More Reasons We Need Strict Provisions to Protect Children if States Legalize Marijuana for Recreational Use

February 21, 2012–Pictured here is a Dutch shop where one can buy bulbs to grow tulips — or Starter Kits to grow cannabis, just one example of the kinds of products a commercial marijuana industry produces. If certain states in the US legalize marijuana this fall, we can learn from the Dutch experience ways to regulate a marijuana industry that will protect children.

Although marijuana is not legal in Holland, its government began tolerating marijuana use years ago, giving rise to Nederwiet, locally grown marijuana, sold in coffee shops. Then, the levels of THC, marijuana’s major psychoactive component, in Nederweit were about 8 percent, some four times US marijuana levels. Over time, enterprising Dutch growers learned to cultivate marijuana with even higher THC levels, some as high as 30 percent.

About 80 percent of Nederweit sold in Dutch coffee shops until recently had THC levels of 15 to 18 percent. The Dutch mental health agency, the Trimbos Institute, says these levels increase the risk of addiction and psychotic disorders, especially if use begins at young ages. So last fall, the Dutch government reclassified high THC-level marijuana and banned it from being sold in coffee shops (shops can still sell marijuana with THC levels “lower” than 15 percent).

The average THC content in US marijuana in 1972 was 1.5 percent. (Notably, most information about marijuana effects has come from studies using government-grown marijuana with 2 percent THC.) Today’s average THC levels are higher, ranging from 6 percent to 11 percent. So if marijuana is legalized here, one provision needed is specific THC limits on commercial marijuana.

Other questions the Dutch are struggling with, years after the fact, include 1) how close to schools can coffee shops be located and 2) how can the government discourage tourists from buying marijuana to take back home where it is illegal. We don’t have to wait for these kinds of problems to surface afterwards as the Dutch have done. Instead, we can anticipate such questions beforehand, learning from the Dutch and other nations that have relaxed their drug laws, and be ready with provisions to protect children if marijuana is legalized in the US.


  • By Chris Russo, February 22, 2012 @ 8:34 am

    I’m a father of two children and I think it’s about time marijuana is made legal in the US. I believe if Marijuana was legal it would be harder for children to get their hands on it. Right now it is much easier for a teenager to get marijuana than it is for them to get alcohol! That is because liquor store clerks ask for ID and drug dealers do not. The only way to keep our kids of pot is to take it out of the underground market and make it a regulated commodity.

  • By National Families in Action, February 22, 2012 @ 8:13 pm

    To Chris:

    If what you say is true, how do you explain that alcohol use among children and teenagers is up to four times higher than marijuana use in the states where marijuana may be legalized in 2012?

  • By Mitch, March 1, 2012 @ 4:12 am

    Chris said that its easier to buy marijuana than it is alcohol for someone who is underage. This is true, I know that from experience. The fact that alcohol use is higher than pot use despite it being harder to buy is probably due to the fact that there are unlocked liquor cabinets in these kids houses.

  • By TLC, May 5, 2012 @ 6:12 pm

    There are many issues here, this is not black and white.
    For the record I have 3 grown children and 1 grandchild.

    If a child gets booze out of the liquor cabinet, at least the booze itself is safe if the child does not get alcohol poisoning. If the child gets marijuana from a dealer, it could be laced with something else or the dealer could give a free sample of something physically addictive. Better if people could purchase safely grown and packaged marijuana instead, which is so non-toxic one cannot die of an overdose.

    Again, THC levels can be controlled if legalized and regulated…note that Marinol is a prescription drug that is 100% THC (synthetic due to government controls, but the same exact composition). Children are not lining up for this “pure” regulated product.

    I only advocate jail over help if the behavior harms another or if the harm to themselves calls for brutal measures. Start a list of harms to our children associated with marijuana use then classify the results by whether they are the result of the drug itself or the prohibition.

    We need to legalize, regulate and let the medical community address the excesses, imo.

  • By National Families in Action, May 8, 2012 @ 2:39 pm

    To TLC:

    We are calling for provisions to prevent a marijuana industry from marketing the drug, if it becomes legal, to children, the way the alcohol and tobacco industries market their drugs to underage children. Your comment does not address our concerns at all.

    The Editors

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