A reader writes:
I think it's a bit premature to go around claiming that cannabis changes the teenage brain. Further, even if it does, how can we be certain that such changes are always bad? See this article, "Teen Marijuana Use May Show No Effect On Brain Tissue, Unlike Alcohol, Study Finds."
By the way, I recall reading years ago of a psychologist who claimed that her adolescent patients who'd smoked had better personalities – more and better humor, greater compassion, sense of sharing and community, etc. This is little more than an anecdote, but it resonated with me.
Another proposes we legalize pot for some teenagers:
As a 16-year-old student in Portland, Maine approximately the correct age range for that study, I want to contribute my two cents. The first thing that popped into my head while reading your post was the problem we have with teenage drinking in the US. Teenagers are not supposed to drink, because it is dangerous to their health. We are told over and over again that it stunts brain development, that it's illegal for teenagers, that it's something designed for only adults to do in moderation. As you said, that we should wait.
The problem with this approach is that is not working, in any way, shape or form.
If you were to conduct a poll of my classmates (I go to a small school where everyone knows each others business, otherwise I wouldn't make such assumptions), I would guess that 50 out of 65 have drunk alcohol with peers at least twice in the last six months. 25 out of 65 drink on a regular basis (such as every weekend), and a few even probably have driven while intoxicated (although they would never admit it). As for marijuana usage, my school is probably a skewed sample, as we are predominately white, rich and hipster, which together creates one of the biggest regular marijuana-smoking bases. I'd say that my school is probably twice what the survey reported. There are at least 10 or so kids in my 250 student high school who smoke consistently every day.
While your point about anti-cigarette campaigns is valid, the huge problem with alcohol consumption (and current pot usage, as well) shows that prohibiting teens from doing an activity that makes them popular and happy (most of the time) does little to stop them doing it. I believe the solution would be to encourage us to make safe choices, but let us actually make the choice legally. In Europe, where the drinking age is 16-18, teens don't think it's cool to get shit-faced; they social drink, like adults. I have a friend from England recently came to an American boarding school, and thought that the alcohol usage by teens was hilarious, the stigma ridiculous. They all know that we're doing it, so why do they get so mad?
This technique is a parenting style that my parents have always criticized. Parents who are strict with internet usage, with cell-phones, with sleepovers and "friend time," end up driving their kids to rebellion and reckless behavior. We don't want to create an even worse problem with marijuana than we have, and we REALLY need to do something about teenage drinking.
For me personally, I drink occasionally and have never smoked, but I see what happens to my classmates and to other teenagers. Pot can destroy the academic life of a student. There is one boy in my class who got some of the best grades and now barely hands in his homework. I'm not saying weed makes you dumb, because he's still really smart, but his future will be affected because he longer has any kind of motivation or drive. Alcohol is destroying the lives of thousands of teens, and more than that, people dig out the booze whenever anyone wants to have a good time. It's stupid, and frankly kind of annoying.
It's more than than just legalizing weed; it's about letting us make our own educated choices. We have to make our own mistakes, and we ARE going to make them, but the less it's an act of rebellion, the safer we will be.