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America’s Stoned Kids

Sat Aug 24, 9.10-10.10pm, BBC2

Due to its altitude, Denver, Colorado is known as ‘the mile high city.’ Accordingly, it’s a gift to any documentary maker wishing to explore the possible effects of marijuana legalisation on the youth of America. This film is helmed by concerned psychologist Professor John Marsden who meets teenage potheads, teachers, worried parents and growers in order to test the water.

By definition, nothing he learns is particularly conclusive at this point – probably, it’s just too soon for definitive judgements. But he does nail his colours fairly firmly to the mast, citing research suggesting significant IQ underdevelopment amongst heavy teenage users. Where Marsden perhaps falls short is in suggesting alternatives to the two stark options we’re presented with here. If legalisation is a risk, ‘the war on drugs’ is manifestly and demonstrably a failure. And, as even the head of the treatment centre he visits admits; ‘kids will always find a way.’

Drugs treatment and legislation are among the biggest challenges currently facing western society. But by the end, there’s a feeling that for all its good intentions, this film is posing more questions than it answers.