How Changing Marijuana Laws May Impact Children
Changing attitudes toward marijuana in society have led directly to voters changing laws in municipalities and across entire states. Nearly half of all states allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes and two allow adults to use it recreationally, even while the federal government still outlaws the drug entirely. Many people see the benefits of allowing more use of the drug (e.g., helping people with certain medical issues and increasing state revenues). Others are more worried about the unforeseen consequences, such as how greater access to marijuana will affect children.
Kids Mimic Adult Attitudes Toward Marijuana
The changes in laws regarding the use of marijuana run parallel to the shift in the public’s general attitude toward this drug. Many supporters of marijuana legalization cite statistics and research that show how much safer the drug is than alcohol, a legal substance. Legalizing marijuana could make this less harmful substance as acceptable as alcohol. Many people see this as positive because it would provide tax revenue for state governments.
When you consider how children absorb the attitudes of the adults around them, you can understand how destructive legalized marijuana could be for young people. Most would agree that children and teens shouldn’t be allowed access to marijuana, but by sensing the lax attitude toward the drug that many adults have, young people will not take the risks of using marijuana seriously.
Alcohol, for instance, is legal for adults and considered to be socially acceptable among most people. As a result, teens use it too. Nearly half of all high school students drink, despite the negative consequences the behavior could produce. As adult attitudes toward marijuana shift to include social acceptance, you can expect teens to follow suit and begin to use the drug more often. As with alcohol, smoking marijuana is bad for teens. It affects the still-developing brain and can cause mental health issues as well as addiction.
Kids Poisoned By Marijuana
Laws giving adults greater access to marijuana mean children come into contact with the drug more than ever before. Because of this there has already been an increase in accidental ingestion by kids. Researchers found that there was a spike in visits to emergency rooms after states legalized medical marijuana and the federal government stated that it would not prosecute anyone with respect to its use for medical purposes.
One of the most common ways in which kids accidentally take in marijuana is through foods and drinks containing the drug. Such ingestions can cause children to have hallucinations, to have difficulty breathing, to lose consciousness, and even to die if the amounts are high enough or if the child isn’t treated immediately. What might be most worrisome about accidental poisonings of kids by marijuana is that it is a new phenomenon and doctors are not yet aware of all the possible harm it can cause.
Another way in which legalized marijuana, particularly for recreational use, may impact children is how parents getting high will treat their kids. Everyone knows how disruptive, and even abusive, an alcoholic parent can be to children, but what about a parent who gets hooked on using marijuana? Maybe the results would not be as devastating, but a parent who is high is not likely to do his or her job very well. Only time will tell if we see more neglect of children as marijuana use becomes legal.
Whenever laws change with respect to drugs or alcohol it is important to consider how the changes will affect young people. No matter how thoughtfully laws are crafted, or how careful adults and dispensaries are with the drug, children are bound to be impacted by increased access to marijuana.
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