Looser laws do not lead to greater teen drug use

By Sofia Williamson, Online Editor-in-Chief

As we welcomed the new year just a few miles outside our nation’s capitol, Congress and our Attorney General released plans for new federal regulations. Regardless of whether or not Republicans advocate for more state sovereignty, they were making a new decision that would allow the federal government to step in on state matters that they believe are affecting high school-aged students.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, serving as the head of the U.S. Department of Justice, announced that there would be a new federal crackdown on marijuana, regardless of existing state laws Jan. 4.

One of the reasons behind this crackdown is a supposed concern for marijuana sale to minors, even though there is evident proof that its legalization has no negative effects on teen health or fatality rates.

Even in states that have more flexible laws on the drug, including MD and DC, will be subject to higher federal law while Republicans ignore the benefits that legalization brings.

According to an Oct. 13, 2016 Washington Post article, three years after the legalization of its sale in states like WA, CO and OR, Drug Policy Alliance surveys have found that states have seen more societal benefits, rather than drawbacks, to legalizing the drug.

In those states, there has not been an increase in the use of the drug among high school-aged minors. This is because it still must remain illegal for those of a certain age, like any other mind-altering chemical. Like alcohol, this assures that it remains in the hands of those who have the correct level of maturity to manage its effects in a safe manner.

Thus, teens are not at risk where legalization is concerned, and this should neither be a concern of the federal government in protecting this sector of society, CHS students included.

If anything, we should be more concerned about the long-lasting health effects of e-cigarettes and alcohol, the former of which has become increasingly more popular among teens.

According to a 2015 National Highway Traffic Administration Survey, while many states continue to pass marijuana-tolerant laws, driving while under the influence of the drug has proved to be much less of a threat to one’s life than driving under the influence of alcohol has.

This is not to say that both practices are mind-altering and put one’s life at risk, in addition to being illegal. However, it goes to show that legalization does not have a negative effect on its use among teens when applied to the topic of driving under the influence.

According to the Center for Disease Control, in the past two years, more than one in 10 high schoolers use e-cigarettes, and this number continues to increase. This has been proven to lead to nicotine addictions, which can later lead to drastic health effects, particularly in teens that begin using it early on.

If anything, as it applies to highschool-aged people, the federal government should be cracking down on the sale of e-cigarettes and alcohol to minors, as it has been proven to have far more drastic and long-lasting effects on their health and safety compared to marijuana.

Underage abuse of marijuana is a current and understandable concern of Republicans in their campaign to put the drug under federal jurisdiction, but it should consider these other priorities before cracking down on a drug that does not have nearly as many negative effects on underaged society.