When compiling reasons why marijuana should not be legalized, opponents have rightfully stressed the effects that increased availability of the drug would have on teens.
"Israeli youth tend to go a little overboard in their behavior. They're great risk takers, look at what happens when they go on trips to the Far East and other exotic locations," says Dr. Yehuda Neumark, of the Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine at Hebrew University-Hadassah. "If I look at the way Israeli youth relate to access to alcohol, then I find giving them access to marijuana somewhat troubling. I fear that if we go too far to the extreme in our leniency, we might be opening a Pandora's box that we'll have difficulty closing afterward."
Neumark has been involved in numerous studies on teens and their use of alcohol and other drugs. Regarding the argument that pot would be better for teens than alcohol, Neumark responds, "Have you ever seen a kid driving after he smoked a few joints?"
According to marijuana expert Dr. Yehuda Baruch, a teen is not ready to handle to physiological effects that marijuana has on the brain.
"A young person's brain and body is still developing. The time schizophrenia usually erupts is in the 15-25 age group, which is also the age that generally has more potential for abuse. So we prefer not to give medical marijuana licenses to patients under the age of 25," he says.
Aleh Yarok founder Boaz Wachtel agrees that youth should stay away from all drugs, and recommends that kids wait to experiment with marijuana until after their army service, "after their character and physiology is fully developed."
According to Wachtel, by lumping marijuana into the "basket of goods" with harder drugs is detrimental to efforts to keep teens away from drugs.
"That exaggeration is fatal to the credibility of the anti-drug campaign in schools, especially because cannabis is usually the first illegal drug that someone uses," he says.
"When a kid sees that his brain doesn't turn into a boiled egg and it doesn't push him toward heroin after the first week, he stops believing the rest of the government's anti-drug propaganda, and then may move on to other, harder drugs. He may think, 'If they lied to me about cannabis, maybe they're not telling the truth about Ecstasy or heroin either.'"