Dear Be the Influence (BTI) Marin Parents:
Happy Fall! Here is our October Update, just in time for our upcoming Parent Education program on “Today’s Marijuana” and the November 4th Election - which includes a vote on Proposition 64, an initiative to legalize recreational marijuana in the state of California.
This Newsletter covers the following topics:
- Parent Education Event on “Today’s Marijuana”
- Health Effects and Other Risks of Marijuana on Teens
- Proposition 64 Issues
- Parenting Tips on Marijuana
- Halloween and Homecoming Parenting Tips
- Additional Resources
BTI In the News. BTI has received great news coverage lately - check out this NBC News coverage at http://www.nbcbayarea.com/ and Marin Magazine article at http://www.marinmagazine.com/.
Any questions or comments should be directed to email@example.com. As always, we welcome your feedback and suggestions.
Please read on!
ATTEND OCTOBER 18th “TODAY’S MARIJUANA” PRESENTATION!
October 18th from 7-8:30 pm at the Redwood High School Small Gym. Dr. Jennifer Golick, LMFT & Clinical Director of Muir Wood Adolescent and Family Services will present with a panel of students on what parents and their teens need to know about today’s marijuana. Get the latest facts about the current state of marijuana use by teens in Marin County and around the country.
Dr. Golick will discuss the effects of marijuana on the developing teenage brain, THC content and potency levels, addiction and other risks, and legal consequences. With the possible passage of Proposition 64 to legalize marijuana in California in November, marijuana use will become even more normalized for teens.
This event is open to all BTI schools. Students are encouraged to attend. The program has been generously underwritten by the Twin Cities Coalition for Healthy Youth and the Ross Valley Healthy Community Collaborative.
JOIN Your Parent Organization! Remember that Parent Education Events would not be possible without the support of your school’s parent organizations. To join your school’s parent organization, please visit the following websites:
Redwood PTSA http://www.redwoodptsa.org
Tam PTSA http://tamhighptsa.org/home
Drake Parents Club/Fund http://www.drakefund.org
Marin Catholic Parent Association http://www.marincatholic.org
Note that Branson and San Domenico parents are automatically Parent Association members.
HEALTH EFFECTS AND OTHER RISKS OF TEEN USE OF MARIJUANA
Marijuana has been used by more than one in three Americans living today. Many have found that smoking a joint is as enticing and enjoyable as casually sipping a glass of wine. Some have attested to the plant’s medical properties: the MS patient who can move her limbs more freely or the parent of a child whose epilepsy seizures have been significantly curtailed.
For the majority of users, smoking marijuana is enjoyed in the mellow company of friends without causing any major problems. Most have neither crashed a car nor dropped out of school. None have suffered from the “reefer madness” caused by the “devil weed” as depicted in the film from 1936.
Yet marijuana is not a harmless drug for adolescents. It poses serious health risks in light of its increasingly high potency, impact on the teen brain, addiction potential and other physical and mental health risks. Regular marijuana use presents a significantly greater hazard for adolescents than for adults, especially before they reach the age of 18. Marijuana can affect teens’ personality and performance in school, sports and every area of their lives. The specific hazards of marijuana use by teens are discussed below.
Increased Potency of Today’s Marijuana
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the key active ingredient in marijuana that causes the high. It is found in the oil resin of the plant’s leaves and flowers. In the “old” days (from the ‘60’s through the ‘90’s), THC was at a 1-3% concentration (maybe 5% from some dealers). In the early 2000’s, the potency was as much as 8-10%. But in the last decade, there has been an explosion in cultivation techniques and technology resulting in genetic modifications and increased THC levels. Growers have increased the potency of marijuana in order to raise prices and gain profits.
Today it is not uncommon to see THC levels of up to 20-30%. Last year’s industry leader (the Chiquita Banana strain) was 33% THC and this year it is likely to be even stronger. In sum, the marijuana that parents may have smoked “back in the day” is nothing like today’s weed. If marijuana were like alcohol, this increase in intoxication potential would be akin to going from drinking a “lite” beer a day to consuming a dozen shots of vodka.
By contrast, modern breeding techniques have resulted in the reduction of another active ingredient, cannabidiol (CBD) - a non-psychoactive chemical which is what holds promise as medicinal treatment.
Vape Pens, E-cigarettes and Vaporizers. Additionally, vape pens (which look like e-cigarettes), e-cigarettes and vaporizers enable users to inhale heated liquid marijuana and hash oil concentrates. Many teens prefer these pens and e-cigarettes because they are harder to detect.
To make these oils, butane is often used, which is highly flammable and can leave toxic solvents on the marijuana oil that is being inhaled. These concentrates contain high levels of THC. Hash oils are typically 60% THC and some concentrates have higher levels - as much as 80-90% or more.
Dabs (also known as Shatter, Wax, Earwax, Budder, Honeycomb, Honey Oil, Crumble Wax, Glob, Honey Buds) are an example of butane hash oils (BTOs).
As users develop a tolerance for THC, they can seek other drugs and bigger highs. Dabbing refers to the practice of inhaling the fumes of very strong concentrates of marijuana – usually waxes and hash oils – that have been heated.
A “how to do dabs” You Tube video, courtesy of High Times is at https://www.youtube.com/. Another Youtube video footage shows young adults from Sacramento “doing dabs” all day - at work, during lunch breaks and while driving. As they inhale dab vapors into their lungs and try to breathe afterwards, they are hit with uncontrollable coughing fits. The video displays an array of medical marijuana products purchased from dispensaries in Sacramento. See https://www.youtube.com/.
Edibles come in the form of infused baked goods (brownies, cookies and cake), candy (gummi bears and lollipops), and a bewildering array of other foodstuffs such as gelato, “Nugtella,” “Pot Tarts,” popcorn products and “canna-olive oil.” Marijuana can also be infused into beverages such as multi-flavored sodas.
These foods and beverages can be especially potent and are attractive to kids and to those who don’t like to smoke. Dosing is erratic and therefore the effects are unpredictable and can be dangerous. For example, with gummi bears, few kids are going to eat just the heads - which can equal one dose! Moreover, the effects are delayed with edibles so users tend to ingest more.
At a recent Quinceanera in San Francisco, 19 guests, mostly aged 18 or younger, including a 6-year old, became ill and were hospitalized after eating candy.
Susceptibility of the Teen Brain
The teen years are the biggest period of development since the womb. Teen brains are not fully developed until the mid 20s for women and late 20s for men. Until these ages, their neurological wiring is being laid down.
Marijuana is a complex plant containing at least 85 chemicals called cannabinoids. These impact natural cannabinoid receptor sites throughout the brain and the endocannabinoid system. This affects memory and learning (the hippocampus), novelty, emotion and appetite (the amygdala), motor skills (the basal ganglia), real time coordination, selective attention and time sense (the cerebellum), reward mechanisms (the nucleus accumbent) and finally, executive functions (the cortex).
The frontal lobe of the cortex which governs executive functions (such as judgment, reasoning, impulse control, decision-making, problem solving, planning, execution, empathy, compassion and flexibility) is the last to develop. These are all mature brain functions that help teens grow into responsible adults. In other words, teens’ “GO” mechanism in the brain is more fully developed than their “STOP” mechanism. This is why a teen thinks it’s okay to smoke weed daily and does not think doing so will have an impact on their health.
Females More Susceptible
Girls appear to be most affected in terms of their brain development and stunted emotional development. A September 2014 study found that because of their estrogen hormones, females are more susceptible to the effects of THC. In the first ever study to assess gender differences in sensitivities to THC, a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) funded study found that females develop tolerance to THC more quickly and thus have increased vulnerability to negative side effects such as anxiety, panic attacks, paranoia, depression and addiction.
Previous studies also found that women were more prone to marijuana abuse and dependence and that withdrawal symptoms of irritability, sleep disruption and decreased food intake was shown to be more severe.
A 2002 study in the British Medical Journal of a longitudinal Australian study concluded that weekly use in female teenagers predicted an approximately twofold increase in risk for later depression and anxiety and daily use was associated with an over fivefold increase.
Marijuana is Addictive. Period.
Although marijuana is not as addictive as drugs like tobacco or heroin it affects the reward centers of the brain in the same way that other addictive drugs do. These drugs of abuse result in the brain adapting to unnatural levels of reward and stimulation from the release of more dopamine than with natural rewards like food, sex and social interaction.
THC bypasses the brain’s GABA receptors (which slowly release dopamine) and instead the brain is flooded with dopamine. This results in the brain not naturally producing the dopamine. The void in dopamine can cause depression which leads to further use.
Overall, 9% of users become addicted, but this increases to 17% (or one in six) with those who start in their adolescent years. This is because of not only their developing brains but also the speed of addiction, which is greater with adolescents. Between 20-50% of daily or near daily adolescent users get addicted. Bear in mind that many studies are outdated because marijuana product development is occurring so fast. With increasing potency, these numbers are likely to worsen.
In 2010, 4.5 million people in the United States met the criteria for abuse and dependency, as established by the American Psychiatric Association. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there are more marijuana addicts in the U.S. than Americans addicted to prescription pain relievers, cocaine, tranquilizers, hallucinogens and heroin combined.
Many chronic marijuana users who attempt to go “cold turkey” experience physical withdrawal symptoms. Within three days, these symptoms begin to peak, making abstinence challenging to maintain. A Harvard neuropsychologist has noted that she has seen more physical withdrawal symptoms in adolescents in the last decade, including trouble sleeping, severe mood swings, inability to handle stress, headaches, blurred vision, nausea and flu like symptoms lasting for one week. Local treatment centers note the same increases. Note that these symptoms occur in the absence of other substances.
Moreover, it takes teens longer to recover from addiction. This is because teens don’t have the skills built up or the underlying brain foundations that help them know how to make reasonable, rational decisions.
Treatment and rehab centers across the country report that most of the adolescents they see (85%) have a marijuana use disorder where they are dependent or abusive of marijuana. In California, with medical marijuana, we have already seen a huge escalation in the number of users seeking treatment for abuse or dependence. Between 1992 and 2008, there was a near quintupling of the number of treatment admissions due to marijuana.
Decreased Functioning in School
The harm done to the educational progress are real and strong, and are even greater than the risks of addiction or the harm done to the brain. Marijuana affects learning and can destroy motivation (motivational syndrome), interfere with memory, because loss of concentration and gradually affects self-esteem. Kids often say it makes them feel “lazy” or “dumb.” Grades drop and ambitions disappear.
Memory impairment poses is a serious consequence of chronic or long-term use of marijuana, and these effects can be experienced long after marijuana use is suspended.
One study found difficulties in verbal story memory, along with impairments in learning and working memory for up to six weeks after cessation of use. Another study found that long term heavy cannabis users show impairments in memory and attention that endure beyond the period of intoxication and worsen with increasing years of regular cannabis use.
Research shows that adolescents who smoke marijuana on weekends only, over a two-year period, are nearly six times more likely to drop out of school than non smokers, more than three times less likely to enter college than non smokers, and more than four times less likely to earn a college degree. Whether marijuana causes this is unknown but we do know there are strong effects on learning and motivation.
Loss of IQ points
Marijuana use results in cognitive deficits. A stunning landmark 2012 longitudinal 25-year study in New Zealand of 1,037 subjects showed on average an eight-point decline in IQ. Those who used marijuana persistently and heavily by age 18 and into adulthood experienced the drop at age 38. This drop is irreversible.
The IQ loss did not happen with adults: those who used marijuana frequently after age 18 did not experience a drop in IQ. The results were later re-examined (after being criticized for failing to control for socioeconomic status) and it was definitively concluded that the decline in IQ could not be attributed to socioeconomic factors alone.
Even Casual Use in Young Adults is Linked to Brain Abnormalities
A 2014 study by Northwestern University Medicine and Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School showed that even those young adults (ages 18 to 25) who were not heavy or chronic users (some using once or twice a week) showed significant abnormalities in two key brain regions (the amygdala and nucleus accumbens). These regions are important in emotion and motivation and are also associated with addiction.
The more joints a person smoked, the more abnormal the shape, volume and density of grey matter (i.e., where most cells are located in brain tissue) in the brain regions according to MRI images. This is the first study that has been funded to research the effects of causal versus heavy use of marijuana by teens.
Adverse Socioeconomic Consequences
A recent study conducted by an international team of researchers led by UC Davis and Duke epidemiologists concluded that people who use marijuana end up with lower paying, less skilled and less prestigious jobs and experience more financial, work-related and relationship problems. Regular marijuana users ended up in a lower social class than their parents. The study looked at 947 of the participants in the 2012 New Zealand study, discussed above, who were observed over a 25-year period.
Note that these users experienced more financial difficulties than those who were alcohol dependent. The study also found that the financial, work and relationship difficulties worsened as the number of years of regular cannabis use progressed.
These issues did not arise because of prosecution or criminal records. The study observed more antisocial behavior in both work and relationships. It also found lower motivation to achieve as well as abuse of alcohol and harder drugs. The study found these problems began in adolescence, with antisocial behavior and depression and higher levels of impulsivity.
Mental Illness Risks Include Psychotic Symptoms and Schizophrenia
Numerous studies have found that marijuana can trigger mental illnesses or worsen underlying conditions such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorders, paranoia, psychotic breaks and schizophrenia. Suicidal thoughts can also be a by-product. Studies show that marijuana increases the risks of occurrence of these mental illnesses, which are even more pronounced in those with a family history.
A wide array of studies show that the more chronic the marijuana use and the earlier in life that use begins, the greater one’s chances are of developing psychosis typified by delusional thinking or experiencing the onset of schizophrenia, characterized by a breakdown in thought processes. Even if adolescents and teens don’t become dependent (and the majority do not), it’s the alteration of brain structure and function that is at the root of mental health problems later in life.
Treatment centers such as the local Muir Wood Adolescent and Family Services report they are seeing more and more teens experiencing psychotic breaks.
Physical Health Effects of Marijuana.
Studies show that marijuana use is associated with accidents and injuries, bronchitis, acute cardiovascular events, gastrointestinal issues, and possibly infectious diseases and cancer. With the much higher THC levels in today’s marijuana, these physical health effects are likely to worsen.
Respiratory System. Marijuana smoke contains many more chemicals than tobacco smoke. The American Lung Association states on its website that marijuana smoke “contains a greater amount of carcinogens than tobacco smoke. In addition, marijuana users usually inhale more deeply and hold their breath longer than tobacco smokers do, further increasing the lungs’ exposure to carcinogenic smoke.” A wealth of medical study backs up these contentions.
New Zealand scientists determined that smoking one joint of marijuana was comparable to the effects on airflow obstruction of between two and one half and five tobacco cigarettes. Marijuana smokers hold their breath about four times longer than cigarette smokers, allowing more time for extra fine particles to deposit in the lungs.
Moreover, marijuana is packed more loosely than tobacco so there is less filtration and more particles are inhaled. Respiratory symptoms found by Yale researchers include shortness of breath, frequent wheezing, frequent phlegm and chronic bronchitis. UCLA scientists found additional effects including a potential predisposition to the development of respiratory malignancy as a result of carcinogens.
Cardiovascular System. Within minutes of inhaling marijuana fumes, a person’s heart rate increases and can double, blood vessels expand, the eyes redden and a variety of impacts on the heart and cardiovascular systems can occur.
Overdoses from Dabbing. There have been reported overdoses from passing out after dabbing. Users can inhale so much concentrated smoke at once that they pass out.
Link to Cancer. Whether smoking marijuana is a trigger for causing cancer, especially lung cancer, remains an open question. More research is needed, which is mixed on this issue. However, the evidence is increasingly tilting toward the conclusion that marijuana use can be a risk factor.
People with preexisting immune system deficiencies (for example resulting from AIDS or chemotherapy) can be more susceptible to developing cancer or a recurrence of cancer because of an enzyme that marijuana smoke contains. Another toxic chemical in marijuana smoke was found to damage a person’s DNA and increase their risk for developing cancer, according to a 2009 study by British scientists.
Combining Marijuana with Alcohol and Other Drugs
Teens often combine marijuana with hard alcohol and sometimes with pills from Molly (Ecstasy) to Xanax. The dangers are obvious. Deaths are not uncommon. In Marin, young adults have been dying from a combination of alcohol, marijuana and other drugs at an alarming rate. See September 2016 Marin Magazine article entitled “A Dangerous Game” at http://www.marinmagazine.com/.
Effect of Marijuana on Driving
Driving under the influence of marijuana is unsafe. Marijuana affects reaction time, short-term memory, hand-eye coordination, concentration and perception of time and distance. Studies show that drivers who used marijuana followed cars too closely (a sign of spatial distortion) and swerve in and out of lanes of traffic.
Yet a common misperception is that it is safe to drive high because stoned drivers are slower. Alarming rates of teen “designated drivers” abstain from alcohol but not from marijuana because of this erroneous perception. See Redwood Bark (student run newspaper) article at http://redwoodbark.org/.
In Oregon, nearly half of current marijuana using 11th graders who drive say they drove within three hours of using the drug.
PROPOSITION 64 ON THE CALIFORNIA BALLOT
On November 8th, California voters will decide whether or not to legalize recreational use of marijuana through a vote on Proposition 64. Although the legal age for marijuana use will be 21, we can look to states such as Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C. to see the effects of legalization on teens. The experience in Colorado is especially instructive, as Colorado has the largest commercial marijuana market of all the states.
Accordingly, California voters should take the following considerations into account when deciding whether to vote for or against Proposition 64.
The Holland Experiment
Holland’s decriminalization largely has been a failure.
We can also look to Holland, where legalization (more accurately a non-enforcement policy) has not been successful, contrary to popular belief. After almost 40 years, the Dutch reversed course in 2011 and reclassified strong cannabis (THC of about 15% or higher) in the same category as hard drugs such as cocaine. They also passed a law banning foreign tourists from the nation’s 700 marijuana “coffee shops”.
The illegal black market had been thriving in Amsterdam where most of the marijuana and hashish coffee shops were located. This was because it targeted minors too young to legally enter the coffee shops and also because there were limits on the amounts and times during which coffee shop customers could purchase marijuana and hashish.
Decrease in Perception of Harm by Teens
Legalization under Proposition 64 will lead to a decrease in the perception of harm from marijuana among teens.
As demonstrated above, marijuana is not a harmless drug for adolescents. Yet, a result of legalization of medical marijuana in many states, as well as recreational use, is the normalization of marijuana use and a decrease in the perception of harm.
Fewer Americans, especially teens, now view marijuana use as risky. This is despite all the studies that have shown increased risk for many outcomes, including cognitive decline, psychosocial impairments, vehicle crashes, emergency department visits, psychiatric symptoms, poor quality of life, use of other drugs, cannabis-withdrawal syndrome and addiction risk. As one student stated, “I think pot being legalized makes people think it’s safer because the government allows its use.”
Increase in Adolescent, Teen and Young Adult Use
Passage of Proposition 64 will lead to an increase in marijuana usage.
The decline in the perception of harm has resulted in increases in use among adolescents and teens. By several measures, there has been an increase in adolescent, teen and young adult use as a result of the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana.
Nationwide. The 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows regular marijuana use among Americans ages 12 and older jumped 12% nationwide during the first year legalization was implemented in Colorado and Washington. According to a recent Gallup Poll, legalization has doubled the number of Americans who currently use marijuana from 2013 to 2016. Use is highest in the West at 14% where four states have legalized marijuana for recreational use.
Regular use increased among all ages, including ages 12-17 and 18-25 years old. Worse, one in every 22 college students uses the drug daily. Daily marijuana use among the nation’s college students is on the rise, surpassing daily cigarette smoking for the first time, according to a University of Michigan 2014 Monitoring the Future Study. Marijuana use has been growing on the nation’s campuses since 2006.
Colorado. According to a 2015 report released by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, Colorado marijuana use was nearly double the national usage rate. The state ranked 3rd in the nation for youth use in 2013, up from 14th in 2006. Past month marijuana use among adolescents, ages 12-17, was 74% higher than the national average for the two years following legalization in the state.
Some news reports have focused on the 2015 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey showing no increase in past month marijuana use among youth since 2013. However, the survey only had a 46% response rate when the threshold the CDC sets for a valid survey is 60%.
Moreover, these news reports ignored the huge increase among juniors and seniors in the regions of the state where commercial marijuana is plentiful. Some 70% of the state’s cities, towns and counties have banned both medical and recreational marijuana. Thus the 2000 plus marijuana dispensaries are concentrated in the remaining 30% of the state and about half of those are in Denver.
A sudden jump in drug expulsions began in 2009 when Colorado allowed a commercial marijuana industry to emerge though medical marijuana.
California. In California, 8th grade use has doubled and 10th and 12th grade use has nearly doubled from 1991 to 2015, according to a University of Michigan Monitoring the Future Study. The study further found that one in 16 high school seniors use marijuana on a daily basis, which is now higher than their daily cigarette use and daily alcohol use.
Cigarette Use Declining while Marijuana Increasing. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from 1997-2013, marijuana use more than doubled between 1997-2013 when cigarette use declined 64%.
Advertising Increasing Teen Usage
Proposition 64 would end a 45-year old ban on smoking ads.
Proposition 64 would roll back the total prohibition of advertising featuring smoking which has been banned for decades. Millions of children and teen television viewers would be exposed to marijuana smoking and product ads in prime time.
Advertising also would appear on the radio, on billboards and in newspapers. RAND corporation researchers surveyed more than 8,000 middle-school students in 16 Southern California schools and found that students who reported seeing any ads for medical marijuana were twice as likely to use the drug or to report plans to use it in the future.
Products aimed at children include “My First Grow," a kit designed to teach children how to grow cannabis seeds, which comes complete with stickers. An array of marijuana books for children include “If a Peacock Finds a Pot Leaf," “It’s Just a Plant” and “Stinky Steve Explains Dad’s Dabs”.
Increased Emergency Room Visits and Calls to Poison Control Centers
Passage of Proposition 64 will lead to an increase in ER admissions, poison control center calls and exposure among children and newborns.
Nationwide ER Visits. The increased potency of marijuana and increasing number of users have led to a spike in ER admissions in the U.S. where there has been a nearly twenty five-fold increase from 1991 to 2008 (when the number of users stayed the same). These reactions ranged from anxiety and panic attacks, paranoia and psychotic symptoms to respiratory and cardiovascular distress. Hospitalizations for marijuana use alone (not in combination with alcohol or other illicit drugs) ballooned from 2007 to 2011, an increase of 82%.
Colorado ER Visits. In Colorado, marijuana-related hospitalizations have nearly quintupled since Colorado first legalized marijuana for medical use. An ER toxicologist at the University of Colorado, Denver described three different groups of people visiting the ER due to marijuana use: the first had problems related to underlying conditions such as anxiety disorders, schizophrenia or people with heart disease, which can be aggravated by marijuana. The second suffered direct drug effects such as cyclic vomiting and motor vehicle collisions. The third group consisted of people who smoke or eat too much marijuana and get heavily intoxicated and scared.
Denver’s Parkview Hospital ER recently stated that since legalization, the hospital has seen a 51% increase in children 18 years and under test positive for marijuana.
Exposure Among Young Children and Newborns. Nearly half of all newborns in that hospital also tested positive for prenatal exposure. There has been a stunning increase in marijuana exposures among children ages 5 or younger. Between 2000 and 2013 the rate increased by 147.4% in the US and in states that have legalized medical marijuana, the rate increased nearly 610% during that time.
According to a study published in Clinical Pediatrics and data from the National Poison Data System, some 75% of the children were exposed by ingesting edible marijuana products. Serious effects included coma and respiratory depression and single or multiple seizures. All the coma cases occurred in children ages 3 or younger.
Poison Center Calls. Additionally, marijuana-related calls to poison control centers have risen in states with medical marijuana or legalization. Calls to Colorado poison control centers seeking help for unintentional marijuana exposures in children under age 10 jumped 150% since 2009, according to a new study in JAMA Pediatrics. In Oregon, they rose as well in the last half of 2015, just three months into legalization.
American Academy of Pediatricians Opposition. For these and other reasons, the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) has opposed legalization. Contemporary Pediatrics devoted its February 2016 issue to a “Special Report on Generation Weed”. It began with two articles that focused on teenagers, noting that 5.4 million teens aged 12 years and older used marijuana every day or nearly every day in 2012. The third article explained why the AAP opposes use and legalization.
Marijuana Grows Permitted near Schools and Parks
Passage of Proposition 64 could result in grows near schools and parks.
Proposition 64 actually forbids local governments from banning indoor residential growing of marijuana, even next door to an elementary school, provided the crop is limited to six plants (and that is a lot of marijuana). The California Police Chiefs Association adds that “by permitting indoor cultivation of marijuana literally next door to elementary schools and playgrounds, Proposition 64 is trampling local control.”
Increased Traffic Fatalities
Legalization under Proposition 64 will lead to a rise in traffic fatalities.
Legalization has been opposed by the California Association of Highway Patrolmen. As explained above, driving while under the influence of marijuana is unsafe. Unlike alcohol, there is no number that can reliably predict impairment by marijuana. It depends on the driver – some are impaired at certain THC levels and some are not. Some states such as Colorado and Washington set DUI prosecutions at more than 5 nanograms per milliliter of THC in the blood yet this has been shown to be arbitrary and unsupported by medical science.
Legalization of medical marijuana and recreational marijuana has led to a spike in fatal accidents. There has been a significant jump in marijuana-impaired drivers involved in deadly car crashes. This has come at a time when alcohol crash fatalities have been decreasing due to education campaigns such as MADD and tougher laws on drunk driving.
Colorado. Marijuana-related traffic fatalities began to rise with the introduction and growth of the commercial marijuana industry in 2009. This occurred during a time that total statewide fatalities decreased between 2006 and 2014. In 2014, driving fatalities involving THC only or THC in combination with alcohol or other drugs increased 44%. Between 2007 and 2015, people killed in marijuana related accidents increased 100%. Legal marijuana was detected in bodies of dead drivers three times more often in 2010 than in 1999 before medical marijuana was legalized.
Washington. Nine months after marijuana was legalized for recreational use, marijuana-related traffic fatalities, which had been fairly flat, began rising, doubling from 8% in 2013 to 17% in 2014. According to the American Automobile Association, one in six drivers in fatal crashes in 2014 had recently used marijuana. The AAA Director of Traffic Safety Advocacy & Research noted that this came at a time when fatal crashes were going down in the rest of the country and stated that “marijuana use in driving is a growing contributing factor to fatal crashes” and “it’s a highway safety problem that we should all be concerned about.”
The largest increase in THC positive drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2014 were young males ages 21-25. Note that this data distinguishes between drivers who were high at the time of the crash as opposed to those who had residual traces of marijuana in their systems from use days earlier. The number of drivers involved in fatalities who tested positive for active THC increased from 65% in 2013 to 85% in 2014. Half of the THC positive drivers were not impaired by alcohol.
Oregon. During the first six months of legalization, more than double the amount of drivers were found to be driving under the influence of marijuana. Marijuana DUIIs (driving under the influence of intoxicants) surged 163% in the first six months of recreational legalization.
California. Since 2004, there has been “marked increases in driver fatalities testing positive for marijuana” according to the Director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia University Medical Center. The Center found that the overall rate of traffic deaths in which drivers tested positive for nonalcoholic drugs climbed from 16.6% in 1999 to 28.3% in 2010. The year 2015 has been the deadliest year of traffic fatalities since 2008. The Director stated “if current trends continue nonalcoholic drugs such as marijuana will overtake alcohol in traffic fatalities by 2020.”
Washington, D.C. Drug impaired traffic deaths doubled and became more common than alcohol related fatalities in 2014, which was the same year as marijuana legalization, according to the AAA.
The Next Big Tobacco
Under Proposition 64, big business will benefit.
The University of California, San Francisco researchers analyzed Proposition 64 and warned that a California marijuana industry resulting from legalization could either become as powerful as the tobacco industry or be overtaken by it. They noted that the initiative is written primarily to create a new business.
The history of major multinational corporations using aggressive marketing strategies (some aimed at kids) to increase and sustain tobacco and alcohol use illustrates the risks of corporate domination of a legalized market.
Mainstream tobacco companies that already have a foothold in the smoking market will benefit. So will manufacturers of rolling papers, pipes, and bongs, several of which are also publicly held tobacco companies such as National Tobacco, owner of Zig-Zag rolling papers. Notes a public policy professor at Carnegie Mellon and the author of several books on marijuana, “I think we’re going to wonder why we thought it was a good idea to create a corporate sector for promoting use of another dependence-inducing toxicant”.
Regulation Can’t Keep Up
Regulation won’t stand a chance if Proposition 64 passes.
The well-funded marijuana industry has dominated the regulatory process in states where marijuana has been legalized. California is likely to join Colorado, Washington and Oregon in being called “The Wild West.” In Colorado, a scathing report released in 2013 showed that the state’s bureaucracy could not handle its medical marijuana program. The same is true in California.
Our Budgetary Problems Won’t be Solved
Social costs will far exceed tax revenues if legalization under Proposition 64 results.
Although “legalize and tax it” has become a mantra of the legalization movement, the social costs of production and use will far exceed what states and local governments collect as actual tax revenue. The experience with alcohol is illustrative. Before society gains about $15-$20 billion a year from the taxes imposed on alcohol, it loses over $200 billion a year in health care, criminal justice and other costs directly related to alcohol use.
The UCSF researchers referred to above looking at Proposition 64 concluded that marijuana taxes are not likely to cover the regulatory and public health costs of legalization, leaving it to taxpayers to pick up the tab as with tobacco and alcohol. They noted that the history of tobacco has at least two significant advantages that made ”denormalization” of tobacco use possible. First, the Tobacco Settlement of 1998 reimburses the states in perpetuity for their Medicaid costs of caring for people made sick from tobacco. Second, no one claimed tobacco was medicine, as is the case with marijuana.
There will be regulatory, legal, criminal justice and healthcare costs and a loss of productivity resulting fromincreased marijuana use. There still will be criminal justice expenses associated with regulating the industry. Almost 2.5 million arrests a year result because of drunk driving violations, liquor law violations and public intoxication.
As with the alcohol beverage control (ABC) boards created by most states, there will be a need for the creation of marijuana regulation enforcement bureaucracies at the state level. Changes in state and local government expenditures on law enforcement and drug treatment will occur. Quality and safety control bureaucracies composed of health inspectors will have to be expanded, especially for inspecting facilities that produce baked goods containing marijuana. And agencies will have to be set up to test legally grown and distributed marijuana for potency and contamination.
Moreover, if marijuana is legalized using the model adopted by Colorado and Washington, the market price of marijuana will fall considerably. RAND researchers have estimated that the pre-tax price could plummet as much as 80%. This drop in price has not been factored into estimates of marijuana-generated tax revenue, according to the RAND Corporation. As a result, the estimated revenues have been overblown.
A Black Market and Drug Cartels Will Persist and Crime will Increase
Neither the black market nor drug cartels will disappear and crime will increase with legalization under Proposition 64.
The fall in price will hinder efforts to collect those tax revenues as a black market will spring up to take advantage of the gap between the taxed price and the real production cost of marijuana.
Taxes that add a sales tax to a point of retail tax will also create a huge incentive for home growers to undercut the state-sanctioned, state-taxed price per pound and avoid paying taxes altogether. This huge gap in costs will also cause consumers to seek out the lower-priced black marijuana whenever and wherever possible.
Additionally, if government attempts to regulate the potency of state-sanctioned marijuana (i.e., to keep the THC potency below a certain level, as Colorado is now trying to do), we can expect an underground market to furnish the higher-potency product that users seek.
The Colorado Attorney General calls it a “fallacy” that legalization quashes the black market for marijuana.
Current law prohibits heroin and meth felons from being involved in marijuana but Proposition 64 will specifically allow for dealers convicted of selling up to 20 thousand heroin doses or up to 10 thousand methamphetamine doses to receive marijuana licenses.
Legalization of cannabis stores and grow operations has drawn more drug-related crime, including cartels that grow the plant in Colorado and then illegally move it and sell it out of state. As a result, police face new cartel-related operations. The Past President of the Colorado Association of Chiefs note that organized crime filings have skyrocketed in Colorado with one filing in 2007 and 40 by 2015.
Violent crime increased 34% in Anchorage during the first six months Alaska legalized marijuana, according to FBI statistics for the first half of 2015. Crimes included aggravated assaults (32%) and murder (167%). Similar trends were seen in Denver and Seattle. In Denver, home to one-third of the state's cannabis market, burglary represents 63% of marijuana industry-related crime.
Racial Disparities Persist with Legalization
Arrests of people of color won’t decrease and underprivileged neighborhoods already reeling from alcohol and drug addiction problems won’t be helped if Proposition 64 passes.
Finally, African Americans in legalization states continue to be arrested at higher rates than people of other races according to a study which compared marijuana arrest data before and after Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana. Between 2008 and 2014, arrest rates decreased in Washington and in Colorado but African American rates were double that of others in both states.
Bishop Ron Allen of the International Faith Based Coalition representing 5,000 inner-city churches calls Proposition 64 an “attack on minorities” and asks “why are there no limits on the number of pot shops that can be opened in poor neighborhoods? We will now have a string of pot shops to go with the two liquor stores on every block, but we still can’t get a grocery store”.
Marijuana Possession has been Largely Decriminalized.
Proposition 64 won’t result in fewer people going to jail for marijuana offenses.
It is undisputed that we have waged an unsuccessful 40-year war on drugs. The criminal justice system should not be relied upon exclusively address a problem of public health. Yet the debate on criminalization/incarceration versus legalization is a simplistic one.
In California and around the country, possession of small quantities of marijuana and use already has been decriminalized. Congress abolished mandatory minimum sentencing at the federal level for marijuana and other drug offenses in 1970. States have followed suit by lowering penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana.
In 1975, California was one of the states to drastically reduce criminal penalties on possession, making personal possession of an ounce or less a misdemeanor (instead of a felony) with a maximum fine of $100 with convictions expunged from the record after two years.
In 2011, the penalty fell even more. Possession of one ounce or less of marijuana is now an infraction, punishable by a maximum $100 fine (plus fees) with no criminal record. Possession of larger amounts of marijuana is a misdemeanor with a fine up to $500 and six months in jail.
Under Proposition 36 previously passed, first and second time possession offenders may demand a treatment program instead of jail. Upon successful completion of the program, their convictions are erased. Possession (and personal use cultivation) offenders can also avoid conviction by making a pre-guilty plea, in which case their charges are dismissed upon successful completion of a diversion program.
According to studies by the Bureau of Justice, only one-tenth of one percent of people in state prisons nationwide are serving sentences for first-time marijuana possession. Only 1.4 percent of people are in jail for offenses involving only marijuana-related crimes.
Many of those who are charged for possession are pleading down from more serious charges, usually trafficking. Unless it is in the context of a parole or probation violation, virtually no one is serving prison time for using small amounts of marijuana.
The paradox is that based on our experience with alcohol, laws and regulations around legal marijuana could result in much higher costs to the criminal justice system. In 2009 alone, there were 2.7 million arrests from alcohol related violations, not including violent crime. These arrests came from public drunkenness, the violation of liquor laws such as drinking-age limits and driving while intoxicated.
There is a Middle Ground Short of Legalization
Proposition 64 isn’t a smart approach to marijuana.
There is a middle ground short of legalization that allows further research into marijuana’s medicinal properties, safe FDA-approved medicines developed from the cannabis plant and expanded access to medicines in FDA clinical trials for children with epilepsy and patients with other conditions.
In addition, improved prevention strategies, intervention and treatment methods have demonstrated effectiveness. Education about the health dangers of marijuana adolescent use is the key to increasing perceived risk. It has been estimated that for every dollar we invest in drug use prevention efforts, up to $10 is saved in treatment costs.
Finally, regarding prevention, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), an arm of the National Institutes of Health, has identified the primary risk and protective factors for adolescents. Risk factors include lack of parental supervision (which Be the Influence seeks to address), drug availability and easy access.
Protective factors include parental monitoring, strong parent-child bonding, good family communication skills and a family structure based on clear and consistent discipline.
DIPSEA CAFÉ AS A MARIJUANA DISPENSARY?
On the issue of availability and easy access, the owner of the Dipsea Café has submitted an application to convert his restaurant into a medical marijuana dispensary (which if recreational marijuana is legalized could presumably be converted into a recreational marijuana shop).
Licenses for a total of four medical dispensaries in unincorporated areas of Marin will be granted by the County. A total of 12 applications have been received, including five in the Tam Shoreline area. Unless residents organize, a dispensary is likely in this area. Needless to say, these locations are located near Tam High School, have easy access off 101 and are on the way to the beaches, a favorite destination of teens.
A medical cannabis advisory committee will review the applications against a set of criteria, including appropriateness of the location, in November and will conduct public hearings to hear from residents.
To stay informed as the process proceeds, go to
http://www.marincounty.org/main/medical-cannabis. Specific questions may be directed to program planner Inge Lundegaard at firstname.lastname@example.org. Concerns may be expressed to Supervisor Katie Sears at email@example.com, copying her aide, Maureen Parton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PARENTING TIPS ON MARIJUANA
For an exhaustive list of general parenting tips to help prevent teen alcohol, marijuana and other drug use contained in our August Welcome Newsletter, check out our blog at www.betheinfluencemarin.com. Here are additional marijuana parenting tips.
Know the Slang and Different Methods of Use
The slang is endless and the methods of using have diversified. From 420 to Tree and Kush and from Vaping to Dabbing and Wake and Bake – if you see these references in texts or instant messaging, chances are that your teen is using. For a complete list go to http://www.theweedblog.com/list-of-marijuana-slang-terms/ or https://www.ganjapreneur.com/marijuana-slang/.
Pay Attention to Signs of Use
It’s obvious your teen is using when you find marijuana paraphernalia (bongs, rolling papers), Visine and medical marijuana cards. But with vaping pens and edibles, marijuana use can be difficult to detect without the obvious odor. Dilated pupils are still a sign.
Other signs include grades slipping, friend groups changing, stopping playing sports or other activities and personality changing - teens become more irritable, negative and less approachable. The more your teen uses, the more you will see negative emotions and moodiness build up. You may see dramatic personality changes and personal relationships changing. However, needless to say, all of this can be confused with the normal ups and downs of adolescence.
Seek Help if Your Teen is a Regular or Chronic Heavy Marijuana User
- “My Kid Smokes Pot” Blog. Created by a Redwood parent, the website at https://mykidsmokespot.wordpress.com offers guidance once you become aware that your child is using marijuana and a list of tips and local resources.
- Huckleberry Youth Programs. For more information about this San Rafael organization, which offers alcohol, marijuana and other drug counseling, visit http://www.huckleberryyouth.org/. The Redwood Wellness Center partners with Huckleberry Youth Programs in San Rafael to offer drug counseling on campus. For more information go to http://www.tamdistrict.org/.
- Muir Wood Adolescent and Family Services. For more information go to http://www.muirwoodteen.com.
- Marin YMCA Youth Court Programs. Director Don Carney runs a program entitled “Skills for Managing the Risk Taking Years”. For a small donation to the Marin Youth Court, all Marin County teens are eligible attending the four-day Alcohol & Drug Prevention Safety Skills Training workshops. For more information, visit https://www.ymcasf.org/.
Offer Appropriate Information About Your Own Possible Past or Current Use
It is never wise to lie about any past or current drug use. Yet parents can be truthful while not offering “too much information” about or glorifying use. If asked, give an honest answer. With past use, explain that today’s marijuana is much more potent, and the neuroscience and effects on the developing teen brain were unknown back in your day. If you currently use as an adult, distinguish between the health effects on teens and on adults.
Model the Behavior You Want to See in Your Teen
Finally, your teen is watching you. Stories are rampant about Marin teens finding their parents’ “stashes” and dipping into them. It also goes without saying that never wise to exclaim, “I’ve had a stressful day” and then light up a joint!
Different policies apply for schools but generally, students at homecoming dances should be reminded that any students suspected of being under the influence of alcohol or other drugs may be given a breathalyzer or other sobriety test. They or their locker or vehicle may be searched. Bags and personal items may be checked upon entering dances.
Here are dates for upcoming dances at BTI schools
Tam: October 8 from 8-11 pm. Students must be picked up by 11:30 pm or else lose their privileges to attend the next dance.
Redwood: October 22 from 8-11 pm. Students also must be picked up by 11:30 pm or else lose privileges.
(Marin Catholic and Drake had their Homecoming Dances on September 24th and Branson and San Domenico do not hold them.)
For parenting tips on dances, see our August 2016 Newsletter discussing the Redwood Back to School Dance at http://www.redwoodptsa.org/.
YOUR TEEN AND HALLOWEEN!
A little extra parental vigilance will go a long way in ensuring there are more treats
than tricks this Halloween.
- Establish Check-Ins. Establish clear rules for the evening in advance, including check-ins, especially if a party or sleepover is part of the plan. Use our BTI Parent List to contact any parents hosting gatherings and sleepovers.
- Observe Local Laws. Remember that local curfew laws in Marin for teens under 18 years old are 11 pm. The CHP strictly enforces this curfew, as well as provisional license restrictions. Social Host Ordinances are also strictly enforced by local police.
- Trick or Treat? Consider checking backpacks and Halloween bags for alcohol and weed. Also, be vigilant about marijuana-laced candy, chocolates and lollipops. If the treat doesn’t have a recognizable label or is a brand you know, check it closely. Some, but not all, have an odor (though not as strong as a bag of marijuana). Hopefully, your teen will come home smelling of nothing more than shaving cream!
- Leave the Red Solo Cup at Home! Finally, if you are out tricking or treating with younger kids, or are at home or at a party, remember that our kids and teens are watching us and our Halloween consumption as well. Consider the behavior that you are modeling for what is supposed to be a kid-centric event - not that adults can’t have fun too!
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES ON MARIJUANA
Websites of the Month:
- California Association of Addiction Medicine (CSAM) at www.csam-asam.org/evidence-based-marijuana-information. This website contains a wealth of scientific information, much of it written by Timmen Cermak, MD, an addiction specialist in Mill Valley and former President of CSAM.
- Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM). This organization, founded by former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, rejects the false dichotomy of marijuana being either about legalizing or locking up and instead treats marijuana as a public health issue. For more information, go to http://learnaboutsam.org
- Blog created by Redwood Parent. https://mykidsmokespot
- “The Marijuana Report” Newsletter from National Families In Action & Partners. Subscribe by going to http://themarijuanareport.org/
Reads of the Month
- “Marijuana: What's a Parent to Believe?” by Timmen Cermak, MD, contains valuable information about the effects of alcohol and marijuana on the developing teen brain.
- “Reefer Sanity: Seven Great Myths about Marijuana” by Kevin Sabet, Ph.D is relevant to the debate about legalization.
Parent Education Videos of the Month