Guest Column: Cannabis Industry Must Dominate Discussion About MJ’s Impact on Young People

By John Conlin

The legalization of medical and adult-use marijuana in the United States appears to be a force that can’t be stopped.

As this occurs, we can expect more scientific research into the biological impacts of cannabis consumption, particularly on young people. This is valuable research, but it also could create major challenges for our nascent industry.

Despite huge shifts in public perception, there are still many people who are very much against legalization, and we can expect them to use the results of these studies as ammunition in their fight.

Research will certainly show that marijuana consumption is bad for the development of a young person’s brain. It would be astonishing if this were not the case.

Young brains are developing at astonishing speeds. Cell growth is far more dynamic than in mature brains. Thus a young brain is going to be far more susceptible to cellular damage than a mature brain.

That’s not in question, and it’s true for alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, environmental pesticides, all aspects of food consumption and nutrition, and a whole host of other compounds, including cannabis.

And thus my plea: We as an industry need to accept this reality and prepare to be proactive in the discussion, not reactive.

Some cannabis prohibitionists will of course use these yet-to-be-completed studies as evidence as to why legalization must be stopped and rolled back. One can hear the cries now: “Oh the children!” Although mistaken, this can be a powerful message to voters and politicians.

The industry can respond to this by attempting to discredit these studies, but I profoundly believe this would be the wrong course. Rather, we should use intellectual jiu-jitsu and turn this fact (and it will be a fact) back on the prohibitionists.

The argument we can use: Of course the youthful consumption of marijuana is bad, and that is exactly the reason we should legalize the product.

Legalization allows the regulation and control of the product. Sticking with the failed prohibitionist marketplace ensures marijuana is available to anyone, of any age, who has the desire and cash to get some.

The reality is marijuana is already everywhere. There isn’t a high school kid in this country (or unfortunately many middle schoolers) who couldn’t get some in a matter of minutes. How does this protect young minds?

The real decision is whether prohibition is superior to a state-regulated, adults-only marketplace – or, in the reverse, whether a flourishing, illegal, unregulated “sell-to-anyone” market is better than a legal effective state-regulated market.

If one is truly concerned about marijuana’s possible neurological effects on young brains, one must support legalization. This should be our industry’s response to these studies.

Being a prohibitionist might make one feel morally superior, but the real-world impact of this position ensures far more children will be exposed to these damages, not less.

Until alcohol prohibition was implemented the issue of public drunkenness by children was unheard of. During the prohibition years it was a common lament. Once alcohol prohibition was lifted, the problem of public drunkenness by children disappeared.

The same is already happening with marijuana.

From a public health perspective, legal state regulation is a vastly superior means to restrict young folks from access until they are of legal age. For those under 21 today, getting alcohol is far more difficult than marijuana. There is a reason for this.

Milton Friedman, renowned economist and philosopher, captured this perfectly in this quote: “One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.”

Whether marijuana is your cup-of-tea is a personal choice, but our analysis should be based on facts, not emotions. Of course the consumption of marijuana by children is damaging. We will soon have many studies proving this.

We can attempt to ignore or discredit them or we can embrace them. I recommend we embrace them.

Because that leads us to the more important point: So what do we do about it?

The answer is just as factual as these studies. If you truly want to keep marijuana out of young people’s hands, a legal, state-regulated market is obviously superior to the illegal black market, “sell-to-anyone” alternative.

This industry has nothing to fear from these studies. They prove our point and are vastly superior public policy on pretty much every front.

Let’s start laying the groundwork to ensure these studies are our ammunition, not a false narrative laid out by our opponents. Let’s do it for the children.

John Conlin is an expert in the marketing, sales and distribution of beer, wine and spirits and co-founded The Sausage Queen, a marijuana-infused edibles company.

11 comments on “Guest Column: Cannabis Industry Must Dominate Discussion About MJ’s Impact on Young People
  1. Paul Finlay on

    Excellent article and some very good points made. let’s open our eyes and take control rather than closing our eyes and hoping for the best!

    The perception that marijuana will be perfect from every single angle is unrealistic and as you said, stones will be unturned. Many will throw out the “but alcohol is damaging and available” but I think this is an opportunity to take the sensible route and consider not just the positive effects legalization will have on society but the potential negative effects as well. This will give a strategic focus on the issues the marijuana industry

    Reply
    • Robert Platshorn on

      Very Big Threat on the Horizon
      The anti-marijuana folks are pooling their funds to put the brakes on all cannabis legalization, in hopes of blocking, even reversing our hard fought progress. Big Pharma, private prisons, Drug Free America Foundation, the alcohol and the oil industry plan to bring back “Reefer Madness”.
      This time must be different! IT’S LONG PAST TIME FOR A NATIONAL CANNABIS PUBLIC EDUCATION CAMPAIGN. If we don’t do it no one will!
      ONLY THE SILVER TOUR USES MASS MEDIA,TV, radio and billboards FOR CANNABIS EDUCATION!
      Beginning the first week of September 2015 and airing through October 2016, The Silver Tour is airing one thousand 60 second “Cannabis Facts” spots a week on the best news/talk radio stations across America. These spots have already aired over 4000 times in a dozen states.
      https://soundcloud.com/robert-platshorn/sets/cannabis-facts-national .

      Despite The Silver Tour’s amazing successes bringing the seniors into our community, and the fact that we buy these radio spots for only a few dollars each, the support from our industry has been underwhelming. With the exception of Bruce Perlowin’s (Hemp Inc) donation of $15,000, every cent has come from small donors in the activist community.
      Lack of support from the cannabis industry has been a major disappointment. Not to mention very shortsighted. If we expect to see the end of cannabis prohibition, we have a lot more educating to do. How about some support from those who have the most to gain, our industry.The full story is on our website http://www.thesilvertour.org.

      Reply
  2. winston throgmorton on

    Superior article. Use the opponent’s own argument against them. As a lawyer, this is how my most effective trial strategies are played out. As an industry proponent, I refuse black market distributor clientele on the basis that I am trying to put them out of business. As a banking advocate, I support legalization. Look for Travis Clem, South Porte Bank at the upcoming conference.

    Reply
  3. Mountzioncollective on

    How is jumping to the conclusion that cannabis is damaging to developing minds before the research is even done a logical or reasonable strategy?

    Obviously whatever stones that are uncovered (and THOROUGHLY scientifically tested) the industry will need to be flexible and practical in there response.

    But Really where do these ideas go? If we automatically agree with minimal research cannabis is damaging to the developing mind then the police will continue arresting and overly punishing our young “to protect them from themselves”, this idea is only acceptable if it isn’t the police enforcing it, that’s insanely stupid waste of time.

    I guarantee the pesticides, processed foods and poor diet are far more damaging to the developing mind…will we be fining, arresting, punishing our young for having a cup of coffee, or will we be fining parents for not feeding there children a balanced diet?

    We should accept facts as facts, noting less nothing more.

    Reply
  4. Steve on

    Good points but I think it’s important to have solid references supporting them. For example, “Until alcohol prohibition was implemented the issue of public drunkenness by children was unheard of.” – can you point to studies and statistics supporting that? Same with “Once alcohol prohibition was lifted, the problem of public drunkenness by children disappeared.” and “For those under 21 today, getting alcohol is far more difficult than marijuana.”

    These are 3 very important points that I’m personally sure are true. They won’t go far in a discussion though (especially a legislative one) without some believable studies to support them.

    Reply
  5. Gary Gabrel on

    For reference, read Mason Tvert’s book “Marijuana is SAFER, So why are we driving people to drink?” This is an excellent history of the legalization campaign in Colorado, and how advocates can respond to the common arguments against cannabis. This campaign began on the state’s college campuses where the hypocrisy of practices tolerating more dangerous alcohol were clearer exposed.

    Reply
    • JPaul on

      Very insightful John & thanks for spelling out what should be a simple and effective strategy to counter the Prohibitionist argument. My first thoughts were very well stated by Steve in his comment above. We’ll all need to be armed with hard, provable facts to support these arguments… But won’t it be fun!

      Reply
  6. bongstar420 on

    The “industry” has to legally be forced to not sell to children. They would if no law stopped them

    also this sounds fascist. Citizens are the only group which should be involved in government.

    Reply
  7. bongstar420 on

    Look. Forget the health consequences as justifying jail time.

    We won’t put people in jail for heart disease from lifestyle we shouldn’t put drug addicts for addiction.

    Reply

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