Why Marijuana Legalization Efforts Don’t Cover Minors

In approximately 20 states, there have been many successful efforts to legalize, or at least decriminalize, the possession of and recreational use of marijuana. In some places, possession of marijuana has gone from an arrestable to a ticketable offense.

While medical marijuana laws still outpace changes to state law to include recreational marijuana, minors do not figure into the equation. And that is because recreational marijuana is looked at similarly to alcohol.

There are minimum age laws for the consumption of alcohol, just as there are laws for the recreational usage of marijuana. Here’s why state and national efforts to legalize recreational marijuana use don’t cover minors.

Intoxicants and Minimum Age Requirements

Consider why there are minimum age requirements for activities related to using alcohol, tobacco, and in some states, marijuana, legally. You can’t go into a bar and enjoy a beer anywhere in the United States unless you are 21 years of age, at a minimum.

You may be required to be 21 to purchase tobacco products in New Jersey, but anyone aged 18 and above can buy cigarettes in Pennsylvania. The age minimums may not be the same, but the thinking is that there have to be boundaries on who can use mood-altering substances.

Remember the potential penalties for getting caught with marijuana while underage. Law Firm Anaya McKedy has an interesting blog post on the subject.

The Penalties for Getting Caught with Marijuana When You’re Underage

The penalties that relate to minors being caught with marijuana can be literally astounding. Although national reports show that recreational marijuana usage among minors has either stayed flat or fallen, it is important to know what is at risk for those who are arrested for related offenses.

There could be the requisite fines and potential jail time at risk, but in addition, minors convicted of recreational marijuana-related offenses could also have trouble paying for college or even being expelled from public or private schools. With a drug offense conviction, options related to federal financial aid disappear.

With a criminal conviction on your record, you may no longer be eligible for state and federal sponsored programs, work-study opportunities, or even have offers for participation rescinded.

Medical Versus Recreational Marijuana Laws and Restrictions

In essence, it is almost totally at the discretion of the attending physician to decide who can be prescribed medical marijuana. Some states have written laws and extended guidance to the medical community, particularly related to minors and medical marijuana. However, prescribing medical marijuana to minors is usually restricted to severe health issues such as cancer, making it easy even for critics to see how essential it is.

With recreational marijuana, the rules are much less flexible. Any underage person caught with recreational marijuana is subject to penalties separate and distinct from adults. There may be fines, penalties, and even the risk of imprisonment associated with underage marijuana use when there are no such restrictions on users that are of age.

The reality is that no one is really advocating for minors using recreational marijuana. Just as people won’t support the idea of toddlers being served cocktails before naptime, there is no plausible reason for minors to be free to use recreational marijuana. The idea is reckless and dangerous, and there are stiff penalties in effect to dissuade minors from even attempting to try these illicit substances.

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