Drugs and kids

Of course I agree with Attorney General Eric Holder that the impact on children should get substantial weight in figuring out a federal response to cannabis legalization in Washington State and Colorado. If legalization actually increases availability to adults – which, given the looseness of the quasi-medical systems in both states, might prove not to be the case – a likely consequence would increased access for, and use by, juveniles.

Of course, the same is true of the #1 problem drug in every age group: ethyl alcohol. If we want to reduce drug abuse among juveniles, we need to raise alcohol taxes. No surprise that the President’s budget doesn’t include such an increase; the politics is much, much hairier than increasing tobacco taxes, a proposal that is in the budget. But “no surprise” isn’t the same as “no disappointment.”

Any paragraph about drug abuse or crime control that doesn’t end with “And raise alcohol taxes” is, to that extent, defective.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

10 thoughts on “Drugs and kids”

  1. Half truth:

    If legalization actually increases availability to adults – which, given the looseness of the quasi-medical systems in both states, might prove not to be the case – a likely consequence would increased access for, and use by, juveniles.

    Well, sorta. Kids have been known to get into their parents’ “adult substance” supplies. Still, if legalization actually reduces the black market — which, given the high taxes being proposed in both states, might prove not to be the case — a likely consequence would be reduced access to, and dealing by, juveniles. Oh, and probably usage too. Why wouldn’t it; the status quo is that it’s at least as likely that one’s supplier is under 21 vs. over 30 (especially if one is a juvenile), and legal drug markets don’t usually employ juvenile “mules”. And then there’s the factor that legal suppliers can be expected to be far, far less likely to be offering harder drugs to their mj customers (unless, of course, it ends up being sold in liquor stores). An esteemed policy analyst once said something about “The world is full of tradeoffs…”.

    Any paragraph about drug abuse and kids that doesn’t end with “and consider the trade-offs of a legal, well-regulated market” is, to that extent, defective.

  2. From the linked article:

    “Your department could choose to attempt to overturn those laws,” said Harris, a physician. That would send a message to America’s youth that marijuana is not a safe drug, he added. “Kids need clear messages and I’m afraid we’re not sending them one,” he said.

    Harris pressed Holder on when a decision might come, “because children are dying from drugs. It is a scourge … can you give me a general idea of when that decision’s going to be made?”

    Holder would only say, “As quick as we can.”

    A wiser AG might have said: “Keeping marijuana in Schedule 1, categorizing it with the likes of heroin and other far more dangerous drugs, sends a horrible message to America’s youth that heroin, for instance, is no more dangerous than marijuana, and I’m afraid we are sending them that one. Nobody, adult or child, has ever died from marijuana use, so let’s stop the hysterical rhetoric and get serious. It is a far more complex issue than you are implying (including the federal government’s power to overturn those laws), and we are taking the necessary time to consider as many factors as possible before announcing a response.

    1. The deaths and destruction from alcohol by juveniles and adults is exponentially greater than ant abuse of any other drug, and lets face it alcohol is a drug whether our leaders choose to call it such or not. The destruction of lives by marijuana arrests and incarceration are a shame to this country.

  3. Raise alcohol tax. Raise the gasoline tax. Create and raise a carbon tax. Then cut the income tax. You’ve heard the term “strange bedfellows?”

  4. About forty years ago, I took my family to a graduate student picnic and while sitting down having a chat, someone tapped me on the shoulder and handed me a joint. I took it of course and turned to thank my benefactor who turned out to be my twelve year old son. My son is now fifty two and no worse for wear from the thousands of joints that have pleasured him since. I do not advocate giving pot to juveniles but there is every likelihood they will find a source all on their own. I was introduced to alcoholic beverages in my family at drinks before dinner or a glass of wine during the meal, and this when I was no more than twelve. This is a rather common practice in European countries and there is no evidence that I know of to indicate that this is detrimental. My point is that Aristotle had it right….if you want to practice according to the Golden Mean, you have to have the experience to know what is too much.

  5. This may be a weird perspective, and likely to get me some hostile replies, but so be it:

    A typical person will spend perhaps 16-20 years as a “child”, depending on their developmental pace, and three to four times as long as an adult. Therefore I reason that we do no favor to children by crafting laws which coddle them during the minority of their life, at the price of straitjacketing them during the majority of it. “For the children” is a powerful emotional appeal, which has driven policy way too far in the direction of depriving children of the liberty they should be able to expect upon growing up.

    So, no, I don’t think the impact on children should get such substantial weight. And I’ve got one right over there in the bedroom, who I love dearly, so don’t think I’m some kind of child hating misanthrope. I just want him to grow up in a free society, and enjoy the majority of his life unfettered. That’s the expression of my love for him.

    1. Free society is a contradiction in terms. Socialization is the acquisition of constraints presumably for the public good. If you discipline your child so as not to kick the dog, you are restricting his or her freedom to do so. The fetters are there whether you like them or not, or even if you are unaware of them. As with marijuana laws, what is conceived as a public good can gradually change over time, but in no case will such laws end up fetter free. Your beloved son, like mine, will have to learn to toe the line or suffer the consequences. Many of us violated the marijuana laws but we did not light up in front of the gendarmes.

      1. I’m not arguing against restrictions applicable to children. I’m arguing against justifying restrictions applicable to ADULTS, based on supposed benefit to children. Because the children will not just get the supposed benefit, they’ll also, in due course, suffer under the restriction. And for much more of their lives.

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