Legal Marijuana “Good” for Minors?

Part of the whole premise of marijuana prohibition is that it is a way to protect youth from being lured into the downward spiral of addiction. kp39.jpg

In fact, our Los Angeles marijuana lawyers understand that both anecdotal and statistical evidence suggest the exact opposite – decriminalization of marijuana is positive for kids, while zero-tolerance policies end up, as one editorial put it, “threatens the chances of success and opportunity for an entire generation of young people.”

For example, you have undercover stings in high schools that result in teens being removed from school and their jobs to face criminal sanctions. In Florida, for example, an 18-year-old honors student is facing a felony charge for distribution of a Schedule I narcotic for selling an undercover officer $25 worth of marijuana. In Massachusetts, another high school student was given two years for selling a single marijuana joint to an undercover officer.

Then you have even more tragic cases. For example, a 17-year-old Virginia high school student was twice arrested for possession of marijuana at school. He was first expelled and sent to a different school. After the second offense, a hearing was set to determine what would happen this time. The night before, he committed suicide.

And in Washington, a 22-year-old student who took the drug (albeit without a prescription) to calm anxiety related to a potentially fatal dairy allergy, turned himself in to police for missing a court date for a minor marijuana violation at his mother’s suggestion. Police took him into custody and, while there, he was fed oatmeal containing dairy. When he tried to tell the guards he was having a reaction, they ignored him. He died.

Consider that in 28 states, a student convicted of marijuana possession can be denied federal and state financial aid for college for more than a year. How is society benefiting from this?

Yet despite the fact Washington and Colorado may have beaten California to the punch of outright recreational legalization, our state may still be considered a success story.

In late 2010, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a measure that, while falling short of total decriminalization for recreational use, downgraded possession of less than an ounce from a misdemeanor to an infraction. This makes the offense punishable by a $100 fine, and no jail time. SB 1449 took effect Jan. 1, 2011.

Many weren’t sure what the ultimate outcome of this would be, and many naysayers predicted that juvenile addiction crime rates would shoot up. In fact, the opposite has occurred, according to new research by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice in San Francisco.

The study, titled “California Youth Crime Plunges to All-Time Low,” charted the number of under-18 offenders arrested in California over the course of the last 80 years. What they found was that juvenile crime is at its lowest level ever – 20 percent below what it was in 1954.

Since SB 1449 took effect, the drop-off was even more dramatic. In that one-year time frame alone, juvenile arrests for violent crimes fell by 16 percent. Murders were down by nearly 30 percent. Drug offenses dropped by half.

Drug arrests were down in every category, but for marijuana in particular, the effect of the bill was especially pronounced, as prior to that, nearly 65 percent of all juvenile drug arrests involved marijuana. After the bill passed, it was down to 46 percent.

True, crime is down everywhere, but it was a far faster drop in California. The study authors cited two primary reasons for this:

  • The improvements in the overall economic situation of California’s youth population;
  • The loosened restrictions on marijuana laws.


The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.

Additional Resources:
Legal marijuana is good for kids, Dec. 9, 2012, By Andrea Reiman, Alternet, Salon.com
More Blog Entries:
California Medical Marijuana Records Demanded of County by Feds, Dec. 9, 2012, Los Angeles Medical Marijuana Lawyer Blog