Posted on April 18, 2014 | No Comments
by Linda Herman, LMHC
The horse is out of the barn in Washington State. Our politicians, many drug enforcement folks and citizens alike are happy that we have made recreational marijuana legal. Our first pot stores are set to open in July. What that will do to the illegal pot trade remains to be seen. The hope is that it will undermine street selling of cannabis. Another nearly certain hope is that the new law generates loads of money for the state. Colorado, according to CBS (www.cbsnews.com/…/cannabis-a-multi-million-dollar-tax-win…) collected a total of $3.5 million dollars for the month of January in licenses, taxes and fees for the marijuana industry.
But not everyone is getting a high from the anticipation of our new growth industry. Kathryn Russell Selk has written a compelling article for Parentmap.com: “Primed for Abuse? A Parent’s Guide to Raising Kids in the New Pot State”. (www.parentmap.com/article/primed-for-abuse-a-parents-guide-toraising-kids-in-the…) In her balanced piece, she addressed the “basics” of the new law, parental concerns, and suggestions for how parents can talk to their kids about pot and the new state rules.
Here is some of what she tells us.
The Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) plans to hold a tight reign with their new marijuana regulation system. Stores cannot be within 1,000 feet of elementary or secondary schools and playgrounds. Products cannot be visible from the street and store size is limited, as is the size of signs. Labeling and packaging rules will be strict e.g. no cartoons on the packages. Packages will be child-resistant. (How they will do that with edibles, like brownies, cookies and candy is not clear to me.)
She recommends that ALL families “have the talk” about pot and the state’s new rules. She cites a Washington State Healthy Youth Survey which showed the danger for families not having conversations and setting clear expectations about pot use. In such families, children were almost three times more likely to try pot by grade 8, and three times more likely to be “frequent users” by the 10th grade. In the same survey, children of parents with “favorable attitudes” were five times more likely to have used pot by grade 8, and eight times more likely to be “frequent” users.
Ms. Selk quotes Dr. Leslie Walker of the University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Hospital, who tells parents to talk about pot use, their concerns and the law, not just once but throughout their various growth stages.
Ms. Selk also points to the growing evidence that brain development is affected by THC, the active chemical in marijuana. For example, the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Drug Abuse cites negative effects on attention, motivation, memory and learning. But the effects don’t stop there. Fox News Health (4/15/14) just cited new research findings from Northwestern University that young adults in their study who use cannabis just once or twice a week have significant abnormalities in two brain regions—those responsible for processing emotions, making decisions and motivation.
So, what do we conclude from this? The horse (of liberalized pot laws) may indeed be out of the barn. But that doesn’t mean we let it roam freely. In fact, we have all the more reason to be careful of the messages we send to our children and grandchildren about the grand new era into which our state has ventured.