Want teens to smoke less pot? Legalize it.

The reality is that, to date, not one jurisdiction, either in the U.S. or elsewhere, has seen a marked increase in teen drug use following the relaxation of marijuana restrictions. Not one. Both Colorado and Washington, the pioneer states of marijuana legalization, have actually seen drops in teen marijuana use following legalization. The drop in Colorado was particularly dramatic. Despite the wave of legalization, nationwide, teen drug use is at a 20-year low.

There are many factors to consider as we debate drug policy, but the claim that criminalization and stigmatization will drive down teen drug use flies in the face of basic evolutionary psychology. In this and other areas of public policy, the emerging message from decades of social science research is that easing taboos on dangerous behaviors actually helps our most vulnerable citizens … Most drug deterrence initiatives repeat the refrain that drugs are harmful and taboo. But this is precisely what makes them so attractive to teenagers, especially teenage boys. In their minds, it frames drug use as an opportunity to show off to others and advertise fitness. The greater the stigma against marijuana, the more valuable the costly signaling is for teenagers who dare to buck the taboo. The opposite is also true. When marijuana is legalized and society acknowledges that the drug can be enjoyed safely, smoking pot is no longer a costly signal. Of course, this does not deflate all interest in the drug among teenagers, but it does undercut the stigma of danger that is so attractive to teenagers desperate to prove themselves to their peers. When marijuana use is legal and safe, decision-making about it among teenagers follows a more predictable, adult-like pattern. No one argues that legalization will solve all of our drug problems—adults get hooked on drugs also—but it may indeed do more good than harm, at least for marijuana use among teenagers.

Original Article (Psychology Today):
Want teens to smoke less pot? Legalize it.
Artwork Fair Use: Didier le Ger


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