Should we lower legal adult-use marijuana laws to 18? Now that more states are legalizing weed, it’s definitely something to consider. But why does the default age for legal consumption seem to be 21?
The United States has been sending 18-year-olds into combat for years while refusing to sell them alcoholic beverages. Now, this trend has become the standard with respect to the legalization of marijuana. There is no federal policy to strong arm cannabis advocates to reach for legal weed based on these politics.
Yet this is how the cannabis industry is being set up for future generations. Are we passing these types of adult-use laws because it is the right thing to do? Or is the cannabis industry simply following in the footsteps of alcohol because it is more palatable?
History of Adult-Use Laws
The U.S is one of only four countries that prevents adults between 18 and 20 from enjoying booze and weed. The age restriction is a fairly new concept. It originated in the 1980s as one of the most effective methods to control drunk driving. We suspect this was less complicated than imposing the more common-sense policies recommended by the commission on drunk driving.
President Reagan eventually signed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act in 1984. The law did not force states to increase their legal drinking age to 21-years-old. But it twisted their arms a bit by threatening to revoke a percentage of their highway funding.
These days, every state follows this policy. But, contrary to popular opinion, there is still no national minimum drinking age.
Similarly, there is nothing on the books to persuade legal states to limit cannabis sales to people 21 and older. Marijuana remains an outlaw substance under the DEA’s Controlled Substances Act. This classifies it as one of the most dangerous drugs in the world.
In recent years, eight states have passed recreational marijuana laws. And all without the permission or support of Congress. This means marijuana initiatives approved in places like Colorado and Washington could have, just as easily, had adult-use marijuana laws at 18 and older to buy weed.
There are no laws in place to encourage states to go along with the 21 and older philosophy.
Cannabis Industry Follows Suit
But cannabis advocates have piggybacked Reagan’s 21 and older approach to responsible use. Why? It seems advocacy groups, like the Marijuana Policy Project, believe it is less confusing for the voters. Rather than adult-use marijuana laws being set at 18.
“We are pushing to regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol because that is a system that is universally familiar and which most people are comfortable with,” Morgan Fox, director of communications at the Marijuana Policy Project, told High Times.
“Since marijuana does cause inebriation it more closely resembles alcohol than tobacco to the average person, despite being far safer than both substances. Setting an age lower than 21 could turn off a lot of swing voters,” he added. “Once marijuana becomes legal at the federal level, it is likely that Congress will eventually pass something analogous to the federal minimum drinking age, so it also makes sense for states to already be in compliance if this happens.”
But there is no evidence that adult-use policies restricting the sale of booze and weed to adults 21 and older contribute to the public safety of American citizens.
Do Adult-Use Laws Keep America Safer?
Many people believe that laws restricting the sale of alcohol and marijuana to adults 21 and older keep American safer. This is just an illusion. Drug and alcohol use among teens is lower these days than it has been in the past few decades.
But young people did not allow 21-and-older laws to keep them sober through much of the nineties and into the new millennium. The nation’s current infatuation with adult-use laws is actually part of the reason how binge drinking has become such a problem.
College-aged students are often reduced to getting their hands on booze only after finding someone 21 and older willing to score for them. And when they do, they often drink way too much.
Marijuana, while safer than booze, still comes with a certain binge mentality for those without legal access. But much like alcohol, the powers-that-be continue to try and sell the American public on the myth that marijuana consumption before the age of 21 wreaks havoc on developing brains.
They pulled the same shenanigans, back in the day, when trying to increase the legal drinking age. Researchers said, at the time, that booze consumption before the age of 21 limits “brain power.” To this day, no one is certain exactly what constitutes brain power.
Some of the latest studies have shown that person’s brain is not fully developed until around age 25. But researchers say this has more to do with “emotional maturity, self-image and judgment.”
It does not mean that smoking marijuana at the age of 18 or 19 will cause any particular brain development issues. There is still no definitive evidence that marijuana is harmful to the brain.
Adult-Use Policies Are a Scam
Let’s face it. If state and local governments really had any interest in restricting the sale of intoxicating substances to mature adults, the legal age would be somewhere around 42 for men and 30 in women.
Most of us are still exercising our hell-raising years until then.
Yet it has been our nation’s modus operandi since 1920 to impose prohibition laws as a means for controlling the masses. But those policies do not work.
Imposing restrictive adult-use marijuana laws are made up of the same beast as prohibition. These policies really only serve to criminalize behavior that technically does not impact or harm others.
So no, adult-use laws do not keep Americans safer. If this is the goal, cannabis advocates should be encouraging responsible consumption by working with lawmakers to impose stricter penalties for those who do not act responsibly. We hate to be the ones to break it to you. But the 21-and-older sales pitch is nothing but a scam.
Final Hit: Should We Lower Legal Adult-Use Marijuana Laws to 18?
Lawmakers in some states are presently working to lower the legal drinking age to 20-years-old, while still restricting retail sales to those 21 and older. Other states are trying to drop the legal drinking age to 18-years-old for active service members only.
This is insanity at its finest. All of the people that fall into this demographic are legal adults. They can go to war, they can be prosecuted for crimes and sent to prison and they can get married.
But because President Reagan tried to convince the public almost 35 years ago that he was doing everything in his power to stop drunk drivers from terrorizing America’s highways, none of these folks can legally purchase alcohol.
Unfortunately, the marijuana advocacy community is now copying this misguided standard with raging enthusiasm. Perhaps the cannabis industry should rise up and become leaders on adult-use marijuana laws, rather than try to impose policies that mirror the alcohol industry because they are “universally familiar” and “comfortable.”
We should be working to pass laws that celebrate freedom and the American way of life, not just trying to legalize a plant.