Following passage of Initiative 502, which partially legalized marijuana posession under state law, the Mercer Island Communities That Care Coalition (CTC) announced it will increase its focus on preventing youth from using marijuana.
Local residents already familiar with the "Most of Us" posters around Mercer Island parks and schools will now notice new posters popping up around town specifically targeting marijuana use by local teens. Now entering its seventh year, the MICTC says it is concerned about legalization of marijuana as contributing to an increase in underage marijuana use on Mercer Island.
Mercer Island voters overwhelmingly supported I-502, 61-39, which makes it legal for a person older than 21 to possess a small amount of pot for personal use.
Bucking increasing national trends, underage marijuana use on the Island remained mostly unchanged from 2009 to 2011. During that period, 16% of 6th - 12th graders report ever using the drug (MOST Of Us Youth Survey). However, CTC staff is concerned that legalization will increase underage use rates.
"Although marijuana remains illegal for youth under legalization, it will likely become easier for youth to obtain. Also, legalization sends a message of social acceptability that will be difficult to counter," says CTC Project Director Derek Franklin. Franklin manages the CTC under his role as an Administrative Manager in the city's Youth and Family Services Department.
To address the impact of legalization, CTC is increasing its focus on marijuana education, social norms messaging, and is in discussions with the Mercer Island School District about marijuana education for youth and parents.
Here's a handy "Top 10" of answers to the most frequently-asked questions about marijuana after the passage of I-502:
- Marijuana and marijuana-infused products are legal for adults over 21, but not smoked or opened (container) in public view.
- It is currently not legal to purchase marijuana--marijuana stores are scheduled to be licensed and open by December 2013 where marijuana will be sold exclusively.
- All forms of marijuana and marijuana-infused products remains illegal for youth under age 21.
- "Marijuana infused products" include candy, brownies (baked goods), sauces, oils, beverages, etc.
- It remains illegal to provide marijuana to minors.
- Driving under the influence of drugs (including marijuana) (DUID) is illegal.
- There is zero tolerance for minors driving under the influence of marijuana.
- Marijuana is addictive -- 1 in 6 youth who ever use it become dependent (1 in 9 adults).
- A recent study by Duke University finds that heavy marijuana use as a teen can result in a permanent loss of up to eight IQ points even after prolonged periods of abstinence (the study finding is cited prominently on the new posters).
- Marijuana obtained from "Green Card" holders is not safer or less harmful.
The Seattle Police Department also issued a series of FAQs following the election, and an excerpt of the guide can be found here.
"In spite of the challenge presented by marijuana legalization, CTC remains positive and hopeful that efforts will continue to help keep Island youth drug free," says Franklin.
For additional information about CTC, contact Franklin at 206-275-7745 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
With concerns about a child or family member dealing with marijuana misuse or dependence, contact Youth and Family Services drug and alcohol counselor Chris Harnish at 206-236-3363 or email@example.com.
Here's more marijuana legalization/I-502 coverage on Mercer Island Patch:
- State Superintendent Issues Statement on Marijuana
- How did Mercer Island Vote in the 2012 Election?
- Letter: Mayor Urges Community to Guard Against Underage Marijuana Use After Voters Approve I-502
- Marijwhatnow? Your Guide to Legal Pot Use From the Seattle Police Department
- State Liquor Board to "Carry Out the Will of the Voters" on Marijuana Initiative
- Bringing in the Green: Projected Tax Revenue if Marijuana Legislation Passes
(Ed. Note: The information in the article was taken from a city of Mercer Island news release. Mercer Island Patch is also a member of the MICTC.)