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by
Clayton E. Cramer

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February 4, 2011 - 12:31 am
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This is not just a Boise thing. I searched news.google.com for the string “alcohol sting minors” and ended up with 232 news stories. In Midland, Texas, where Walmart failed. In Ontario County, New York, where police went into 40 liquor stores and 16 bars — and had six violations. In Visalia, California, where four of seven businesses were cited for selling to minors. In Grand Junction, Colorado, where 85 businesses were tested — and ten of them sold alcohol to minors. And these particular news stories were for two days, from January 17-18, 2011.

Now remember, these are regulated, licensed businesses that are getting caught — businesses that have strong economic incentives to obey the law. They have not only criminal liability for these sales, but a large potential civil liability if they sell alcohol to someone under 21. Yet either out of willfulness, incompetence, or carelessness, lots of businesses are breaking the law.

All of us know that the bigger source of alcohol for the under 21 set — and even more, the under 18 set — is not the clerk who does not check ID, or does not check it properly. When I was younger, if I was entering a store that sold beer, teenagers would approach me, asking me to buy them beer. (I told them no.) I also know that there were plenty of other young adults who were not so particular — especially since the teens would often offer the adult the opportunity to keep the change. I see no reason to assume that this same process would not be happening outside marijuana stores.

Of course, lots of alcohol moves from the liquor cabinet or the refrigerator without parental knowledge — and sometimes with it. There is no reason to assume that parents are going to be more careful or responsible with marijuana than they are with alcohol — especially when you read news stories like this gem from the January 18, 2011, San Francisco Chronicle: “Video of a marijuana puffing toddler has led to the arrest of a Southern California desert couple. San Bernardino County sheriff’s Deputy Lisa Guerra says she was tipped Saturday that 20-year-old Melanie Soliz and 24-year-old Blake Hightower were abusive parents who allowed their 23-month-old son to smoke pot.” Isn’t that cute? It appears that they videotaped their toddler emulating Mom and Dad by trying to take a drag on one of their pipes.

We already have a big problem with alcohol and minors — a bigger problem than we have with marijuana and minors. (Hmmm. The one that is legal is a bigger problem than the one that is illegal. But that must be just a coincidence.) If you want to argue that decriminalization of marijuana is a good idea, feel free to make that argument.  But can you drop this ridiculous argument that making it legal would discourage sellers from making sales to minors?

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Clayton E. Cramer teaches history at the College of Western Idaho. His most recent book is My Brother Ron: A Personal and Social History of the Deinstitutionalization of the Mentally Ill (2012). He is raising capital for a feature film about the Oberlin Rescue of 1858.
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