Cannabis Recs and teenagers: Will Decriminalisation Work?

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Given the ongoing debate about cannabis and whether it should be decriminalised, it is very helpful to view what has happened in states that have already decriminalised cannabis, particularly in relation to adolescent use.

Studies by Richard A. Grucza, a professor of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis indicate that in the five states that decriminalised cannabis in the period between 2007 and 2015, there was no corresponding increase in the volume of drug use amongst youngsters in these states.

In fact, the analysis also shows that the number of marijuana-related arrests had fallen significantly in the states where cannabis had been decriminalised.

It is important to note that in the states where there has been decriminalisation of marijuana, this applies to possession of minor amounts of the drug. Anyone who is found to be in possession of large amounts or who has been found to be involved with the sale of marijuana can still face criminal penalties.

There is no general consensus amongst states on what constitutes a minor amount of cannabis. Essentially, not all states are equal when it comes to what constitutes a small amount of cannabis.

As an example, some of the states will not impose criminal penalties on people who have been found with 10 grams or less but in other states, the minor level has been classed as 50 or even 100 grams. This creates a big difference between some of the states, and this must be taken into consideration in analysing the statistics.

The study also found that the decriminalisation of marijuana hasn’t led to a significant uptake of youngsters using marijuana. For states that had decriminalised marijuana, 20% of teenage respondents stated they had used marijuana in the past month. In the states that hadn’t decriminalised marijuana, the rate was also around 20%. For those who believe that decriminalising marijuana leads to an upsurge in the use of the drug, the statistics do not back up this argument.

With respect to public opinion in the UK, a YouGov poll suggested that 75% of respondents backed the use of cannabis for medical reasons and 43% supported legalising the drug for recreational use. Also, in July of 2018, the Guardian reported that figures released by the Ministry of Justice suggested that police forces were in effect decriminalising cannabis.

There is no denying that many people have negative connotations with drug use, and this will always be a reason will have concerns over decriminalising marijuana. However, with leading public health bodies in the United States like the American Academy of Paediatrics stating their support for the decriminalisation of marijuana, there is a change in policy and opinion. This group is still opposed to the legalisation of marijuana, and this will be supported by many, but it clear that there is a growing trend of support for decriminalising marijuana.

The negative impact that a marijuana charge can have on a youngster’s life is huge. Richard A. Grucza is a professor of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and he said; “An arrest can have a long-term impact on a teenager, even if that individual isn’t ultimately found guilty or sent to jail. Scholarship opportunities and grants can be lost, and in some states, drivers’ licenses are confiscated. There are several important life consequences that go along with having a criminal record after an arrest for marijuana.”

Decriminalisation would ensure that people aren’t prevented from achieving goals or making the most out of they can in life due to decisions they made in their youth. There are important aspects to all points with respect to this debate but moving forward, decriminalising marijuana is likely to receive continued backing and support.

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