Monday, July 12, 2010

Voting No On Prop 19 Is Voting Yes For Shady Dealers and Gangs

The opposition is attempting to scare mothers into voting against Proposition 19 on the grounds that ending prohibition will make cannabis more accessible to their children, and send the wrong message to youth, condoning or even encouraging underage usage.

Say it with me: dealers don't card; licensed proprietors of shops or bars do.

Does your neighborhood pot dealer ask someone's age before selling?  Most dealers are not Nancy Botwin from Showtime's "Weeds" (first season, anyway); kids make easy targets with extra cash.  A dealer is already operating outside the law; he has nothing to lose by selling to children.

Does this guy look like he checks ID?

Now, when was the last time you saw a kid just walk into a bar and get served?  Or buy a six-pack of beer?  Or a pack of cigarettes?  It may happen, rarely, but the shopkeepers and bartenders have a lot to lose; they can face fines (both for the individual clerk or bartender, and the establishment), and worse, lose their livelihoods.  The vast majority of legitimate businesses will not want to take the risk.  They will make plenty of money off their adult customers, so they have no incentive to jeopardize their establishments by pissing off some punks by asking for ID.

This guy will get fired if he ignores the "Under 18 No Tobacco" sign.

Opponents will say that kids will get an overage sibling or friend to buy it for them, or steal it from an adult, similar to how kids raid liquor cabinets.  Or they'll get fake IDs.  Or one of a dozen other ways of sidestepping the law.  And that's true, they will.  But kids have been scheming to get around grown-ups' rules for centuries.  In their August 2009 study,  The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found that one in four teens said cannabis was the easiest substance to buy, over beer, cigarettes, or prescription drugs, up 37% from 2007.  Prohibition has not made cannabis less accessible to our children, it makes it more.  Any one of the steps outlined above is more difficult and carries a higher risk of getting caught than talking to that guy at school who knows a guy.  Bottom line, the more of a pain in the ass we make this, the fewer kids will want to deal with the hassle.

As for sending the wrong message-- we can hardly send a worse message than we do now.  Kids aren't dumb; they know when they're being lied to.  Our drug policy for the last thirty years and beyond, with regard to cannabis, has been a concerted program of misinformation and scare tactics fed to kids throughout their public school years designed to make them believe that cannabis is a dangerous, poisonous, addictive substance that will make them violent, crazy, irresponsible, lazy, and kill them to boot.  All of these things have been repeatedly disproven, but it is against the law for our nation's drug czar to admit that (Title VII Office of National Drug Control Policy Reauthorization Act of 1998: H11225, Section 704(b)(12)). Read that again, folks: the person in charge of drug policy in this country is not allowed by Congress to tell the truth about drugs if that truth is positive or even neutral towards usage.  Are there any potential dangers or risks to using cannabis?  Certainly, just as there are risks to smoking and dangers associated with alcohol.  But by teaching our kids that they become monsters or losers from the first puff, something they can readily discover is not the case through the internet or personal experience, we lose all credibility to teach them about any real risks associated with cannabis, let alone the very real dangers associated with drugs like cocaine or crystal meth.

There is nothing wrong or hypocritical having a double standard for adults and children.  No one wants our kids having sex, drinking, or smoking cigarettes either, but we don't forbid adults from doing those things just because they're inappropriate for children.

And if your teen did get caught smoking a joint, wouldn't you rather be given the opportunity, as a parent, to deal with it yourself between you and your child?  Or would you rather he or she be thrown in jail and put a drug charge on his record that will haunt him the rest of his life, barring him from student loans and many jobs?

I understand how it's all too easy to make yourself sick with worry, to want to protect your child from all harm, real or imagined.  But stop and really take a rational look at the facts, not the propaganda-- are we really making our kids safer?  Or are we just making ourselves feel like we are?

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