With 15 marijuana stores approved for Clark County when legalized sales of the drug go into effect in Washington next year, concerns have been raised about the drug being available to minors. The concerns are legitimate, and yet they are a bit naive.
Washington voters approved Initiative 502 last year with 56 percent of the vote, allowing for home use of marijuana by adults. In the process, voters legalized something that has long been taking place in many private homes, and something to which many minors already have been exposed. That doesn’t mean such exposure was right and proper; it just means that it happened, and that for generations teens have been faced with personal choices about whether or not to indulge in marijuana.
That is the key to keeping minors away from the drug, something the U.S. Department of Justice emphasized to the states when deciding not to prosecute sellers under federal drug laws. Sooner or later, teens will need to make a choice about whether or not to use marijuana when sales of the drug become legal; for many of them, it is the same choice they would have had to make when the drug was illegal. A study released in 2012 by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the University of Michigan indicated that more teens smoke marijuana these days than smoke cigarettes.
Washington officials have vowed to enforce rules keeping marijuana stores at least 1,000 feet from schools and playgrounds, and they should be diligent in limiting advertising and ensuring that it is not aimed at teens. But the message from parents should be the same as it would have been with or without legalization: Life is about choices; make sure that yours reflect your values.