Thursday, December 19, 2013

Marijuana and It’s Harm to Youth

Health officials are concerned that the trend toward legalizing marijuana for medical and recreational use sends the wrong message to those who are most vulnerable to its effects: children whose bodies and minds are still developing.  Even in states where recreational use of marijuana has been legalized by voter referendum, its use is legal only for adults over age 21. Nowhere is smoking weed legal for children or considered safe for use by youth, but that's not the message they are getting.

Decreased Perception of Harm
·         Initially, the message teens were receiving was, "If it's medicine, it must be okay."
·         More recently, the message is, "If it's legal, it must be safe." 
·         The National Institute for Drug Abuse's annual Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey show that teens' perception of marijuana's harmfulness has gradually decreased over the years, which usually signals future increases in use among youth. 
·         In the most recent MTF survey, only 41.7% of eighth graders see occasional use of marijuana as harmful. As they grow older, that percentage decreases: only 20.6 percent of 12th graders see occasional use of weed as harmful.

Not a Very Good Message
·         As more and more states make medical marijuana use legal and more make recreational use legal, teen perception of the harm it can cause is diminished. 
·         "We are certainly not sending a very good message when we call it medicine and legalize it," said R. Gil Kerlikowske, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Easing Access and Attitudes Leads to More Drug Use by Youth
·         Usage rates among youths age 12-17 were higher in “medical marijuana” states (8.6%) vs. other states (6.9%).  (2011 Wall, M.) 
·         80% of “medical marijuana” states reported increased usage among you 12-17 vs. five years earlier in the 2009-2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. 
·         Residents of states with “medical marijuana” laws had abuse/dependence rates almost twice that of other states.  (2012 Cerda, M.) 
·         Teen past-month heavy marijuana users are more likely than teens who’ve not used in the past year to abuse cocaine (30x), Ecstasy (20x), prescription pain relievers (15x) and over the counter medicines (14x).  (2012 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study) 

Chronic Youth Marijuana Use Can Stunt Long-term Educational Potential
·         Marijuana use negatively effects motivation, memory and learning.  (2011 NIH, National Institute on Drug Abuse)
·         Substance use, especially marijuana, contributed to college students skipping more classes, spending less time studying, earning lower grades, dropping out of college and being unemployed after college.  (2013 University of Maryland School of Public Health)
·         Persistent marijuana use during adolescence can cause a long-term 8-point drop in IQ, and harm attention span and memory.  Virtually every brain function was impaired, and quitting or cutting back did not fully eliminate IQ loss. (2012 Dunedin Study, Duke University)
Medical Marijuana States Report Undesirable Effects
·         Colorado drug related school suspensions and expulsions increased 41% from 2008-2009 to 2011-2012.  (2012 Colorado Department of Education)
·         Colorado teens use marijuana at a higher rate (10.72%) vs. the rest of the nation (7.64%).  (2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health)
·         74% of Denver teens in substance abuse treatment used someone else’s medical marijuana.  11.6% of Arizona high school users were supplied by a medical marijuana user.  (2012 Salomonsen-Sautel, et al. and Arizona Criminal Justice Commission)
·         Marijuana related exposures for young Colorado children 0-5 rose 200% in four years.  (2011 Rocky Mountain Poison Center)
The National Legalization Movement Resembles Big Tobacco
·         Once legal, as evidenced in Colorado and Washington State, industry advertising to promote addiction and target kids is inevitable.  (2013 Smart Approaches to Marijuana)
The consensus of science does not support the legalization of crude marijuana for smoking or any other form of consumption, due to its many health and public safety hazards that cause harm to the youth of Iowa.  Rigorous federal research and development of individual components of cannabis should be pursued with vigor to produce safe and effective science based medicines for use with physician and pharmacy oversight to treat those with valid medical needs, similar to other medicines currently being studied or already authorized by the FDA.  For more information on the dangers of marijuana for youth please contact the Van Buren County SAFE Coalition at 319-293-6412 or at

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