Fresh bad news for kids makes pot legalization look even worse

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The move to decriminalize and normalize weed is already hurting kids — even when they’re supposed to be learning.  

Per the city Department of Education, the number of NYC public-school students caught with drugs or paraphernalia is up 8% this year over the same period in 2019, even though enrollment is down 11%. The rise is even worse in middle school.

It’s no coincidence that these numbers are jumping amid the push to make weed sales and smoking a part of normal city life. The state legalized pot in 2021 for over-21s. And despite a long wait for the first licenses for West Coast-style legal dispensaries (the city’s first legal pot shop opening to much fanfare in late December), unlicensed vendors have sprung up everywhere, which vastly increases access for any kid looking to get high

That news is all the worse when you realize that disciplinary reports on drugs in schools capture only a slice of the problem, as cannabis use often goes undetected. And worse still when you consider the increases — from the low single digits to above 70% — in the concentration of THC (the chemical that actually gets you high) in weed since the 1990s.

Couple these factors with a growing body of evidence linking pot use during adolescence to both mental illness and changes in the reward circuitry of the brain that likely contribute to later addictions to other drugs, and the stage is set for yet another youth mental-health crisis on top of a wave of depression, anxiety and attempted self-harm thanks to disastrous school-closure policies during the pandemic.

Indeed, one city residential youth drug-treatment facility has seen, per a staffer, 95% of recent admissions driven by cannabis addiction. 

All this suggests that the progressive line on weed — that it’s a harmless drug, whose integration into wider society will have no worse effect than the widespread use of alcohol — does not match up to reality.

The victims of that disconnect? Kids. (Not that it’s only adolescents misguidedly looking to self-medicate.) 

Recent surveys have clocked a 245% jump in weed-related poison-control center calls from 2000 to 2022 for kids aged 6 to 18. Kids 5 and under, horrifically, have seen it soar 1,375% from 2017 to 2021. That’s due largely to THC edibles, a big part of the legalization push, which often come packaged like normal snacks or candy. 

In other words, once the vaporing about “equity” is set aside, the data suggest that legalizing weed will bring with it a severe social toll among the most powerless group in society: children. 

What’s it going to take for progressive to grasp the law of unintended consequences? 

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