Do strict drug laws encourage adolescent marijuana use?

Published May 29, 2019 10:17 a.m. ET
Photo by Rosemary Ketchum from Pexels

For several decades now the prohibition of cannabis use has been driven by the false hope that harsher penalties including charges and jail sentences would minimize the number of people actively using weed, especially among our youth who are not yet finished developing. Despite years of propaganda fueling this disaster of a mission, the war on drugs has failed miserably, and it’s time that the people begin to open their eyes to the real devastation that follows such strict legislation.

Many of the world's most powerful policymakers still refuse to believe that the years spent by politicians and law enforcement attempting to banish cannabis, did nothing but create a vibrant underground market. The most significant scientific study which helped to drive this movement suggested that there were any benefits to strict regulation of marijuana use was conducted in 2015 by She et al. Thanks to that one study alone, many regions in the world still maintain strict laws against cannabis use, but some of the latest marijuana research might be exactly what’s needed to shift the perceptions of at least some of those in power.

The study

The marijuana research which was conducted at the Kent’s School for Social Policy, Sociology, and Social Research included the Professor in Criminal Justice Alex Stevens. Stevens set out on a journey to disprove the study from 2015 and did so by analyzing the results of the World Health Organization’s Behavior in School-aged Children Survey. That survey included 38 countries tracking cannabis use amongst youth in areas from all different walks of life.

The results

In the end, Alex Stevens could find absolutely no evidence of any link between imposing harsher punishments on cannabis users and a decreased amount of use amongst children under 18 years old and noticed a slight incline in youth users that reside in regions where marijuana use is still illegal. Professor Stevens also found that the flaw in the 2015 study was likely a misinterpretation of the data, which separated cannabis-using groups by gender, income, psychological problems, and affluence.

So, what effects did prohibition have on marijuana consumers?

Millions of dollars, man hours, and lives have been spent at the expense of the war on drugs, which reaches far beyond Canadian and American Borders. What many people don’t realize is that even in regions that have introduced laws that allow cannabis use still have thousands of prisoners locked away, and hundreds more who are free but forever followed by a criminal conviction that gets in the way of finding housing, work, and the quality of thousands of peoples futures.

The adverse effects of prohibition are felt for many years after legalization, and even if you do believe that the average person shouldn’t be smoking marijuana, trying to outlaw the act does so much more harm than good. What we can do is legalize the substance and regulate it to ensure the safety of both adult consumers and youth who might purposefully ingest the element THC. Though the plant does produce psychoactive effects, the dangers of this element are far outweighed by the many benefits that have now been proven through years of marijuana research.

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