Hopkins Studies How to Keep Legal Weed Away from Teens

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As the United States increasingly creeps toward legalizing marijuana, some people are worried about the children.

A group of Johns Hopkins researchers has been taking a close look at the alcohol and tobacco industries to get a sense of what strategies work when it comes to keeping potentially dangerous substances away from young people. Here’s some of what they’ve found:

  • Keep prices high, preferably through taxes. This has worked with cigarettes; way fewer teens smoke now than when cigarettes were cheap and plentiful.
  • Be serious about regulating marijuana retailers. If stores know they’ll be regularly inspected–and that they’ll face heavy fines if they’re found selling to teens–they’ll do the enforcing on their own.
  • Zoning laws could help keep marijuana retailers away from places where kids congregate, like schools and playgrounds. (Some municipalities don’t allow businesses to sell alcohol if they’re located near a school, for example.)
  • Don’t turn weed into a treat. If marijuana comes in sweet, candy, or fruity forms; or if its packaging features cartoons (ahem, Joe Camel), then kids will be more likely to try it out.
  • Use child-proof packaging and plenty of warning labels so kids aren’t accidentally imbibing.
  • Put restrictions on marketing. Research shows that kids are more likely to smoke/drink when exposed to advertising that encourages them to do so.

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