Thursday, August 9, 2012

Regulating marijuana is complicated

Are teenagers who use marijuana getting it from medical marijuana dispensaries?  Studies conducted in Colorado, a state that has medical marijuana dispensaries like Seattle, are starting to show that they do.

According to a recent study about how many teenagers in substance abuse treatment in the Denver metropolitan area used somebody else's (diverted) marijuana, "Approximately 74% of the adolescents had used someone else's medical marijuana, and they reported using diverted medical marijuana a median of 50 times. After adjusting for gender and race/ethnicity, adolescents who used medical marijuana had an earlier age of regular marijuana use, more marijuana abuse and dependence symptoms, and more conduct disorder symptoms compared with those who did not use medical marijuana."  

As an article in The Atlantic states, "Regulating marijuana isn't as simple as you thought!"

". . . the fact that it's reaching any population of adolescents in such numbers -- and that, as the study suggests, it appears to be affecting them negatively -- does bring to light the unspoken philosophy of the present state of medical marijuana. It is, for many, pseudo-legalization. The lax regulation (relative to that of traditional prescription medications) feels like a wink and a nod."

The same would be true with fully legalized marijuana.  Without strong and enforced regulations youth access to marijuana would increase.  Here are two examples:

-- Alcohol is easy for teens to get because regulations that would prohibit older friends and siblings from buying it for them are not enforced.  The top 3 ways teenagers get alcohol is from a friend, at a party or by giving someone money to buy it for them.  I-502 does not include regulations that would stop teenagers from getting marijuana the same way they get alcohol.

-- Like alcohol, youth would get marijuana at home -- the same would be true with marijuana.  Washington teenagers are more likely to get alcohol from home with or without parent's permission than from buying it from a store.  With the demise of legal sanctions against use, some parents may choose to begin using marijuana, acting as a new source for their children.  I-502 does not contain a law that would hold parents responsible for supplying their kids with marijuana.

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