According to the online bio for Maria Stephanos, the FOX25 News anchor joined the network in 1997 as a young reporter, and later on became a leading on-air personality. She’s also been a regular guest on the popular Howie Carr Show on conservative AM radio.
In addition to her professional accolades, Stephanos was born and raised in Groveland, Massachusetts–just two towns away from where I was brought up. As such, we have common roots; over the years, we’ve even exchanged a few funny tweets. FOX employee or not, I’m not embarrassed to say that I have love for Maria Stephanos.
But here’s the problem. In a recent FOX25 interview with Bill Downing, in which the MassCann treasurer and Bay State Repeal organizer was pushing for a statewide ballot initiative in 2016 to legalize weed, Stephanos disappointed me, and raised the ire of innumerable reformers.
“Can you explain to me how this will keep kids from going out and dealing drugs?”
she asked Downing, implying that the measure would inevitably yield a net negative impact. “I don’t understand that rationale. I’m a mother of two kids.”
I was struck. Perhaps it was naïve, but I’d hoped that Stephanos would be one of those informed local moms who might move toward the side of sanity, and seek to repeal prohibition for the right reasons.
As things stand now, the marijuana trade is a billion dollar industry in which nobody is held accountable, or asked for identification–not suppliers, not street-level dealers, not customers. For decades, under a rising tide of marijuana prohibition in America, reports of adolescents using and even dealing cannabis has steadily increased.
Similarly, under prohibition, financially strapped high school and college students have been economically enticed to sell grass and edibles to friends. Stephanos should note that they are not slinging cigarettes, or alcohol, as a profitable venture. In every public high school in the Commonwealth, there are likely several kids selling weed. Why? Because prohibition spawns a black market that is profitable and easily accessible to teens and young adults.
In one example, last year in Lebanon, Ohio, a 17-year-old named Tyler Pagenstecher was busted for allegedly running a $20,000-a-month marijuana ring. Pagenstecher was described by a prosecutor as “someone who [would] be in a church youth group or honor program.” One of his classmates noted his intelligence and high grades. Still, he allegedly began dealing at the age of 15.
Closer to home, earlier this year–in Wellesley, the posh hometown of Howie Carr–police arrested five teens related to two separate budding weed enterprises.
Maria–those could have been your children.
In Massachusetts, we’ve witnessed a decades-long trend of decreasing adult and teen use of cigarettes and alcohol. At the same time, teen and adult cannabis use has skyrocketed.
Prohibition only ensures more teen use and dealing. Prohibition creates young dealers. I can’t stress this enough.
To further help reverse the master narrative, I looked to a friend who is a 50-plus-year-old career bartender and frequent consumer of cannabis. He sums it up best: “I would never sell any of my precious Mary Jane to kids, but sometimes I have to buy it from them. It’s tough to find it when you’re my age, and the dishwasher kid out back has the best bud and prices in the city. How is the law protecting kids? Kids today have access to better weed than us mature senior adults with money, responsibility, and jobs. It’s backwards. I have money, medical needs, and I can’t get it. Meanwhile, the kid at the high school has multiple connections.”
Maria–only one thing is going to change that, and it’s a legal pot market for grown-ups. You may not yet realize it, but the repeal of marijuana prohibition is the best thing for our schools and communities.