Washington state recently passed Initiative 502, a law that legalizes the recreational use of marijuana. Because cannabis is still illegal federally, there has been a great amount of discussion regarding the pros and cons of legalization, as well as a number of opinions regarding its use. Many of those still opposed to the new law argue that with the legalization of marijuana, those who are under the age of 21 would be able to obtain the drug far too easily. The opposition also argues that cannabis use will spike dramatically, now that the public has come out in favor of widespread legalization.
“A Prohibition Regime”
“[It’s] a question of enforcement. If [the police] won’t pay attention to [cannabis usage] with adults, what will they do when it comes to young adults?” State representative Roger Goodman wonders. “There’s a conflict between the practical and the political.” Goodman states that he had previously talked to the authors of I-502, and wanted to know why they had insisted on the age of legality being 21, and not 18. “There wasn’t any rationale… [they just] knew that if they hadn’t set it to 21, there was no way the bill would have passed.”
“Personally, I have a problem with the drinking age being so high [already].” Goodman went into further detail, explaining how society expects those who are 18 through 20 to go to war for the country, sign for student loans, accept leases and other such responsibilities, but it does not permit them to drink.
The traditional reasoning has been that the adolescent mind is not fully formed at 18, and the use of drugs and alcohol can be detrimental to a person’s health. It had been believed that the brain was much more capable of handling drugs and alcohol at age 21, the age of cranial maturity. However, Goodman argues that the difference between the brain of an 18 year old, and that of a 21 year old, are not different enough to warrant the age restriction.
As for the increased usage, Fiona Couper, a toxicologist at the Washington State Toxicology Laboratory reported to state legislature Feb. 6 that as of yet, there has been no spike in THC positive blood tests for DUIs, implying that if more people are indeed using marijuana, they are staying clear of the roads.