegal.

  32. Natalie | January 3, 2012 at 11:19 am

    I started smoking marijuana on a daily basis from the age of 13. I graduated my high school with all A’s and in honors classes. I went on to college and made $26,000 a year on salary before I had turned 19. Marijuana did not stop me from becoming a good citizen. Marijuana helps my fibromyalgia-I use that instead of the 2 pain killers and 2 sleep medications they would like to give me. Marijuana has never killed anyone, however alcohol actually tore my entire family apart. I agree that marijuana should not be used by adolescents-there should be an age restriction. But why is something that can be so beneficial illegal? When my mother had cancer she smoked marijuana to keep an appetite so that she could weigh over 90 pounds. Please realize that marijuana is NOT going to harm children, but the adderol and ritalin they are on WILL!!!

    • compassion | January 9, 2012 at 10:38 am

      Natalie – You and your mother are great examples of why restricting Mj is cruel and wrong. Suffering people are helped with little or no side effects. It is just evil to try to keep it from you, even at 13.

  33. Ben House | January 11, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    I am good with Sue’s response to Dave, it is not about legalization, but about who is using and why.
    I disagree with her plan to stop legalization because of the risks to. In Iowa prevention programs paid for by the legal settlement against the tobacco industry have shown great response, but the vast majority of the money went to the general fund and they are stripping more away. That should be illegal!
    While parents are important it is my understanding that adolescents are most impacted by media and peers, more than parental or family influence. Spend the money in programs that work at that level. It would be easy enough to legislate a fee on THC products dedicated to such educational programs and to make it illegal to advertise in any media outlets. I heard somewhere that America is one of the few countries where pharmaceuticals are advertised and we can see the effect of that in prescriptions drug abuse across the population.

  34. Douglas | January 22, 2012 at 6:00 am

    If pot is made legal. Than it will make it way to hard for any one under the age of 21. Pl use it will be putting a lot of cops out of a job or transfer. The privet jails will loss alot of money that what support them now.And instead of having some pot head lock up the would have to lock up a rapes or murder. Yes its alot better to have some one lock up for years and years for smoking wed than it is to have some guy who like to rape women or some one who get drunk and run over a family no smoking pot is a lot worst than any crime on the books any one that says any good thing about pot need to be arrested and do prison time

  35. Michael V | January 28, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    Wait a minute. Let me see if I have this right. Making pot legal will do what, kids will be smoking it, and/or more will smoke? Hello, they are smoking it now in huge numbers regardless of it’s illegality. The drug being illegal hasn’t stopped a giant portion of the population from lighting up, nor would making pot legal see a statistically significant increase in kids, or adults smoking it. They are doing it anyway. What would happen is a ridiculously huge amount of resources wasted on arresting, and incarcerating 800,000+ persons per year for pot possession would be freed up and then could be spent on drug education, and treatment. And also take a huge amount of wind away from the Cartel’s sails. However, I don’t believe that developing brains should be subjected to substance abuse, adults should be able to smoke pot, and especially used for medical purposes if they choose to do so. But if pot also helps a younger person with medical issues that are unresponsive to allopathic medicines then they to should be able to indulge as well.

  36. Doc Barry | February 9, 2012 at 6:36 pm

    I would like to comment on what appears to be a hot topic. Did Prohibition succeed? Please do not patronize me by saying less people drank. Sure, it was illegal. However, this is the United States of America, and prior to 1914 NO Drug was illegal. This is a ‘free’ country. However, if we want to examine the facts, as was earlier commented, are you kidding? Pot is smoked today in massive quantities. The Colombians and Mexicans did not create the Cartels; We did, we still support them. Our economy is so anemic and pathetic, that we allow the government to run gambling. I remember when numbers writers were illegal. Go to any convenience store, and legally buy your tickets. What about tobacco? The largest killer by far, but the government still takes the tax. Alcohol? you got it, we still take the tax.
    Have you ever realized that Cannabis or Hemp produces a product that we could use? In addition, all we have done is create a second generation of criminals. There are two problems, and they must be separated if we are to have any success. First, there is the crime problem. That’s simple, make it legal. Then, is the more difficult issue, the drug problem. Why do we act like this is something new? There are Biblical heroes that got drunk. So why are we trying to stop it, and at what cost? Have you done your research? What is the fastest growing type drugs being abused? Prescriptions! I will end with a simple thought, would you rather be driving next to a person that just drank 5 shots of alcohol, or someone who took 5 hits of pot?

  37. Ben | March 14, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    In my town there are 8 murders a day. In 2011 that came out to over 3,000 murders, more than TEN TIMES the number of a similarly sized city, like Chicago or Los Angeles. In my town there are over 2,500 gangs killing each other and civilians competing with the federal police, the state police and local law officers for the money produced by drugs, mostly pot. According to ONDCP, over 85% of drugs imported into America are marijuana, so that’s where the money comes from that the huge criminal enterprises are fighting over comes from. In my town it is easier for school kids to get pot than beer, and it brings them into contact with these vast criminal enterprises. Of course it’s a bad idea for kids to use drugs, but its also a bad idea to hand over these incredible fortunes to very bad people. My town is El Paso, Texas/ Juarez, Mexico. Most people here have family on both sides of the very artificial line that runs through this largest metropolitan area on an international border. El Paso is the safest city in America and Juarez is the most dangerous place on Earth. Please help us. These are real people who are dying here. Take the money out of it – somehow, anyhow.

  38. andrew | March 20, 2012 at 2:09 am

    if they legalize weed the economy could sky rocket. people could be put in better moods more willing to go out and do acitivitys while on it because it is more of a thrill. food companies have more things to market off of. everything would boom! legalize it. people think if it is legal crime will increase. there will always be crime that is society !!! make a revolution

  39. Matt | March 23, 2012 at 10:47 am

    Perhaps an MD can answer these three questions:
    Can’t people seeking the medical benefits from marijuana take it in a pill form? (If so..then this legalization becomes a “recreational use argument.”)

    How much marijuana would need to be smoked to obtain a “medical benefit” and would that benefit be outweighed by the lung damage?

    Lastly, it did not seem we would go through a ballot process for the medicinal use of other antibiotics..why start now?

    • Marcia | June 15, 2012 at 2:03 pm

      Mike Gimbal, your personal experience isn’t valid reason for the massive bloodshed of the drug war, the mass incarceration of good people or the stigma and discrimination that follows, not to mention the scientifically proven benefits of cannabis.

      Matt, your first and last question has the same answer. The greedy Pharmaceutical Industry that MUST stay the only drug dealer.

      Cannabis can and is being made as a SYNTHETIC Pill or Liquid form, which is why Pharma is hell bent on keeping the plant illegal. How can THEY make Billions more if YOU grow your own?

      Some of the comparisons of smoking it directly rather than taking it in processed pill or liquid form include:

      1. It takes longer for the pill to be absorbed by the body. This absorption can take up to one hour whereas smoking the substance will cause an immediate reaction. Also the pill form will go through the digestive system, and being synthetic, will cause a burden on the liver, where it’s filtered and it will reduce the actual benefits requiring higher dosage. Big Pharma likely loves this. Not to mention more drugs for liver toxicity.

      Your 2nd question is answered here; because smoking allows an immediate physical reaction, a user can easily monitor his intake in order to achieve appropriate results, depending on whether he’s treating chronic pain or just desires a bit of relaxation. Another form of “smoking” the herb is called vaporization, where the THC is released in vapor form rather than burning. This completely eliminates the lung damage issue. Of course it can also be ingested as an oil, which is highly effective as a cancer treatment or with food, such as the iconic Pot Brownies. If a person has to wait an hour to feel the effect of a liquid or pill, there are higher chances of overdose. According to Government Statistics, the lethal dose of natural cannabis is about one-third your body weight, or about 1,500 pounds, consumed all at once. Frankly with smoking there is zero chance of overdose, unless you’re arrested for the stuff and get beaten to death for allegedly resisting arrest or get caught in the line of fire from the Drug Cartel.

      3. The synthetic version has been reported to be more intense and include psychedelic side effects.

      4. Smoking cannabis is much less expensive than the liquid or pill form.

      5. The liquid form of the drug is said to cause nausea so severe that many people can’t tolerate it and vomit before absorbing the THC. This is an unfortunate side effect since many are trying to control nausea in the first place. Of course the Pharmaceutical Industry will love this, cause then they can push yet another drug to counter the side effects.

      Side effects from the synthetic liquid or pill THC include anxiety, confusion, memory loss, unusual thought patterns, depression, restlessness, rapid heartbeat, skin rash and seizures. Lots and lots of multiple Scrip writing potential here…

  40. Mike Gimbel | March 26, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    As a recovering addict who smoked a ton of pot, i can’t remember one time that I didn’t get stoned from smoking pot. Isn’t that the goal? Getting stoned also means being impaired. You can drink some alcohol and not be drunk but you can’t smoke pot and not get high/impaired. So stop comparing alcohol and pot. Secondly name for me one other drug that our politicians have approved for medical use… you can’t because its never been done before. What makes pot so special that our politicians would superseed the responsiblity of the FDA, whos job it is to approve all medicines and food. The real reason for this is that the baby boomers want to smoke pot and not get into any trouble. Since they now control local legislatures they can use the issue of medical use and the first step for legalization. Baby Boomers are not stupid just high.

    • Dwayne | April 9, 2012 at 4:45 pm

      Do you really trust the FDA I have many friends that are either sick or addicted or dead from drugs the FDA approved and you are telling us that we should be afraid of pot?? Give me a break how can you compare Marijuana (GODS GIFT)to alcohol I personally saw a man beat another man to death after getting drunk in a bar never have i seen a man die because someone had gotten to HIGH.

      • Amber | August 6, 2012 at 11:03 am

        How do you know that nobody has died from effects of using marijuana? Just because you haven’t see it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. I haven’t seen anyone die from alcohol poisoning but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

  41. Andrew | May 27, 2012 at 4:36 am

    Children And Teens Smoke Cannabis It’s A Fact Of Life Get Over It People! And Why Should The Legal Age To Smoke Pot Be 21??? 18 Should At Least Be The Minimum Legal Age To Medicate On Cannabis So LEGALIZE IT AMERICA 2012! If Not By This Year I Literaly Will Not Have Any Faith Left For This Country

    • Amber | August 6, 2012 at 10:52 am

      Wow, you must not work with youth. To lose faith in your country if they don’t legalize a drug is just silly. Let’s be honest as well, there is no “medicating” going on by youth with marijuana use. Maybe using it to help cope with issues they may have, such as depression, but marijuana doesn’t solve that issue.

  42. John | June 16, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    It seems to me that the discussion should be only about personal choice and freedom. Legalization with regulation of distribution and sales, is the only sensible thing to do.

  43. Beelz | July 11, 2012 at 8:59 am

    You can argue until the end of days on this topic. Whether you are an activist for the legalization, recreational of medicinal use, or if you still think that Reagan lives in the white house and you would like to keep it illegal, its just reefer. Chill out, as older generations die out and smokers numbers increase daily, its only a matter of time.

    • Barry Williams | July 24, 2012 at 5:38 pm

      Marijuana criminalization started long before Regan so “Regan in the white house” is nonsense. Further, no democrat president has used his authority over the FDA to change pot from Schedule I along with heroin and cocaine.
      I am of an “older generation” (59) and mine is the penultimate “sex, drugs, rock and roll” generation. Many of my peers see the prohibition as fruitless and agree that prohibition will never work or will not work any better than it has over the last 82 years.
      Also, many of my peers agree that the use of pot should be a personal choice for which the user bears the consequences. Penalties would accrue to anyone that interferes with another’s freedom just as it is with most other criminal law.
      I started using pot at 14 and it hurt my performance. My IQ has been tested as high as 140. Did pot use hurt my initiative to study and make good grades? Probably. Did it harm my intelligence? Probably not.
      I functioned quite well as an engineer in the aerospace industry for years despite having no degree. All the while I used pot. Today I couldn’t get a job if I used pot due to drug testing. And, if I were a drug felon, forget it!
      Given the several-thousand year history of humans using drugs, I feel confident to predict that humans will likely continue to use drugs. Over the same period, there has been no accumulated wisdom passed along as warnings about how pot will make one stupid or prove fatal if used in excess. In recent history, there have been no reports of death from overdose on pot. Actually, overdose on pot is apparently impossible. However, people regularly die from alcohol poisoning. Prohibition did not work with that very dangerous and addictive drug.
      I currently use drugs that have far more severe side effects than pot but they are legal and prescribed. Specifically, zolpidem (Ambien) and pregabalin (Lyrica). I would likely need less of either if any at all if I could use pot.
      The fallacy is that some people think they have the right to dictate to me how I use my body and life as long as the dictates serve some higher purpose for them.
      As far as kids using drugs goes, I am not an advocate for that. However, once anyone is busted for a drug felony as an adult, their life is generally trashed by the lack of forgiveness. The damage done to a kid’s life by conviction on a drug felony is far worse than the use of the drug.
      Drug use may be seen as damaging to the individual but society will hardly crash and burn because of it. Having a society with an ever increasing cadre of hardened felons will be worse by far. The US has currently incarcerated 730 of 100,000 population. In China, it is 1/3 of that. Pretty sad for a constitutional democracy when compared to the totalitarianism of the former communist China.
      There is no redemption without forgiveness. Without redemption there can be no rehabilitation and recovery. Criminalizing individual behavior where it doesn’t harm another does not enure to the positive benefit of an individual and thus not to the benefit of society. Until this changes, there can be no rational approach to dealing with society’s use of drugs.

  44. Charles | August 1, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    Kids are using marijuana whether it’s legal or not, so would you prefer the child to use marijuana that came from a street dealer, with no background check, no control, and no information as to the quality of the substance in question? Or do you want it to be done in a controlled and regulated environment in which the individual is fully aware as to the potency and quality of the substance being consumed?

    Prohibition isn’t working, it has never worked, and it never will work.

    Legalize. Tax. Regulate.

  45. Amber | August 6, 2012 at 11:00 am

    We really shouldn’t generalize effects of a drug. Not everyone gets relaxed when they smoke marijuana just like not everyone gets crazy when they drink. I especially don’t like the arguements that state things like, I’d rather have my kid do pot than alcohol” or “I’d rather have kids smoke regulated marijuana than from a dealer”. We really need to educate people on the damage that can be done while using a drug and I’m not just referring to marijuana. Smoking marijuana does do damage to our brain just like alcohol, heroin, cocaine, ecstacy, etc. Doing any drug affects driving, you are in an altered state of mind so how couldn’t it? For the people for legalizing it, are you ok with having a lot of marijuana smokers driving around? Just a question. I think there is a lot we need to think about before we even think about making marijuana legal.

  46. Amanda | September 5, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    We have come so far in our prevention efforts to reduce the youth of cigarette smoking, so why are we allowing the use of smoking marijuana to be okay? You have the same health risks when smoking marijuana as you do smoking anything! I found a case study of a 22 year old boy with cancer by Kothadia and colleagues (2012) “Anterioral Mediastinal Mass in Young Marijuana Smoker: A Rare Case of Small-Cell Lung Cancer.” There may be medical benefits to marijuana but there are many health risks that we need to be conscious of when legalizing for the population.

  47. Joe Miller | September 12, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    Amanda, a myriad of more serious and immediate health risks may be associated with the incarceration of young men who use marijuana. Agreed?

    • Amanda | September 20, 2012 at 12:39 pm

      The deal is, is that kids hear all of this discussion of how marijuana can reduce the impact of certain health problem symptoms that they believe that marijuana has no harmful properties itself. I had one adolescent state, “Well it is a plant so it cannot be harmful.” Our youth do not get the whole picture, so do I want to legalize it, NO.
      When it comes to incarceration, I do not see a ton of marijuana possession charges that get sent to prison except when they are dealing. However, with any addiction I would prefer to see individuals in a treatment setting rather then a jail or prison any day, but does that mean just because I don’t want them in jail I condone a harmful act, absolutely not!
      I would be more inclined to support a direction of legalizing marijuana if we have the government regulate how it is made, how it is distributed, and validation of prescription. From what I see from current state legalization problems is that you can pay off a doctor to give you a prescription, that it is prescribed to younger individuals that want the effects of getting high not treated, that they there different kinds of marijuana that you can buy from multiple dispensers that look like a shack with a chalk board listed of prices. Is this a medical dispensary, I don’t think so! When we have a more medically sound distribution, prescription, and make of a product then you can talk to me about legalization but not until we get everything legitimate!

      • Joe Miller | September 28, 2012 at 8:59 pm

        Amanda, I wasn’t asking you if you were willing to condone the ingestion of a potentially harmful substance. I was asking if you thought incarcerating people (in particular young people) for the act of possessing and/or ingesting the drug wasn’t potentially more of a risk to an individual’s health than the ingestion of cannabis.

        • Hellys | March 4, 2013 at 5:12 pm

          Thank you Joe Miller. The incarceration of young people has terrible negative long-term consequences and should not be used except in the most serious situations. Every contact with the juvenile justice system has negative effects on youth.
          That’s the finding of researchers such as Professor Richard E. Tremblay, at the University of Montreal.
          His long-term research found most young people grow out of all kinds of anti-social behavior — unless they come in contact with the justice system, which immediately worsens their prognosis.
          Drug use should be treated as a public health issue, not a crime.

  48. PWKaplan | September 21, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    You cannot deal with a public health problem by criminalizing or decriminalizing it. You may put a lot of people in jail–or you may let a lot of people out–but you don’t solve the problem. There is research that indicates marijuana has medicinal properties (not from THC) not obtainable elsewhere. If it keeps just one cancer or MS victim from suffering, then it has more value as a legal drug than ETOH. The war on drugs is not about saving children or keeping people from using drugs–it’s about social control. It would be far cheaper and from a public health perspective far more efficacious to take a fraction of the money wasted on the war on drugs and offer treatment on demand to every addict every time s/he asked for it. That would bring us much closer to solving the “drug problem.”

  49. Joe Miller | September 28, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    If we’re going to arrest and incarcerate people for ingesting potentially unhealthy substances we might as well include the consumption of buttered biscuits and Big Macs as arrestable offenses. Heck, maybe we can even treat obesity as probable cause for arrest!

  50. Carlos | November 11, 2012 at 5:52 am

    Well, that surely let a lot of room for human imagination!!! Speculation based on hot air and guessing. Now, all we have to do is find out what will turn out to be the truth.

  51. Oliver-John McMinn | November 19, 2012 at 8:22 am

    In reading these comments I find it heartening that there are reasonable people who are willing to challenge the views of the wowsers who are pushing the “drugs are bad, mmmkay” agenda. And for all you overprotective soccer moms who think you know what is good for everybody, here’s a newsflash weed was never made illegal because of adverse health effects on those who smoke it. It was made illegal to protect the business interests of prestigious like william randolph hearst, Lammont Dupont and Andrew Mellon from the threat that hemp fibre posed. Hearst with his media empire published sensationalised, exaggerated stories about the dangers of “marihuana” often with racist overtones – it was the 1930′s when the term politically correct wasn’t concievable.

    So next time you overzealous soccer moms feel like standing atop your soap box and shouting down efforts to reform prohibition policy, spare a thought for all the black folks languishing in jail for possession of small quantities of weed and how they’re not there to keep society safe but rather because everything is still going according to plan for a bunch of stuffy, old, rich, white men. The same men who are playing on your fears while distorting the debate so that you end up doing their dirty work.

  52. Experiences | November 26, 2012 at 12:18 am

    When I was a young teenage girl, I drank alcohol at parties. When a joint was passed around, I smoked it. It made things more fun. People do not stop with alcohol, they mix drugs with alcohol, then they get in a car and drive. I also grew up around gangs. They fought and killed each other over many things like territories, girls/boys, their integrity or just to prove themselves. If it was over drugs it was because someone didn’t pay. Legalizing recreational marijuana will not stop the gangs here nor across the border. Drug users will always pay for a drug they are addicted to, whether its crack, opium, meth, or mary jane, which in turn gives the drug cartels it’s job. Medical marijuana with strict restriction use may work, but it will not end crime. I have a friend in Colorado with a 8 yr. old son who drew her a picture of a bong that his daddy uses when he locks himself in the bedroom for hours. He can also pick up the scent of pot at the daycare he goes to. His dad is on unemployment and says he cannot pay her child support. He has no medical conditions. The police cannot help her keep her own child safe when the dad is driving around with her son looking for a burger king. Is this the type of country we want our children to be exposed to?

  53. Joe | December 5, 2012 at 1:17 am

    Yes indeed, drug users will always be willing to pay for a drug they are addicted to. Think the Miller Brewing Company or Pfizer. What good does turning over the responsibility for the production and distribution of these substances away from controlled and regulated sources to criminal predators via a black market do for us other than empower vicious cartel thugs? Yes, thugs will always be around, why should we also make it easy for them to get rich at the public’s expense?

  54. Denise L | February 9, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    Marijuana use by youth is lower in The Netherlands where it is de facto legal; marijuana use by youth went down in Colorado, “…Since the passage of HB10-1284, Colorado’s historical medical marijuana regulation legislation, current marijuana use among high school students in Colorado has dropped from 24.8% to 22.0% according to the Federal Government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Assessment…”
    We reduced the US rate of cig smoking by providing education, treatment options (support groups, Chantix, patches, lozenges, etc.) NOT by arresting anyone. Let’s learn the lesson from alcohol prohibition-

  55. NJ | February 25, 2013 at 11:37 am

    My question is which drug do you stop legalizing at? In other words, if marijuana is legalized, what would be the next drug people would want legalized? Because you know it won’t stop at marijuana. So where is the line drawn?

  56. Jerry Epstein | March 1, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    I think it is you who have completely missed the point.

    First, youth addiction to hugely advertised alcohol has been surpassed by marijuana addiction, per NSDUH:

    Figure 7.5 Alcohol and Illicit Drug Dependence or Abuse among Youths Aged 12 to 17: 2002-2011

    As with all drugs, they begin primarily with “free from family and friends”

    Second, I have no objection to banning ads for marijuana (although I think it doesn’t matter if GOOD ACCURATE education happens). BUT
    if you want reasonable restrictions you are cutting your own throat by not targeting government interference. Were it not for those who believe as you do, we would have had a controlled system as suggested by NAS “An Analysis of Marijuana Policy” 40 years ago. (which suggested a ban on ads as a possibility along with numerous other controls.)

    Instead the public has caught up with the absurdity of marijuana prohibition and passed laws with federal interference rather than cooperation. Step in now to help us get more optimum laws in other states which will surely follow.

    Lancet wrote in 2005:
    “The Lancet does not endorse illegal drug use, but we believe that the cloak of secrecy shrouding those who use illicit substances is the most destructive feature by far of the cultural condemnation of recreational drug use.”

    No alcohol problem = rare problem with any drug:
    Youths aged 12 to 17 who were heavy drinkers in 2010. (i.e., consumed five or more drinks on the same occasion on each of 5 or more days in the past 30 days) were 14 times as likely to have used an illegal drug in the past month compared those who were not current alcohol users: 70.6 percent to 5.1 percent

    Finally, we are maxed out — addiction is about people and not drugs. Start trying to help the young before the fact — it is mental heath before a drug is ever used and not ads that matter.

    Change your target please.

    • Hellys | March 4, 2013 at 5:04 pm

      I agree. Parents will be in a far better position to enforce rules with their children when they themselves are not breaking the law. Cannabis prohibition drives usage underground and makes honest discussion about the negative consequences for young people much more difficult to achieve.

  57. Jerry Epstein | March 1, 2013 at 10:35 pm

    People use more alcohol by far than any other drug.
    The reason is that alcohol is the most popular drug in human history. Check Bible for references.

    Alcohol is legal for two reasons.

    First it is more popular than other drugs, not less dangerous.
    Second, Prohibition was a disaster. My grandparents
    raised my parents wnem n heroin and coaine were leagal and heavily advertised including endorsements from the Vatican under two popes. . Alcohol was a much greater problem.

    My siblings were born during alcohol Prohibition. My parents soon realized that alcohol with Al Capone was much worse than alcohol when it was legal.

    If you could lose the hang up on specific drugs you would see that prohibition doesn’t work and creates more misery with any drug.

  58. Leslie Sirag | May 2, 2013 at 9:21 pm

    As someone who lived through the ’60s and has now raised 5 “later placed” children adopted from foster care, I suspect that legalizing marijuana & making it available to adults in licensed establishments with ID required will not only make children’s access at least a little more difficult, but will remove some of the thrill of obtaining an “illegal” substance. We’ve spent some time in Holland, where it’s legal, and it’s really no big thrill–you cam go down the street to the shop & buy it if you’re over 18. What was interesting there was that most of the 20-somethings we met would smoke a bit if it was offered, but weren’t all that interested — the thrill was gone.
    I know people who smoke pot more or less constantly (and some who have gotten into harder drugs because of where they have to go to get it) and some who smoke occasionally, or use other forms: I certainly prefer pot smokers to drinkers, both socially and on the road.
    I have known and worked with addicts and alcoholics, and all of them say nicotine is the hardest addiction to end. Hardly anyone chain smokes pot, and it can be ingested in other ways, so it will probably not produce nearly the lung damage cigarettes do. Whether it will reduce nicotine dependence is something I don’t think we can predict, but that would be a positive outcome.
    I certainly don’t advocate a lack of safety for children (or anyone else) but our society seems to have fixated so much on not exposing children to things that might harm them that I think we’re depriving them of the ability to make reasonable decisions about risk, and banning marijuana because it might cause them harm is another knee-jerk overreaction. What I know as a parent is that, once your child goes to school, they are subject to other influences. You can maintain communication and try to protect them from danger, but what they need is the skill to analyze information and make informed decisions. Of course this should increase as they mature, but your best shot as a parent is to help with that–there’s no way you can keep them safe with ignorance and prohibitions.

  59. joebanana | June 12, 2013 at 5:57 am

    Cannabis is an herb, not a “drug”. Drugs are made from petrochemicals, hazardous waste, and fungus.

  60. smoky robbinson | July 8, 2013 at 4:54 pm

    Ok I’ve scrolled threw most of the comments so forgive me if some of what i say has been said before. To start off with Marijuana is not physically addictive, meaning that you do not go through withdraws as with many other drugs. Now many people claim that it is mentally addictive; Which is to say that when you smoke say a joint with a few pals you may say to yourself, “wow this feels good” a similar response that your brain may have while running (runners high). when you exercise endorphins are released, similar sensations occur while eating good food riding a roller coaster and many other instances. This being said don’t expect to be able to control how much you smoke if you can’t control how much you eat. However I’m not suggesting that if you have trouble with dieting your going to be a complete stoner with no prospects in life. As i have just talked about dieting I’m going to propose a parallel. When proper dieting is followed the dieter eats healthier foods and less of the food is consumed until they reach a healthy weight as it is not healthy to be either under or over weight; in the case of pot you likely do not have a label on your bag or jar letting you know what exactly is in your pot. This is why it is safest to grow your own or know how the pot you smoke and or distribute is grown. Some people use chemicals to “enhance” there grow this is because they do not know the healthier way to grow or don’t care. For the most part like many other plants as the average gardener knows the plant needs nutrients from the ground and sunlight. If your smoking this type of pot your good as long as whomever you by from is not a jackass and therefor has not added any other drugs to the pot (this has not been a problem for me) as I only have bought from people i trust. If there is something other than good weed in your joint you will feel a tingly sensation in the lips. However in the case of chemicals the difference can be found in the taste if grown right the taste is clean, smooth, and usually fruity, in the case of poorly grown pot the taste will be harsh, rough and likely be followed by much coughing. This is not to say that you’ll never cough when smoking good weed just that the cough will be more pleasant. Ok now to the main issue the youth smoking pot, first let me say that this cannot be completely prevented but if marijuana is regulated like alcohol the quality of what they smoke will be better; also they will be less likely to be offered other substances and or resort to “household highs”, fake weed, bath salts etc. which can be very dangerous extremely unhealthy and addictive. Now parents that I know that smoke are not going to get there kids high until they reach a certain age and only if they ask to smoke this age for me when I have kids will be the same age i began smoking at, 17 and they will not be allowed to smoke if they are doing things I see as unfit ex. doing poorly in school.

  61. Christopher Ariano | November 10, 2013 at 8:56 am

    I considered the situation with marijuana today similar to prohibition. Although I cannot argue that marijuana is not a dangerous drug that should not be in the hands of children, the reality is that children are often able to get marijuana easier than cigarettes or alcohol. In addition, these innocent children if unable to use marijuana will most likely turn to alcohol. I would much rather have my daughter smoke a joint and fall asleep than get drunk and drive or participate in other inappropriate behavior. Marijuana for children and recreational uses is not good, but it’s hard to argue it’s not better than alcohol.

    • bongstar420 | March 9, 2014 at 7:14 pm

      So you would rather have your children be chronic alcoholics with irreversible dementia and cirrhosis of the liver as opposed to chronic Cannabis users with mild but reversible emphysema and short term memory deficits?

  62. Amber | January 16, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    I hate it when people say, “I’d rather have my kid do marijuana than alcohol”. I also can’t stand it when people say it doesn’t affect your brain. Are there more harmful drugs? Of course, but that doesn’t mean marijuana is safe.

    • bob wiley | February 7, 2014 at 11:04 am

      Amber…. Who is telling you “marijuana is safe”? That is a red herring statement often used by DEA and ONDCP to try to debunk any drug reform movements. Too much salt, aspirin, Big Macs can be unhealthy, but they shouldn’t be illegal.
      There is NO debate that marijuana is SAFER than alcohol, and yes adults should have the legal choice of what they consume for relaxation.

      Most of the harm from marijuana comes from the unintended consequences of Prohibition, not from the physical outcome of its use. Marijuana is dangerous when it is illegal, not illegal because it is dangerous.

      Please show us a list of the harms from marijuana use and I’ll provide a much longer list of harms inflicted by marijuana prohibition.

  63. Amber | January 16, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    I also think the “falling asleep” arguement is stupid because most kids that smoke don’t fall asleep. I think we should all understand that driving under the influence of marijuana is dangerous as well. What if they fell asleep while driving…

  64. Amber | January 16, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    News Flash!!! People don’t spend long amounts of time in prison for having a small amount of marijuana…

    • bob wiley | February 17, 2014 at 9:47 pm

      Amber.. True, but we waste an enormous amount of law enforcement time arresting over 700,000 citizens for marijuana infractions. Eighty six percent for simple possession, not manufacture or distribution. Does this make any sense to you?

  65. David | March 4, 2014 at 2:09 pm

    Scapegoating substances, funding huge bureaucracy, and stripping away freedom is no way to help kids learn to control themselves and live healthy and productive lives. Sorry, but we’re not going to see a decline in abuse until we shift our focus from blaming substances and start to take responsibility fro actually raising kids. Sorry, but if a child is abusing drug, slipping into greater dependence, then problems existed prior to MJ that have nothing to do with MJ AND it is important to be brave and face this fact if there is any hope of actually helping them. Blaming substances and advocating to punish strangers for activities that have nothing to do with raising kids well, is not a solution unless you also advocate for a complete authoritarian monarchy.
    I’ve raised two sons who were scholar athletes and are now post grad scientists with homes and families of their own. I would not have had such good results if I spent my time crying for the government to strip other people of their rights. Nor did I once think dealing with drug issues was some other person’s responsibility except mine.

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