Youth Access To Marijuana Remains A Concern Under Legalization

By Austin Jenkins

The lottery to determine who will get a license to open a marijuana retail store in Washington gets underway this week. But the results probably won’t be known until early next month. Meanwhile, as Washington and Colorado go where no state or nation has gone before - concerns remain about kids getting their hands on pot.

There’s one thing the Obama administration is most concerned when it comes to legalized recreational marijuana: make sure kids are not part of this grand pot experiment. In Washington, the rules have been written to restrict marketing and advertising. And there’s a hefty tax levied on legal pot. But Rosalie Liccardo Pacula with the RAND Corporation is still concerned. She’s an economist, but also a mom.

Rosalie Liccardo Pacula: “I don’t think we should be fooled into believing that we’ve got it right for keeping it away from youth.”

Liccardo Pacula and her colleagues have just published a study that looks at lessons learned from alcohol and tobacco regulations. She says one takeaway: even kids are price sensitive. So, higher prices should mean fewer youth will try pot and those who do will use less.

Rosalie Liccardo Pacula: “Those are both good public health objectives.”

Liccardo Pacula says a key question she has is whether Washington should tax marijuana by THC level instead of by quantity as is the current law.

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