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October 2, 2005 - The Denver Post (CO)

The Nature Of Drugs And Teens

By Kathryn Chinn (Note: Kathryn Chinn is a senior at Grand Junction High School.)

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

I'm guilty. I admit it: I take ibuprofen at school.

I am just scared that when the drug dogs come around, they do not find me and haul me away, confiscating my secret stash of perfectly legal drugs which, at the age of 17, I am perfectly capable of taking without the school nurse's help.

However, maybe I should not be worried. After all, the dogs have yet to catch the kids who come to class stoned nearly every day.

While interviewing the police officer stationed at my school, he turned the tables and asked me a question similar to this: Given an hour and $100, how sure are you that you could find marijuana to buy?

My answer: About 90 percent sure.

How about cigarettes?

My answer: Eighty percent.

Despite the fact that marijuana is illegal, I am more certain that I could find pot than tobacco.

It is not that I am a bad kid, or a stoner. I have never smoked, injected or ingested any illegal substance. I have never even had a drink at a party. Even among the rest of the so-called good kids, I am a rarity. Many of my friends have smoked pot; fewer have smoked a cigarette.

That I am able to say with 90 percent certainty that I could find marijuana should scare you, because it means the billions of tax dollars spent annually by the government to curb teen drug use is not being put to good use.

At my high school, there are drug searches fairly regularly. Teachers close the doors to their classrooms, so students generally have no idea it is going on. These searches scare me because it seems that, as a student, I am guilty until proven innocent.

The Drug Abuse Resistance Education courses we took in elementary and middle school did not scare most kids off, and that is what they were meant to do. They were not meant to educate, but to scare.

Looking back, I can even say that DARE did nothing to help my friends "say 'no' to drugs." Using drugs is not just about giving in to peer pressure. My "good kid" friends who have experimented with marijuana and alcohol come from good homes, participate in after-school activities and seem to have a great deal of self respect.

However, marijuana, unlike cigarettes or alcohol, is not severely addictive. My friends who occasionally smoke weed never talk about craving it. However, my friends who smoke tobacco do crave their next cigarette. To some kids, marijuana may seem like the safer drug.

Alcohol and marijuana cause mental impairment, but it is alcohol, the legal of the two drugs, that most causes violence.

Furthermore, DARE has not scared teens away from such drugs as cocaine and methamphetamine. A friend told me she walked into a bathroom at a party and saw kids snorting cocaine. The National Drug Intelligence Center ranks methamphetamine as the primary drug threat in Colorado.

According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), more than 650,000 Americans are arrested annually on minor marijuana possession charges.

Obviously, something is wrong with the system.

While I do not believe that drugs are harmless to society, I see no better option to controlling the drug trade and cutting down on tax money spent to curb drug use than to legalize what we currently consider to be illegal drugs.

As an unregulated industry, the government receives no tax money from the drug trade. However, as a regulated industry, the government can tax drug sales and production. Furthermore, the government would be able to regulate the production, ensuring purity and the safety of those who manufacture the drugs.

According to the 2004 Monitoring the Future youth survey, which is conducted for the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the teen smoking rate has been decreasing steadily for years. One reason is education on the true nature of drugs.

Instead of programs like DARE, which work only to scare students, educational programs share the truth about drugs such as tobacco. Alcohol needs to receive a similar treatment, because, from what I have viewed, it is the most popular substance abused by teenagers. Just like any drug, it can be overdosed on and is addictive.

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