Decriminalisation does not equal greater use among young people

Opponents of cannabis decriminalisation often use the argument that, if decriminalised, cannabis will become more readily available among teenagers. This has been one of the most successful points for those against drug law reform through scaring parents into believing that, if cannabis is decriminalised, their child will obtain cannabis on a regular basis and lose focus on their education. Yet a recent study from the US has proven that a softer stance on cannabis has no significant effect on the proportion of use of among young people. Researchers from the University of Oregon and Montana State University have found that between the years of 1993 and 2009, the 13 US states that legalised medical marijuana, including California, Alaska and Washington, found that after legalisation was introduced, there was no increase in marijuana use or the likelihood of being offered marijuana among kids at school.

The recent Australia21 study into cannabis use proposed a legal age of 16 to buy cannabis, which I am inclined to agree with. The fact is more than one in ten young people (12-17 year olds) already admit to having used marijuana at least once in their life (2010 National Drug Survey Household Report). Conservative thinkers like to scare parents into believing their child will become dazed, unfocused layabouts if decriminalisation is passed. This is wrong. The greater majority of those who access decriminalised marijuana will be those who already have an affiliation with the drug, and professional pharmaceutical advice will more than likely be reduced to an amount which still allows them to focus thoroughly on their studies. Or we could stay in the current system where our children have their futures ruined from a criminal conviction from a harmless activity. Cannabis is not Criminal.

Here’s a link to the study:

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5 thoughts on “Decriminalisation does not equal greater use among young people

  1. BK says:

    Ultimately, what would be the biggest single change with decriminalization in users habits? Does this need to come under a drug and alcohol education scheme introduced in high school? just my 5 cents.

    • It wouldnt be a great change in users habits, the main focus is perspectives that come from heavy punishments: people, especially young people, are going to smoke pot whether its criminal or not – over 7 million Aussies have smoked it, 10% of teenagers smoke it, its not going to go away.

      Its about treating young people with respect, and knowing that smoking one joint isn’t the end of the world. We think that if there wasn’t such a ‘dangerous’ stigma around pot then less young people would want to smoke it so much. Thanks for the comment!

      • BK says:

        It is interesting that you raise cannabis use and its associated ‘stigma’ – this would be a mediated and therefore social stigma? In terms of alcohol fueled violence could you qualify a similar stigma amongst violent teens propelled by alcohol, to a youth being arrested for cannabis use?

  2. ozzies4obama says:

    I agree with most of what you write in this post – namely that cannabis is so prevalent and ubiquitous in society as it is today (and has been for many years) that a deregulation of its use and possession is unlikely to cause any drastic increase in its use and the damage many say it causes. Alternatively, I think the biggest issue here (perhaps bigger than the punishments that accompany what many would call a menial crime such as this) is what is the advantage of decriminalising cannabis? What is there to gain from its legal introduction into society?

    • Probably the biggest benefit to society would be to the judicial process – the state would save significant amounts of money if there were no cannabis cases to clog up the already strained-court systems. For instance, imagine every if every speeding fine were a criminal offence. A simple fine in the mail, or counselling for confirmed addicts would be a much more productive system.

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