Marijuana Debate Turns Serious

by Benjamin Chambers

It’s remarkable how suddenly the debate over marijuana legalization has moved from the fringes to mainstream.

Decriminalizing possession of small amounts of pot (but not its cultivation and sale) has been implemented in Massachusetts, and is being considered in Chicago, Rhode Island, and other communities.

Legalization, however, hasn’t been taken seriously. That appears to be changing, if one can judge from a story in The New York Times last week that explored the pros and cons of some of the legalization arguments (free log-in may be required). The newspaper also asked five experts to weigh in on whether they thought legalization of marijuana would cause addiction to rise

Economics, however, may make the debate academic. California, which already taxes medical marijuana, may soon seriously consider regulating and taxing non-medical marijuana as well. And the city of Oakland just passed a local tax on medical marijuana by a landslide

Obviously, this is a debate that’s far from over. But it seems likely that marijuana will become more accessible in more states in the near future, which means that it will become more important than ever for those of us in the juvenile justice system to improve the consistency with which we screen and assess teens for drug dependencies — including addiction to marijuana.