Ohio Gov. John Kasich thinks marijuana legalization is a “terrible idea.”
“We’ve got kids,” he has stated. “Why don’t we just say ‘don’t do drugs,’ period?”
Kasich was commenting on the Ohio proposal to legalize marijuana before his state’s voters this fall. While against legislation, if elected president, he leans toward respecting state-level reforms, having stated, “I don’t think we can go and start disrupting what they’ve decided.”
Kasich is not the first nor the last politician in utter denial about the need to end marijuana prohibition.
In many respects, he and his colleagues really don’t want to address the issue. This is why they change the subject. They try to make the issue about the message drug laws send to kids rather than address the issue of whether or not the drug laws are successful at reducing the access kids have to drugs.
So, let’s look at some data about that.
The Monitoring the Future Survey is conducted by the University of Michigan. Aside from finding out the prevalence of drug use among high school students, the survey also asks whether or not marijuana is easy or fairly easy to get.
Over the last five years (2010 to 2014), marijuana was very easy or fairly easy to get for 38 percent of students in the 8th grade.
Over the last five years (2010 to 2014), marijuana was very easy or fairly easy to get for 69 percent of students in the 10th grade.
Over the last five years (2010 to 2014), marijuana was very easy or fairly easy to get for 82 percent of students in the 12th grade.
Just saying “don’t do drugs” isn’t working—certainly not when it comes to marijuana.
The nation has been trying that approach for decades. Something is wrong with the current policy when nearly 7 out of 10 students in the 10th grade (high school sophomores about 16 years old) can easily get marijuana. The objective of marijuana legalization is to create a legal regulated market for adults, one that won’t sell marijuana to students.
The reason 10th graders can find marijuana easily is because they find it profitable to sell it to their friends. This is what is different about marijuana when compared to alcohol and tobacco. Yes, high school students manage to get and use alcohol and tobacco. But they don’t sell it to their friends to make money, making it more available.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health provides more data that puts this matter into sharper focus.
In the 2013 survey, nearly half (48.7 percent) of those aged 12 to 17 found marijuana easy or fairly easy to get.
Now, where did they get it?
In this age group, 40 percent bought it, and 58.1 percent got it for free or shared someone else’s. Digging deeper, who did they buy it from? From a friend, that’s who—80 percent of 12 to 17 year olds who use marijuana bought it from a friend. The 2013 survey also estimates that 592,809 kids in this age group sold illegal drugs that year.
Kasich needs to understand the nature of the problem when it comes to teenage marijuana use is not the message, it’s the money. Kids buy marijuana from friends, and then they share it with other friends. Kids sell marijuana to their friends because it is profitable, very profitable. And marijuana is profitable because it is illegal.
And this is the real problem with the legalization proposal in Ohio.
It restricts cultivation to 10 vendors who have paid for the campaign. This limit on supply is designed to create an artificial scarcity of marijuana in the state in order to prop up prices, justified by the bogus claim that high prices will reduce consumption.
High prices simply produce large profits, not just for the limited number of legal growers but also for teenage marijuana sellers who will continue to make a profit by selling marijuana to their friends.
Teenagers will still use marijuana when it is legal, and some will try to make some money by selling it to their friends.
But legalization should and will crush the price of marijuana down to reasonable levels. The elimination of over-priced black market marijuana is the best way, and likely the only way, to reduce the availability of marijuana to teenagers.
So when politicians try to change the subject—just say no.
Don’t let them deny reality. Prohibition makes marijuana available to teenagers, and this makes prohibition a miserable, costly and embarrassing failure. No wonder so many politicians are in denial.