For now, Cannabis remains a Schedule 1 Drug
Cannabis is still a very complicated subject in the United States. Marijuana is still considered a Schedule 1 Drug at the Federal level. That means the authorities believe it has no medical benefits and is prone to abuse. Being a schedule 1 product puts Cannabis up there with other dangerous, addictive substances like Morphine and Crack Cocaine.
Some States hold a different view. In fact, cannabis has come to find a home in up to 31 states in the US region. Those administrations have put in place reasonably stringent laws guarding the use and distribution of Cannabis as a way of offsetting some of the more major concerns to which policy makers were introduced.
One key area of concern has been the question of Cannabis and Youth. There are known, negative effects associated with Young people using marijuana. As a result, it’s important to know – does legalizing Cannabis for recreational use by adults, increase use by younger people?
The science is clear – young people should not take Cannabis
Marijuana has been subjected to a series of research and tests which has proven – to a certain degree – that the plant can be beneficial when used for medicinal purposes.
For young people, those in an age bracket encompassing those in the early teenage years and up to the age of 25, Cannabis is one of the most damaging substances young people can be exposed to.
A report published by Scientific American in 2017 looked to see the correlation between legalization of the drug and damaging effects experienced in teenage brains. Comparing the brains of those who had used the drug in their teens to those who hadn’t, there was a notable difference in the cognitive abilities, emotional regulation and memory function. Simply put, the teenage Cannabis smokers had a less developed brain when compared to their non-toking counterparts.
This study is further reinforced by yet another which drew a correlation between depression in girls who had used the drug earlier in their life. The results of this study are even more frightening, suggesting that girls who consumed cannabis may be as much as 5 times more likely to face depression by the time they reach the age of 21.
Cannabis consumption levels in teens before legalisation
Prior to legalisaiton, in the year 2013, a full 1% of young people (between the ages of 12 and 17) had used the drug in the United States.
At one point, it was estimated that the substance was gaining about 6600 users every day. 2013 was also the year when the drug was yet to be widely legalized by some prominent US States.
The legal status of cannabis (or lack thereof) has never stood in the way of the hard-core users. In fact, it was asserted by a professor in the University of Washington as far back as the year 2013 that about 3.6 million Americans – young and old alike – were using the drug on a daily basis.
Another notable source was Professor Peter Reuter who suggested, unusually honestly, that using the drug was almost part of the growing up rites of an average American.
Studies going as far back as the year 2001 re-enforce to these results. Mmore than 2 out of every 5 Americans admitted to the use of the drug at one point or the other of their lives. For an illegal substance, those are some high numbers.
Effects of Legalization on Youths
A research conducted in the Oregon area, unfortunately supports the suggestion that Young People do smoke more Cannabis in states where the drug has been legalized.
Youths from a community that later allowed the sales of cannabis were more willing to try out the drug than those from communities where ales were prohibited.
How States can Protect the Youths
It has already been established that community sales policies may do little or nothing to reduce the rate at which youths consume cannabis. What can be done, however, is setting up effective preventive campaigns to sensitize the youths. These campaigns should be geared towards:
- Educating young people on the adverse effects of cannabis on their mental health and cognitive development
- Providing the resources and avenue for parents to effectively discuss the marijuana problem with their wards and
- Reducing the rate of availability of the drug to the youths/ stepping up of the legal use age, where need be.
- Only then can a balance be struck between achieving proper legalization and safeguarding the youth and community development at the same time.