Opinion: Legal marijuana the right move

I’m writing today in response to the recent letter signed by various chiefs of police regarding marijuana law in Vermont.
I’m very glad that they have such concern for the young people of Addison County. As the father of a pre-teen I truly appreciate that they are looking out for the welfare of young people in our community. Reading their letter, however, leaves me feeling that they are a bit out of touch with reality.
We can look to the countries and states that have legalized the recreational use of cannabis products, or have liberal laws regarding medicinal use, to see the effect on under-age users. In all of these places safeguards are in place to prevent, as much as possible, the drug reaching young people. And recent studies show that marijuana use among youth has not increased with legalization (Youth Risk Behavioral Surveillance Survey data, and the U.S. government’s own “Monitoring the Future” survey).
But let’s look at what progressive marijuana legalization laws DO achieve. They help unclog courts and prison systems, they bring relief to sufferers of chronic pain, and they put revenue to state coffers. And just as importantly, they bring the subject of drug use to our dinner tables and classrooms in a more open and honest way than before.
Rather than demonizing the plant we can discuss it with facts and credibility. And at the beginning of these conversations it should be made clear: The use of marijuana by teenagers is a very bad idea. It harms growth of the developing brain in clearly destructive ways, and clouds decision-making at a time when kids stand at important crossroads.
Pot is already easy for teens to access. A change in the law will not make that any easier, or it’s use more desirable or rebellious. But changing our laws will begin to right an old and tired wrong, and allow this non-toxic and relatively gentle drug to be seen in the bright light of reason.
Winslow Colwell
East Middlebury

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