By Laura Greenback
It's time to talk to your mom about drugs. She's been teaching you right from wrong ever since you were little, and now it's your turn to teach her something: marijuana is actually much safer than dad's beer, and it’s time our laws reflected reality.
Here at the Marijuana Policy Project, we struggle to show mothers, sisters, aunts, girlfriends, wives, and grandmothers that it's all right to support marijuana policy reform. Most of our activists are male, so there is a real need for women willing to show their support.
What could it be? Why would women shy away from this cause? Do men use marijuana more? Do women just hide it better?
When I asked my girlfriends about it, a college roommate suggested that the feminist attitude that got us where we are today works against us when it comes to issues like marijuana policy. We feel the pressure to be seen as strong workers and perfect mothers, so we shy away from getting behind something our coworkers and PTA members might see as “out there.”
That's why it's your job to convince the women in your life to come out and support reforming our marijuana laws. Here's one way bring it up: sit down with a lady you love and watch the new season of Mad Men. In the third episode, the show's feminist powerhouse, Peggy, marches up to Paul in an after-hours brainstorming session and says, "I'm Peggy Olson and I want to smoke some marijuana."
Her decision to use marijuana earns her criticism from both sexes. Paul, slack-jawed, tells her she won't like it. Even her secretary begs her not to do it; worried that Peggy will lose everything she fought so hard for by indulging in something her male peers can get away with.
Every woman has experienced that kind of fear for some reason or another. But it's time to shake off society's expectations and think for our selves on this one.
Of course, it's harder for those of us who are role models for children. I'm a mentor of a teenage girl. When I started at MPP, I worried about being a bad influence. But whenever I worry, I think about how empowered she was when I took her to a self-defense class, or how much fun we had riding roller coasters at Six Flags.
When it came up, we talked about how she is too young to try marijuana because her brain is still developing. I told her that medical marijuana helps sick people, and that I am working to keep good people out of jail.
It's a tougher call for mothers. My own sister told me her husband didn't want their kids around me at first. But they chilled out, and the kids still call me Aunt Laura and beg me to help them make mini-documentaries on their flip cam.
We can't just pretend that the fears mothers have aren't real. But when it comes to the way drugs affect our youth, it's important to look at the facts – and the facts show that if you want to keep marijuana away from kids, prohibition isn’t helping:
• Drug dealers don't card. Licensed, regulated businesses do. That's why year after year, about 85% of high school seniors tell government survey-takers that marijuana is "easy to get" -- a figure that has not changed since 1975.
• Teens in parts of the world where marijuana is decriminalized are less likely to try it. In the Netherlands, the rate of marijuana use by 15-year-olds is just over one-third of ours.
• People talk about the "gateway effect," but there's absolutely no evidence that marijuana causes a craving for other drugs. The gateway isn't marijuana -- it's the illegal drug market. The way to break the gateway is to regulate marijuana and take it off the streets.
So ladies, let's take the lead on marijuana policy because we are concerned about kids. The movement has a lot of momentum right now, and we shouldn't miss out, even if it means ignoring a few disapproving once-overs. Let's all be a little more like Peggy Olson, and get assertive about changing laws.
Say it with me: "I'm Laura Greenback, and I want to see our marijuana laws change."
Laura Greenback is Online Content Manager for the Marijuana Policy Project, www.mpp.org