A new survey shows shifting attitudes among teens:
As states increasingly adopt laws allowing medical marijuana, fewer teens see occasional marijuana use as harmful, the largest national survey of youth drug use has found. Nearly 80% of high school seniors don't consider occasional marijuana use harmful — the highest rate since 1983 — and one in 15 smoke nearly every day, according to the annual survey of eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders made public Wednesday.
More than one in five high school seniors said they smoked marijuana in the month before the survey, and 36% smoked marijuana during the previous year, according to Monitoring the Future survey of 45,449 students from 395 public and private schools. After four straight years of increasing marijuana use among teens, annual use among 10th and 12th graders stabilized and use by eighth graders declined slightly since 2010.
What to make of this? The first is that cannabis use in your teen years is not harmless, especially daily use. The brain is still developing and what can be harmless in adults as responsible recreation can harm kids' mental development. But the kids know that cannabis is used by very responsible adults, see it prescribed as a medicine in many cases, and know that you are more likely to overdose from water than from THC alone.
So how to get to these kids about the dangers of pot use in the teenage years? My view is that you legalize, regulate and tax it like tobacco or alcohol. Strict bans on sales to minors should be enforced. Adults can explain to their children that this drug may be pretty harmless among adults (much less harmful than smoking tobacco, for example) but can stunt development among kids. They should wait, in other words, as with alcohol. I cannot see this happening as long as marijuana is cool because it is illegal, is easily purchased in high school, and has no serious regulation to ensure quality. What we have now is an untenable situation: a culture where pot use has, in vast swathes of the country, been destigmatized, even as it is illegal. That breach needs to be filled.
The way to fill it is by ending Prohibition and get a handle on this problem with the young. Tobacco use is way down among teens, for example, as is much other drug use (in the same study that sees pot use soaring). They respond to facts. And until we have a wider debate about those facts – facts preposterously denied by the DEA – we will not get that rational response. One other small possibility: as cannabis becomes a routine recreational legal drug for adults, kids will find it much less exciting. When your parents do something honestly, simply and with a clear explanation, it tends to lose much of its teenage lustre.