Well, I sure hope that headline got your attention! :-) Usually you hear the opposite, that "legalizing drugs sends the wrong message to children."
Legalizing drugs …
tells them, "drugs
are not to be
dispensed or sold by
pushers, gangs, teens
or any kids."
The first problem hiding behind that confused statement — “legalizing drugs sends the wrong message to children” — is that not everyone under 20-years-old is a child or a teenager. Humans advance (or not) through various stages of cognitive development, similar to physical development.
This page will look at teens.
Don't "Send Messages" — Talk Straight
The second problem with the aforementioned objection is that teens do not need to be "sent messages" as though they were animals incapable of understanding us talking plainly to them. Teens are perfectly capable of being told the truth in plain terms. In fact, this is highly desirable since they are on the cusp of adulthood, potentially being on their own, needing a good foundation to make decisions, and want to feel like they are being treated as an equal in conversation versus like a five-year-old. Treating them like children by avoiding certain topics, acting like various dangers or temptations don't exist, or blowing dangers way out of proportion, is very counterproductive to their maturation and being ready to deal with problems as they arise.
Tell the Truth
If you don't tell them the truth, when they, or their friends, test your statements to determine their veracity, if they find out you lied, they will often toss out much of your other advice. This is not what you want.
For anyone who hasn't raised children or been around children, let me advise you now: kids test limits. Surely you can recall yourself doing this on more than one occasion. This is part of growing up; kids want to make sure you are telling the truth, they want to feel safe within certain social boundaries. You are heading for pain if you set too harsh limits (which is especially easy to do if you're angry) and find yourself needing to relax them or just plain readjust them to reasonable levels; you are headed for pain if you set no limits, kids want limits and to know what they are.
I readily agree that not all kids test all limits, some are experts at testing limits and others generally do what they're told. But with regard to teens especially, it's better to talk plainly to them, tell them the truth, and don't try to rule them with fear of punishment, or fear of being caught. The more we lean on fear of being caught and punishment as a deterrent, the more they are being trained to use that as the sole calculation in figuring out if they should do something or not. Teenagers are perfectly capable of learning to avoid doing something because it harms themselves or others.
Ok, back to teens-only.
Legalizing Drugs Sends Teens the Right Message!
Legalizing drugs sends teens the right message; it tells them, "drugs are not to be dispensed by pushers, gangs, teens, or any kids."
One question many LEAP presenters ask kids is this: which can you obtain more easily, illegal drugs (marijuana, etc…) or alcohol? I don't know the statistics, but they answer "illegal drugs, not alcohol." Why? Those who sell alcohol are regulated and licensed, and there is an age limit.
"But doesn't legalizing drugs send the tacit message that drugs are OK?" There are a few replies to this:
- Again, teens are perfectly capable of being talked to, and conversed with, in a straight forward manner. As long as we go around trying to manipulate them with "messages," failure will ensue and egg will be on face.
- There are plenty of things which are harmful, stupid, and not advisable, but they are perfectly legal; however, that does not mean the government approves them, recommends them, or wants anyone to do them; please quit trying to make the government your nanny.
- Who do you want raising your kids and telling them what is OK and what is not OK? You or the government? I'm going to guess you would rather have that authority.
- Not all illegal drugs are the same. In fact, proof exists that cannabis is advisable over alcohol, when used by responsible adults. Teens need to learn to read labels, consult physicians, and only take what they need when they need it. (Interestingly, evidence suggests cannabis use prevented some brain damage in teen binge drinkers. MPP Blog | Source)
Calling illegal drugs "Controlled Substances" would make George Orwell proud. As long as they are illegal, who controls them? Drug dealers, drug cartels, and the kids they use to deal them! Once we legalize and regulate drugs, we regain control of them, but as long as they stay illegal we do not!
Looking for some advice you can give teens and others? Look at this section: Advice.