A win for big marijuana is a major loss for children

Michelle A. Cretella
November 13, 2014
Reproduced with Permission

For decades, popular media has excelled in reporting the harms of tobacco use, and generated significant positive peer pressure to break and/or avoid the habit among adults and youth alike. As a result, Big Tobacco has been almost irredeemably demonized. Popular media's treatment of marijuana, in contrast, is often characterized by sloppy reporting, and increasingly appears to have pot fast-tracked for canonization as the panacea to all medical, economic and social ills.

Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia currently have laws legalizing marijuana in some form. Midterm referenda earlier this month resulted in the legalization of recreational marijuana use in Washington DC, Oregon and Alaska, which joined the states of Washington and Colorado. This has been hailed by proponents of repealing the federal ban as a triumph in the march against the failed draconian policy of prohibition.

Curiously, a few days later, the sleepy little town of Westminster, Massachusetts received kudos in the media for potentially becoming the first municipality in America to ban the sale of all tobacco products. Exactly why is this "Prohibition" being championed as "progressive" rather than disparaged as "draconian?" According to the article it is because this prohibition will prevent tobacco from impairing and/or shortening the lives of 5.6 million children. While I applaud this focus on children's well-being, I sorely wish children's health were the focus of a battle against an enemy with far more dire consequences to children than tobacco : Big Marijuana.

Even medical marijuana alone, which remains scientifically problematic as explained in a previous MercatorNet article , increases the availability of pot among adolescents. A 2014 survey of Colorado teens in substance abuse treatment centers found that 74 percent obtained their pot from a medical marijuana patient. A recent multi-state study, involving thousands of high school seniors, found that 10 percent of non-users would try marijuana if it were legal in their state. Among those seniors in the study who already used marijuana, 18 percent said they would smoke more if it were legal. Already, by 2011, more kids were smoking marijuana than were smoking cigarettes. It seems kids, like their parents and many American adults, view marijuana as less harmful than tobacco. This is a myth with potentially grave consequences.

Consider these facts:

Further legalization will be accompanied by increased marijuana use resulting in more individuals suffering its untoward effects, with children being disproportionately affected. This will deal a devastating blow to America's long-term national health -- both medical and economic -- by adversely affecting workplace productivity, academic performance, behavioral and somatic health, automobile safety, parenting and family functioning.

While I breathe a sigh of relief that nearly everyone today acknowledges the harms of tobacco products and sees Big Tobacco for what it is, I fear for the many being duped into sucking in the haze spewed by Big Marijuana. Don't inhale. Legalization on behalf of corporate greed and adults wanting to get high without consequence is not the answer.

A focus on evidence-based research for medical marijuana, educational programs for drug-use prevention (especially those building parent-child connectedness), mental health reform, justice reform, drug-treatment courts, and smart policing practices are all part of the real answer. Save our children. Save our future. Maintain the federal ban, reverse current and halt further state legalization.