With drugs, education always beats legislation

Parents and government officials are right to be concerned about the inappropriate use of a trendy herbal incense known as “spice” or “fake weed.”

Smokers seeking a “high” or the ultimate relaxed state of mind can find themselves hallucinating or suffering seizures or convulsions, as evidenced by hospital emergency room reports from around the country.

Officials in Colorado are looking into three deaths that may have been caused by the use of synthetic marijuana.

But while the health concerns are real, efforts to ban the legal sale of these lab products are pointless, and even counterproductive.

Spice is being blamed for the hospitalization of four Portales High School students in the past month. School officials have held informational campus assemblies hoping to discourage its use and Portales City Council members are considering action to ban its sale in city limits.

But if we’ve learned anything from the “war on drugs,” it’s that outlawing mood-altering substances doesn’t stop their sale or abuse.

Morality laws create black-market opportunities and fill up our jails, but they don’t make our children safer.

“They have these pep rallies but the ones who are doing it aren’t going to stop because of a pep rally,” Portales High Senior Christian Garcia told Portales News-Tribune Senior Writer Christina Calloway this week.

Garcia correctly surmised the best way to teach about the harmful effects of spice is by sharing the stories of those who’ve learned the hard way.

Education always works better than prohibition.

Not everyone will benefit from the humiliation, pain and suffering of others, of course. No matter how much we preach or how many laws we create, those intent on self-medicating to mask their feelings of depression, anxiety or paranoia will find a way — legal or illegal, with fake weed, paint fumes or something concocted from Mom’s medicine chest.

Still, we cannot stop trying to educate our children, parents, friends and co-workers about the potentially lethal impact of drug, alcohol and tobacco abuse.

Indeed, education is our only effective tool in this battle.

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