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Speaking Out: Give young people the benefit of doubt

By  Speaking Out, Nicole Vaz
  • November 1, 2018

There is a misconception that teenagers will always jump at an opportunity to do wrong. This is based on the stereotype that teens are up to no good. 

I was reminded of this as teachers and parents were handing out advice in the wake of the legalization of marijuana: “Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s good for you.” 

By now, it is old news that Canada became one of two countries in the world to legalize cannabis nationwide.  I constantly hear my parents, teachers and even Church leaders bring up all the reasons why the legalization is a big mistake and will only encourage the use of cannabis among teenagers.

The day before the legalization of marijuana, all the senior students at my school were required to attend a mandatory assembly where all the rules, protocols and health risks of marijuana were outlined.

After this assembly I could not help but feel judged and distrusted by the adults in my life. It was at this point that the teenage stereotype became clearer to me and I was motivated to break away from this constant belief that teenagers do everything but the right thing.

It is misconceived that legalizing cannabis will drive teenagers to become constant users of the drug. In reality, some teenagers smoked marijuana before it was legal and those same people will continue to do it now that it’s legal. 

And those, like me, who have no interest in trying the drug are not going to start just because the law makes it more available. 

Adults always seem to think the worst of teenagers. Their over-the-top concern that we will all become addicts because of the new law is just one example. 

Obviously it is their job to be concerned for us and make sure that we are always safe. But it’s also important to realize that young people can also be responsible, clear thinkers.

Giving teens the benefit of the doubt not only shows an adult’s willingness to trust but also allows for an openness. Because we are so scared to fail and fall into the stereotype, we often feel like we have to hide our insecurities and keep our thoughts and questions to ourselves.

So many of these misconceptions and stereotypes would be eliminated if adults came straight to us. Simply asking us how we feel about the legalization of marijuana, how it is affecting us and if we even smoke shows their concern without categorizing us.

As an individual who goes to school and is constantly surrounded by other teenagers, I must admit that those kids who skip class, do drugs and have no motivation in life do exist. But they make up only a handful of our population.

The truth is the majority of us teenagers do not do drugs and the legalization of marijuana has no effect on us. As a whole, we are just young people who are full of good values and are motivated to do the right things in life. 

(Vaz, 17, is a Grade 12 student at Fr. Michael Goetz Secondary School in Mississauga, Ont.)

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