As we get closer to Nov. 6, rhetoric is heating up on Amendment 64 and opponents of regulating marijuana like alcohol say the effort must be stopped to reduce youth marijuana consumption. The logic here doesn't add up.
With our underground market, kids access to marijuana is maximized. According to a nationwide Columbia University 2009 survey on drug abuse, 23% of kids ages 12-17 reported being able to obtain marijuana within an hour. The same survey found that kids believed marijuana to be as easy to get as cigarettes and the majority believed it easier to obtain than alcohol. The most recent NIDA survey, after medical marijuana was adopted, indicated that Colorado bucked a national increase in teen marijuana use and actually decreased use from 24%-22%. Does regulation work? Apparently yes.
Conversely, an illegal market, while well-intentioned, creates ease of access for kids. It's likely the person selling weed will also be selling meth. Considering the naivety of youth, kids are sure to be a drug dealer's main targets. The seemingly attractive lifestyle of getting high and hanging out making money with a bunch of partying high school girls seems great. The reality of violence and degeneration begins after it's too late.
Our illegal marijuana market is youths' gateway into the abyss of underground drug dealing and this must be stopped. We should prioritize establishing a regulated market for adults while ensuring that penalties are severe for those who transfer marijuana to minors. Pretending that the illegal market restricts access to marijuana for teens fits with our intentions but contradicts reality.
Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, Amendment 64 legalizes hemp production in our state and directs the legislature to create a regulatory infrastructure to take advantage of our currently imported $450 million hemp market. Vote yes on 64 and support dealing with reality.
David L. Cox