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Could legal marijuana be good for Washington's children?

Dave H

Support for legal marijuana in Washington appears to be strong among adults, but what will it mean for kids?

This week saw surprising support for the state initiative legalizing marijuana from the Children’s Alliance. The Seattle-based advocacy group, which has dozens of social-service agencies as members, says legal pot would be good for kids.

“Current marijuana enforcement policy is failing children and families,” Children’s Alliance executive director Paola Maranan said in a press release. “Decades of study have proven the unequal treatment of communities of color in the criminal justice system, especially in enforcement of marijuana policy, and Washington’s kids pay a terrible price for these persistent racial disparities.”

The group says kids also suffer under the current laws because those convicted of marijuana possession can spend time in jail, be denied employment, be fired and lose financial aid for college – even for “a low-level, first-time misdemeanor marijuana conviction.”

“Current policies have caused children to be separated from their parents, and families to be trapped in poverty when adults are denied access to educational and economic opportunities,” Maranan added.

Counter arguments

Arguing that legal marijuana will harm kids, however, is the Washington Association for Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention.

The group has put together an extensive kit for campaigning against marijuana legalization. Among the top reason, are these three:

  • Marijuana, like alcohol and cigarettes, will be advertised in a way that will appeal to kids.
  • More kids will get it at home. “With the demise of legal sanctions against use, some parents may choose to begin using marijuana, acting as an important new source of exposure for their adolescents.”
  • The perception of marijuana use as risky business will collapse and more kids will go for it.

Strong support

A KING 5 poll published yesterday shows 58 percent of voters in Washington support Initiative 502, with 21 percent opposed and 21 percent undecided.

What the initiative says

Here’s the plain-language version of the proposed law presented by initiative backers, New Approach Washington

This law legalizes the possession of marijuana for adults age 21 and older. The only marijuana that would be legal to sell in this state would be grown by specially-licensed Washington farmers and sold in standalone, marijuana-only stores operated by private Washington businesses licensed and regulated by the state.
There would be a 25 percent sales tax, with 40 percent of the new revenues going to the state general fund and local budgets, and the remainder dedicated to substance-abuse prevention, research, education and health care. Advertising would be restricted. A new marijuana DUI standard that operates like the alcohol DUI standard would be established.