There was good news and bad news for La Paz County in the 2020 Arizona Youth Survey conducted by the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission. First, the fact they were actually able to conduct a survey was an accomplishment in itself. Randy Hartless, the director of the Parker Area Alliance for Community Empowerment, noted it was done even with all the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic did to the state’s schools.
The good news is tobacco use and abuse of prescription medications are down among young people. It looks like the kids are getting the word these things aren’t good for them.
Use of alcohol and methamphetamine remained steady, though very few young people admitted to meth use.
The really bad news was use of marijuana has increased substantially since the 2016 survey. Hartless and PAACE spokesperson Courtney Kom said this may be due to a growing perception that marijuana is not harmful due to the state legalizing medical marijuana. This past November, Arizona voters approved legalizing sale and possession of small amounts of marijuana for recreational purposes by people over the age of 21.
The effect this vote is having on young people won’t be fully known until the 2022 youth survey. Kom said PAACE isn’t waiting. They plan to get the word out as best they can that marijuana is harmful to young, developing brains.
I’m aware of the history of how marijuana, and all cannabis, became illegal in this country. Harry Anslinger, the head of the Bureau of Narcotics in the 1930s, wanted to keep federal anti-crime dollars coming when Prohibition ended, so he used blatantly racist claims to demonize marijuana. He was supported by newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst, who hated Mexicans and used “marihuana” to demonize them.
Hearst also owned timberland that could be used to make paper, and he wanted to eliminate hemp, another cannabis plant, as a competitor. Chemical companies wanted to ban cannabis because it competed with what they were doing, like producing chemicals for turning wood into paper. Hemp fabrics would also have competed with the new synthetic fabrics they were producing.
It’s also true that many of the nation’s drug laws were intended to control Blacks and Hispanics and led to mass incarceration.
Even with all this, there’s no denying marijuana is an intoxicant. It causes impairment. That’s why Arizona law allows for workplaces to ban recreational marijuana use by their employees, and why it’s illegal to drive and smoke marijuana.
It’s true that marijuana has been found to have genuine medical benefits. However, that only means it’s best used under a doctor’s supervision.
Just because something is legal, like tobacco and alcohol, doesn’t mean it’s harmless.
This is where parents are needed and can be most helpful. Of the students who said they didn’t use illegal substances, the top answers were they weren’t interested in them, they knew such substances could harm them, and they knew their parents wouldn’t approve.
I suspect the influence of the parents was involved in all three top responses, even if the students didn’t want to admit it.
All this means that, despite appearances, kids do listen to their parents, and they follow their lead. This may come as a shock to some, but it’s true.
Parents, it’s time you showed your children the truth about marijuana and the harm it can do to them. You are still the biggest influence on their lives. They’re waiting for you to say something.
If we want to curb use of illegal substances, it starts in the home. That’s something all parents need to keep in mind.