It wasn’t that long ago that sentencing for marijuana possession or selling was disproportionate to the crime. That’s a bit of an arbitrary statement on it’s own, but the sentencing was along the lines of robbery or illegal firearms possession.

In an attempt to get the punishment more in line with the crime, pro-marijuana organizations and lobbyists successfully got marijuana legalization initiatives on ballots across the country, and nearly half of our states have legalized the drug.

Now, in states like Washington, you can’t walk more than a block without either seeing a cannabis shop or a billboard for one.

Even though the drug isn’t legal until you’re 21, this heavy dose of exposure through advertising and local shops is sending a message to teenagers in the state that it’s OK… and safe.

The problem is that you don’t have to search Google too hard to find a study that suggests marijuana can have some dangerous effects on the undeveloped teenage brain.

And like alcohol, for young people, marijuana is only illegal by law. Kids know about it. They want it. And they have no problem getting it. Unlike alcohol, where the effects wear off after a few hours, the effects of marijuana on the teenage brain can become quite permanent.

Perhaps, instead of legalizing marijuana, we could have simply adjusted the prison sentences to make them more in line with the relatively tame nature of the crime.

Instead, by legalizing it, we decided to tell our kids that marijuana is awesome, and if you just wait a few years, you’ll be able to enjoy the exciting array of euphoric effects. When we decided that, we effectively told our kids that society has found it to be fine and safe.

And as teenagers do, they very quickly got very good at finding access to it.

If we do have to legalize it, there should at least be more restriction on the advertising and sale of it. How much public debate have we undergone about cigarette and soda advertising? I think this warrants at least that much conversation.