As a cannabis writer, I often get emails from readers, some are good and some are bad. Some of the bad ones mention that weed can be extremely dangerous in the hands of a child. And while I don’t disagree that kids should not be using marijuana, there ARE worse things for them to be getting into. In fact — unprotected sex, consuming alcohol underage and smoking cigarettes are three things parents should be way more concerned with their kids doing than trying weed.
Unprotected sex is a health risk and can create a baby. Shall I elaborate? A baby means a lifelong responsibility. A teenager is not ready to take on such a responsibility – one that cries all hours of the night, needs constant attention and in some cases, literally sucks the life out of you (I’m talking breastfeeding here people). Some well prepared and financially stable adults can’t even handle that kind of pressure. Experimenting with unprotected sex can also mean STDs, including the worst case: HIV. It’s pretty simple: unprotected sex can come with many more consequences than kids, teens and many adults, tend to think through. I believe we can all agree on that.
I’d rather have my kid come to me and tell me he tried a hit of weed one night rather than being the youngest grandma on my block, right?
Don’t even get me started on underage drinking. I have read a Centers of Disease Control study that stated 11% of all alcohol consumed in the U.S. is done by people age 12-20. While entirely startling, it’s also probably lower than the actual number.
I definitely drank alcohol between those ages and can’t really think of one person I know who didn’t. I did not grow up on the “wrong side of the tracks” either. I went to a great high school (the founder of TOMS shoes went there too), did extracurricular activities (which often included singing at nursing homes) and never had one cavity (booyah!).
But alcoholism was in the family, coupled with it being at every friend’s house or party — or house party. People talk about kids bringing vaporizer pens to school… well, I can remember a girl sneaking vodka in a 7 Up bottle into school — in junior high. Yeah. And making decisions on how much to drink? What kid who’s sneaking alcohol anywhere is making great decisions when consuming said alcohol?
As an adult, I have definitely consumed alcohol in excess, which was a behavior I cultivated as a minor. I can’t really let myself consider how many times I legitimately had alcohol poisoning. And I didn’t know that then.
I didn’t know that 88,000 people die on average each year due to overuse of alcohol, according to the CDC. About 5,000 of those people are under the age of 21, reports the National Institutes of Health. Dying of cannabis overdose is an effect that even the federal government says has never been reported. What I’m trying to say is, given all the information, 88,000 times over I’d say that I’d rather my own kid experiment with marijuana instead of alcohol.
And then, there are ciggy butts. Yes, those little nicotine sticks that are sold to anyone over 18 (or under with a good fake ID) are a leading cause of cancer. I smoked LOTS of cigarettes (before I quit). I wish I could time travel and have a chit-chat with my younger self.
“This is going to damage your lungs forever,” I would tell the girl who couldn’t see past next week.
“It’ll make your skin sag and wrinkle earlier and more than it should,” I would warn the girl who hopes to stay eternally young.
Not to mention that it’s incredibly addictive, physiologically as well as psychologically; and the tobacco industry is manipulative and driven by profits and … do I need to continue? I am pretty sure the dangers of cigarettes are widely accepted.
Don’t get it twisted (pun intended). I’m not saying it is okay for kids or teens to use marijuana. I fully recognize marijuana is dangerous to a growing human body. While the study of marijuana on humans has been limited due to its Schedule I status, it has to be said that like alcohol, sex or nicotine (or caffeine, or sugar, or watching TV or playing football) it can affect the body and its functions.
Having once been a wild child, one who really took advantage of her freedom and definitely pushed the boundaries of safety a time or two (or three or four), I’ve been there and let me tell you, I have done that. I have been a binge drinker, I have been a half-pack a day smoker and I have … well, you get it.
I know that before I ever smoked weed (0 confirmed deaths, ever) I smoked cigarettes (480,000 deaths per year in the U.S.), drank alcohol (88,000 deaths in the U.S. annually) and even popped a few different prescription pills (22,134 deaths in the U.S. 2010) (sorry, Mom). So I’m not particularly worried that marijuana is the gateway drug to harder stuff.
Would I freak out if I discover my kid is smoking weed? Probably so. But I’m aware enough to realize that of all the big bad things in this big bad world that my child might get mixed up in, marijuana is not the worst of it.