Editorial

Count the cost to kids, society before easing marijuana laws

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Weíve heard, and made, all the arguments for legalization of marijuana, medical or otherwise.

Itís useful for relief of pain and anxiety. Itís no worse than, and probably less harmful than alcohol.

Itís a relatively harmless drug that doesnít justify the dollars we spend to prosecute or imprison offenders, nor the stigma that comes with a felony conviction.

All are worth debate, and probably have various amounts of validity, but the most vulnerable potential victims of increased drug use are usually left out of the equation.

A new report sheds some light on the extent of the problem.

Reports donít mention the type of drugs involved, but data collected from the federally mandated Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System indicates a growing number of children are entering the foster care system because of parental drug abuse.

A study published in JAMA Pediatrics this week indicates that the number has doubled since 2000.

Researchers looked at nearly 5 million cases between 2000 and 2017 to reach that conclusion.

The current drug abuse spotlight is focused on opioid abuse, as it should be, but the same factors can come into play no matter what the drug.

Of all the cases study, nearly 1.2 million listed parental drug use as the primary cause, with a steady rise in the number and proportion of removal attributable to that cause climbing from about 15% in 2000 to 36% in 2017.

Over the same time other reasons, such as neglect and abuse, mostly declined.

The kids were more likely to be 5 years old or younger than children removed for other reasons.

Plus, the proportion of drug-directed cases involving white, Midwestern and non-urban children increased.

Foster cases had been declining for more than a decade, but they started increasing again in 2012, climbing 8% overall by 2017, according to the study.

Some experts call for special drug and family courts, putting the parents in treatment immediately in an effort to keep the family together.

Voters and lawmakers must take an honest, careful look at possible ramifications of easing marijuana or any other drug laws before taking action.

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