Teach your children well
Frequent readers of the police report in this newspaper already know that on virtually a weekly basis, one or more teenage children are arrested on the campus of Sonoma Valley High School in possession of marijuana. Pot sometimes seems omnipresent in the culture of our youth, probably because it is.
Some well-intentioned citizens are now suggesting that one way to address the problem is to ban medical marijuana dispensaries throughout Sonoma Valley. A recent Op-Ed column in this paper posited the claim that MMDs will raise the level of drugs in our schools while increasing violence and gang activity.
We're not sure what the correlation is between MMDs and gang activity, but there is already a proliferation of marijuana in our schools, and there isn't a medical marijuana dispensary between Sears Point and Santa Rosa.
We understand public concerns about the dangers of medical marijuana use, although it's not clear to us that opposition arguments are always grounded in reality. More to the point is the undeniable fact that it is absurdly simple for anyone, including teens, to get a medical marijuana card, and thus legal pot, for symptoms as tenuous as tension and stress.
A strong case can be made for revision of the language in Prop 215, the 1996 medical marijuana initiative, to more explicitly and narrowly define what constitutes the legal, medicinal, production and use of marijuana. That might be a worthwhile effort with tangible benefits.
But the practical fact remains that, even without a single MMD in the Valley, local teens currently have no problem getting access to marijuana. Pot, in fact, is much easier to acquire than alcohol. If you are the parent of a teenager in the Sonoma Valley, there is a better than 60 percent chance your child has smoked, does smoke or will smoke marijuana. You can take that to the bank.
We would therefore argue that those whipping up fear over the threat of MMDs would be better served to spend their time, energy and money to address teen alcohol consumption, which appears to remain at epidemic levels. Ask any cop or school official to name the single most dangerous drug available to teens and the answer is almost certain to be alcohol.
So let's be real. As a threat to public health, and as a threat to teenaged driving safety, nothing comes close to the risk presented by teenage drinking. And while it's essential for police to address the issue, ultimately this is not a law enforcement problem, it's a family problem, and one that many, if not most, families don't have the tools, the training, the skills or the inclination to address.
If you're concerned about your kids smoking pot or drinking alcohol, banning MMDs is not the solution. It could be a distraction and a foolish investment of energy, when a similar effort could pay bigger dividends if we focused it on how families teach their children. The real issue is how we model the lives we want our children to follow, how we teach them and train them, the values and the time we give them and, the love we show them.