Marijuana legalization actually has a great unintended side-effect for non-drug users: better employment prospects. The sleepless nights I now spend holding a crying baby will no doubt be replaced with sleepless nights worrying about my son when he’s older. I worry about how I will be able to protect him as he grows up in a more intrusive and accessible world than I did.
Difficult conversations with one’s child have always been a delicate dance between going too deep into the “hows” and “whys” while still protecting his young mind. Besides the birds and the bees talk, I anticipate that one of the trickiest conversations I’ll have with my son will be about whether something is morally right just because it’s legal.
Oregon’s recent legalization of marijuana comes to mind. As a libertarian, I don’t want the government dictating my personal choices. Most of the time, I just want them to keep me safe, pave my roads, and leave me alone. As a voter, however, I was disappointed when Oregon (more specifically Portland, Salem, Eugene, and Ashland voters) chose to legalize a mind-altering drug. But as a father, I couldn’t be more thrilled. It is hard enough to find a job in Oregon, and now the state government has made it a little less competitive for my son someday.
I’m not so deluded as to think that my superior powers as a father will ensure that my son walks the straight and narrow. However, I do know two things: I will teach him my values, and the data is on his side.
Kids Do Follow Parents’ Example
If he’s like my wife, he’ll be an angel, and I’ll have nothing to worry about. But if he’s like me, he’ll have a rebellious streak compounded with a problem with authority, tempered with a strong sense of right and wrong. Then again, he will be my son, and I will do my best to raise him to be a morally upright critical thinker in a drug-free home.
Of course, even with my efforts, he will be his own person and make his own choices and mistakes. I’m comforted that medical research centers like the National Institutes of Health report that children raised by parents who abuse drugs are almost 80 percent more likely to become drug abusers themselves. While certainly a sad statistic, it also means that my son is that much less likely to become a pothead.
As I drove home from work on October 1, when recreational marijuana sales began, I noticed lines forming outside weed stores that seemed to have sprouted overnight. Many of the people in these lines were what you would expect, but I saw a few with strollers. I pondered the environments these children will experience as they are taught the prevalent myth that weed is the same as, or healthier than alcohol. If you are able to get past the irony that Oregon, Washington, and Colorado now advocate smoking, we will also see a generation of people raised to be marijuana users.
The Stats Look Bad for Smokers
This is great news for my son. Oregon has always been a difficult place for even a qualified person to get a job. For the past two decades, our overwhelmingly Democratic state has had some of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. Big or small, Oregon has always been an equal-opportunity business disrupter.
Through legislation, restrictive zoning, and debilitating tax laws, Oregon has discouraged small business growth while forcing large businesses to run for the hills. This created an economic environment with some of the highest-qualified, long-term unemployed people in the country, which makes for a very competitive job market.
Shockingly, research has shown that marijuana users have poor job performance. Medical research illustrates that marijuana users report sick more frequently due to immune deficiency, have trouble with memory retention, lack work ethic, and function at a reduced intellectual level most of the time. Since legalizing pot, employment agencies in the State of Washington have seen three times the amount of workers testing positive for marijuana, none of whom are employable in drug-free workplaces. Not surprisingly, employers are becoming increasingly aware of the potential for drug use by their employees, which has also resulted in a surge of marijuana-caused firings nationally.
From an employability perspective, it’s never been a better time to be drug-free. Combined with the fact that marijuana users, male or female, have an increased likelihood of sterility, my odds for raising a professionally successful son jumped dramatically on October 1.
Most loving parents want to do whatever they can to ensure that their children have the best possible chance of success in their lives, both personally and professionally. My son may not grow up to be the smartest person in the room, or the most educated, or even the best-looking (although he’ll always be handsome to me), but he’ll now statistically get a leg-up on the competition. Now, he likely won’t even need to be the most qualified.
Some people might call this perspective cynical; I call it making lemonade.