What message does legalization really send to children?

We let three celebrity cannabis activists answer for us…

“I went on my back balcony to smoke a blunt.” says Lex Bryant, 26, an auto mechanic who moved from Virginia to Colorado last year. “I fired it up and I was sitting there, chilling. There’s a balcony above me and two kids came out on the balcony. They were playing. They’re probably somewhere between six and ten. They were out there talking and I was just smoking, minding my own business.“

“Do you smell that?” said the older boy to the younger.

“Yeah, I do.”

“That smells like some weed.  I can’t wait until I’m older and I get to smoke some.”

“They said, ‘I think that man down there is smoking a blunt.’ That kinda put me on the spot. I felt a little uncomfortable, so I went back inside.”

After he went inside, Bryant posted a status update on Facebook expressing his ambivalence about the situation.

“What about the kids?” The question serves as a rallying cry for those who fear change. In recent interviews with three well-known cannabis activists, we asked them to answer the often-rhetorical question.

“I’ve got five kids and three grandchildren.” says comedian and NORML Advisory Board member Tommy Chong.

“I wouldn’t let my kids smoke cigarettes. I discouraged it and I wouldn’t let them drink and drive. I discouraged their alcohol use, although, they all went through that phase. I encouraged their cannabis use.”

Justifying his parenting decisions in hindsight, Chong says, “I look at what happened to the little kids with epilepsy and how cannabis reduces their number of [seizures]from a lot to practically none.”

“I really believe that cannabis is a medicine for all ages.”

Jodie Emery, owner of Cannabis Culture and related business with her husband, Marc, answers the question with derision, “I think that argument is a non-argument. I don’t think kids are getting messages through whether a substance is regulated or not.”

Emery says that legalization doesn’t send the wrong message and points out the right messages being received.

“You’ve got Dr. Sanjay Gupta doing an international series on giving marijuana to children to save their lives. The message has moved beyond what about the children because one of the top doctors in America is doing showing about giving marijuana to children to save their lives.”

The message to children is, “It can save your life if you are suffering.”

Gary Johnson fought for legalization while he governed New Mexico for eight years and recently entered the legal cannabis industry.

“Well, it’s actually the opposite.” Johnson says of the alleged threat to minors.

“They come out and they try to sting all these operations in Colorado, the fact that underage sales are taking place.” Referring to recently reported results of a sting operation with police trying to get dispensaries to sell to minors. “They can’t find it. It’s not happening.”

Johnson concedes that minors still do get their hands on cannabis by other means, but sees that as a reason to end Prohibition, not continue.

“In a legalized environment, at least you know what it is that you’re consuming and if you’re consuming within the guidelines, and there needs to be responsible labeling that goes along with all this stuff.”

While this article is not an endorsement by the author or Marijuana.com for minors using cannabis freely, we tire of this specious rhetorical question used to raise fears among parents. The real question is one of relative harm.

“The biggest fear that [cannabis]presents to any kids is that it’s prohibited.” Johnson concludes.

What message do you think legalization sends to children? Do you think schools should educate our youth about the benefits and detriments of cannabis? 

This article was originally published by Marijuana.com.

Published by P. Aiden Hunt

Aiden Hunt is a creative writer and freelance journalist covering marijuana policy and other related issues. He has been published in print and online by outlets such as The Denver Post (The Cannabist), Marijuana.com, The Hemp Connoisseur Magazine and Cronic Magazine. He is currently focused on literary creative nonfiction.

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