Decriminalizing pot and opening the door to
I'm sure of it, just like I can't think of anything more pointless than a small-time pot arrest.
Is there some threshold we are crossing here, particularly for those of us who grew up in the largely benign marijuana haze of the 1970s and 1980s, who now have teenage children living in a far different illicit drug world?
"Marijuana is not as innocent as it is being perceived,'' said Yifrah Kaminer, a professor of
"The law has never been so lax,'' Kaminer said. "The messages are so confusing."
In the last few weeks, we've heard about state officials drawing a plan for dispensing medical marijuana in response to a new law approved by the General Assembly this year. Last week, a man showed up in downtown Hartford with a prototype vending machine for pot. A teacher and lacrosse coach at Northwest Catholic High School was arrested for allegedly running a homegrown marijuana operation out of his Bloomfield home.
"It's all over the place. These kids tell us marijuana is fine,'' Kaminer said, noting that's not quite the case: the concentration of pot's active ingredient has spiked, making today's weed far more potent than those joints at the Dead shows back in '79. "This is going to become a bigger problem."
I stopped by Kaminer's office because he's been telling me for months that society's increasingly casual attitudes toward weed may be leading us down a disastrous path, at least when it comes to creating a fresh crop of teenage pot
But I have a hard time dismissing Kaminer.
"We've seen more cases of early onset
Kaminer warns about the effect of pot on the still-developing teenage brain, about the danger of driving under the influence of pot being as risky as driving drunk and the link between drug use and psychiatric disorders in young people.
A researcher who has been studying addiction and marijuana for decades, Kaminer treats hundreds of teenagers from throughout the Hartford area who are part of his study. These kids can be chronic smokers of marijuana – suffering from "cannabis use disorder" – who come on their own or who are referred to his program by the courts.
Kaminer's worry is buttressed by a long-running study of adolescent behavior at the
More significantly, the survey of nearly 50,000 students in 8th,10th and 12th grade also shows that fewer teenagers see what scientists call "perceived risk'' from using marijuana. Disapproval rates have also dropped, suggesting usage will continue to rise. Students in the U.S. trail only those in France and Monaco in use of marijuana or hashish during the last 30 days, the Michigan researchers recently reported.
The issue isn't whether adults use pot. That's their business, Kaminer said. What's missing from the discussion is what's happening to our teenagers.
"When we make decisions such as approving medical marijuana and reducing fines, the message we send to adolescents is 'No big deal','' Kaminer said. "How can we then ask them not to use it?"