It seems we are reporting on it more and more. Police making pot busts, and large amounts of marijuana are seized. Big busts can mean jail time for those behind these grow operations.
But when it comes to those who smoke pot, things changed in Massachusetts back in November of 2008 when ballot question 2 was overwhelming voted into law. A referendum which decriminalized small amounts of marijuana. If you are caught with an ounce or less of the drug, it is no longer a criminal, but a civil matter. You're written a citation, and ordered to pay a $100 fine. But while it is no new story that teenagers often experiment with pot, some think decriminalization has changed the way young people look at the drug.
"The young people tend to say it's, they perceive it as being less harmful, then don't even perceive it as being a drug," says Dr. John Kelly, of the Center for Addiction Medicine at Mass General hospital. Kelly says 80% of the teens who come to treatment, are addicted to marijuana or cannabis.
One of the reasons; the drug that your kids can buy, almost as easily as they can get alcohol, isn't the same stuff that was around when you were a kid. Potency of pot, measured by the amount of THC, has steadily climbed since 1985, nearly tripling in two decades, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
"When you have a more potent form of any drug, you increase the chances that people will get addicted to it, and addicted more quickly, and have more problems because they're taking a higher dose," Kelly says.
There are the health effects, cognitive and respiratory problems, and marijuana use in young people has been linked to a higher rate of psychosis and schizophrenia. With around 30% of teens admitting they've used the drug by the time they graduate high school, it's troubling news, especially among those who feel that decriminalization has almost empowered young people to use marijuana.
"They think it's legal. They have no problems carrying marijuana around with them, knowing that there's nothing you can do about it, and we still do our jobs and seize the marijuana because it is illegal, but they could care less," says Weymouth Police Captain Joseph Comperchio. "Nowadays, what we're seeing is a group of kids and they'll be smoking marijuana in the car, knowing that there isn't anything that we can do about it. You find kids with alcohol in the vehicles are few and far between nowadays, compared to marijuana in a motor vehicle," Capt. Comperchio says.
While marijuana can impair driving, Comperchio says due to decriminalization, the Massachusetts Supreme Court also ruled, even if a police officer smells pot coming from a car, it isn't enough evidence to make someone get out of a car at a traffic stop, making it harder, he says, to keep kids safe behind the wheel. "In a majority of the cases, it's very very difficult to prove to get a guilty on OUI drugs, so those, it has a huge impact. So even if we arrest them, the conviction rate is a lot less than it would be on an OUI alcohol," Comperchio says.
State Representative James Murphy, a Democrat from Weymouth, has recently introduced legislation which would amend decriminalization for those caught with the drug on public or school property, and would let city or town's decide whether or not they want to decriminalize marijuana in their communities.
In a statement to FOX 25, Murphy says, "I filed this legislation in response to the problems communities are facing with drug use, drug distribution, and drug overdoses among young people," Murphy goes on to say, "Many believe that the wrong message is being sent to young people that marijuana drug use is acceptable."