This month Rhode Island state Representative Edith Ajello and state Senator Donna Nesselbush introduced bills that would tax and regulate marijuana for adult recreational use (“R.I. lawmakers introducing marijuana legalization bills,” Metro, Feb. 6). I applaud their initiative.
Marijuana prohibition has failed, and these measures are an important step in correcting that failed policy. Prohibition was intended to reduce youth marijuana use, yet daily marijuana use among high schoolers has tripled since 1991. National surveys consistently show that more than 80 percent of high school seniors say marijuana is “fairly easy” or “very easy” to obtain.
These statistics shouldn’t come as a surprise, since prohibition has created a generation of young drug dealers. Last month a group of sixth-graders was busted in Utah for selling marijuana in school. More than 60 percent of teens says that drugs are used, kept, or sold at their high schools.
If we are serious about reducing teen access to marijuana, we have to consider alternatives to prohibition. Regulation takes profits away from dealers, who currently decide where, when, and to whom marijuana is sold. Regulation puts marijuana behind a counter, where retailers check IDs.
It’s time we embrace a smarter approach to marijuana policy.