Jayne: Truth is, we can't shelter kids from marijuana choices

By Greg Jayne, Columbian opinion editor

Published:

 
photoGreg Jayne, Opinion page editor

Admittedly, I'm still a little torn.

Some 15 months ago or so, I voted with a majority of Washingtonians to allow for the recreational use of marijuana by adults in our state.

I figured that this nation's War on Drugs had reached absurd proportions of diminishing returns; and that it was hypocritical to allow alcohol use by adults but not marijuana use; and that regulating it would diminish the black market sale of the drug; and that it makes sense for the state to derive some tax revenue from marijuana instead of spending money trying to fight it.

You know, basically all the arguments that were put forth in support of Initiative 502. Those arguments made sense more than a year ago, and they still make sense today.

Yet I remain a little bit torn on the matter. You see, in addition to understanding the logic behind legalization, I also am the father of three children — now 16, 10, and 4 years old. As I imagine a lot of parents did when I-502 was on the ballot, I wondered how I would answer if they ever asked my thoughts about legalization. I'm guessing the 4-year-old won't bring up the subject for a couple years, but the 16-year-old? Odds were that it would be a topic of conversation.

Like most parents, I would prefer that my kids not use marijuana. I would prefer that society not present an image of permissiveness when it comes to drug use. I would prefer that my kids remain pristine in how they live their lives.

Oh, it's not that I'm a teetotaler. As somebody with a long and mutually affectionate relationship with beer, it would be hypocritical of me to insist upon purity on their part.

But, in pondering the legalization of marijuana, I settled upon one of the basic tenets of parenting: At some point in their lives, they are going to have to make a choice about using marijuana. Just like drinking, or sex, or whether or not to get a tattoo of Russell Wilson across their back, they are going to have to make choices and understand consequences. So you teach them well and you share your values and you trust that when they are faced with such decisions, they act in accordance with those values.

That has nothing to do with whether or not marijuana is legalized in this state. Whether legal or not, marijuana exists and it is used by a large number of people. Whether it's in college or high school or over at a friend's house, my kids — and your kids — someday will be faced with the question and will be forced to rely upon the values they have been taught.

Moratorium in place

That is the answer I keep coming back to as the issue continues to linger. More than a year after marijuana was passed by voters, the system for legalized sales still is being formulated. The state's attorney general recently ruled that local jurisdictions can effectively prevent marijuana sales by declining to sell licenses to marijuana-related businesses, and Clark County — along with other jurisdictions — has placed a moratorium on the industry.

If Clark County voters had approved legalization, I would consider this to be an egregious affront to the public. But, although the initiative passed statewide, Clark County narrowly voted "no." I suppose that gives local governments a little leeway on the matter.

Yet it does not diminish the overriding question. The moratorium won't last forever; sooner or later, marijuana will be legally available everywhere in the state. Not long after that, I presume, it will be legalized throughout most of the country.

Many people have employed a sky-is-falling reaction to this, ignoring the fallacies and the foibles that are inherent in prohibition and questioning what impact it will have on youth. To me, this pretends that youth somehow now are oblivious to marijuana and never have to face the personal questions involved with it.

Safeguards for preventing access by youth will be an important part of implementing legalized marijuana. But the truth is that we can't shelter our kids forever; we can only prepare them for when they leave that shelter.