By Claire Kaufmann | Published in SeattlePI.comFrom the Colbert Report to Congress members calling for new cannabis regulations, will the Federal Government soon realize the kids are in the cross-hairs in the War on Drugs.
I’m a parent and overall I’d like to believe I’m a half decent one. My kids are well adjusted, they go to great schools and I work my butt off to ensure I am guiding them to be their highest and best.
Since I’ve started working in the cannabis industry, I’ve spurred many interesting carpool-line debates. (You would not believe the stuff that moms and dads tell me about their cannabis use!)
One common myth that I hear all the time is this: “If we make cannabis legal my kids will be able to easily get it. It will be easier to get cannabis than it is now. Cannabis will be everywhere and if it is everywhere then it is dangerous.”
Well, I hate to be the Debbie Downer mamas, but it already is everywhere – And, this is precisely the problem.
When something is illegal it is unregulated. When something is unregulated that means it is potentially dangerous; you don’t know what is in it, where it came from, who is buying it, or even how much of it is being consumed.
I live in Oregon. Did you know that 78% of high schoolers in Portland say it is easier to get cannabis than it is to get alcohol?
While I find this statistic horrifying, to me the bigger question is why. The reason high schoolers can get cannabis more easily than alcohol is because the marketplace for alcohol is regulated and the marketplace for cannabis is not.
To buy beer as a teenager you have to at least have a good fake ID and you have to either be brave enough to go into a liquor store and risk getting caught, or smart enough to coerce someone older than you to do it for you.
This already presents a greater barrier to entry than the current cannabis black market. To buy cannabis you just have to have two legs, half a brain and some cash. For a drug dealer this is more than enough to make you a qualified customer. (They will, in general, only actually care about the cash part.)
Now, I would not be so naive as to think that if you make marijuana legal that somehow teen cannabis use will disappear. I am not an idiot and after all, I was once a teenager.
When teens buy cannabis they are buying it from dealers who are directly incentivized to get them hooked on harder, more addictive drugs. The more addictive and the stronger the drug, the more money the dealer makes.
As a businesswoman and overall savvy mama, I am just thinking about incentives here.
In general, to influence behavior in a positive way you have to provide the right incentives. In the black cannabis market, sellers are incentivized to sell more, whatever the cost.
There are also steep consequences and the stakes are high.
The consequences for selling marijuana and/or other drugs is jail time, therefore those attracted to the market as sellers are generally people who are okay with that.
So with an unregulated market run by drug dealers, we have a marketplace made up of people with poor judgement who are purely profit driven.
In the alcohol market, sellers are incentivized to sell more but they are also incentivized to follow the law. If an alcohol seller does not follow the law, they will loose the privilege of selling alcohol entirely.
The alcohol and cigarette marketplace is incentivizing purchase within certain parameters,while the cannabis black market is just incentivizing purchase.
Parameters and regulations are what protect us and create a safe marketplace. While we certainly can’t eliminate teen cannabis use, shouldn’t we at least start by making it harder to get?
Let’s take our heads out of the sand. This is happening.
Teen cannabis consumption is up 20% in the past five years alone – 20%! I don’t know about you but that is a five alarm fire, if I’ve ever heard one. To me, legalizing cannabis is choosing to no longer be an ostrich.
For our kids’ sake, let’s do the smart thing and start to make their world safer.