Massachusetts is embarking on a new frontier with the legalization of medical marijuana. It has been voted in and will be a “landscape changer” for the Commonwealth. There is work being done to insure that the regulations for dispensing are clear. It is important to distinguish between the medical use of marijuana and recreational use however.
In a recent New Yorker magazine article President Obama was quoted as saying that the does not think pot is more dangerous than alcohol, stating it is indeed a bad habit and vice, but not significantly different than cigarettes. His comments appear to contradict what we know from research, science and the policy recommendations against the legalization of marijuana. Regular marijuana use has risks for adolescents and adults. One in six adolescents who use pot will develop addiction. More than 6% of adolescents surveyed report daily marijuana use. There are numerous studies that indicate cognitive changes in adolescents, interference with learning and memory. We very definitely know that the sensitively developing teen brain is extremely vulnerable to marijuana use. With legalization of any substance we know greater availability leads to increased use.
So what can we do? As caring adults we must inform ourselves of the science and data. We must not be naïve and consider alcohol or drug use as a “teen rite of passage”. We should build strong community coalitions that are united in delivering positive messages that tell the facts accurately. It is our responsibility to be positive role models. And, we should clearly use our “Adult Voices of Wisdom”, speak the truth respectfully to our teens and tell them what we know, what we want for them and what our expectations are. There is power in our collective voice, shared message. Caring communities demonstrate an understanding of the science, the facts and hold our developing teens close as we help them navigate from adolescence to adulthood.