Friday, July 31, 2015

How to unleash the power of prevention

Essential reading for people interested in preventing mental health problems, youth substance use, risky driving behaviors, aggressive and delinquent behaviors, adolescent violence, and self-inflicted injury:

Unleashing the Power of Prevention and A Challenge to Unleash the Power of Prevention, both released last month by the Institute of Medicine. 

The first article starts with: Every day across America, behavioral health problems in childhood and adolescence, from anxiety to violence, take a heavy toll on millions of lives. For decades the approach to these problems has been to treat them only after they’ve been identified—at a high and ongoing cost to young people, families, entire communities, and our nation. Now we have a 30-year body of research and more than 50 programs showing that behavioral health problems can be prevented. This critical mass of prevention science is converging with growing interest in prevention across health care, education, child psychiatry, child welfare, and juvenile justice. Together, we stand at the threshold of a new age of prevention. The challenge now is to mobilize across disciplines and communities to unleash the power of prevention on a nationwide scale.

Monday, July 27, 2015

What current research says about teen marijuana use

The August 2015 Journal of Adolescent Health includes four articles about teen marijuana use.

Conclusion: Results support a growing body of work suggesting that frequent marijuana use (six or more times in the past 30 days) predicts a lower likelihood of post secondary educational attainment, and this difference may originate during secondary school.

Conclusion: Adolescents have learned from multiple sources about risks of using cigarettes, but they receive much less and often incorrect information regarding marijuana and e-cigarettes, likely resulting in their positive and often ambivalent perceptions of marijuana and e-cigarettes.

Conclusion: Substance use recently declined among high school seniors, except for marijuana use, particularly among black youth. The increasing association between marijuana and other substances among black adolescents suggests further amplification in critical health disparities.

Conclusion: This study is the first to provide nationally representative data on three groups of adolescent marijuana users. Although most adolescents (who use marijuana) use illicit sources, more adolescents (who use marijuana) appear to be using diverted medical marijuana, than using medical marijuana legally.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

New WA marijuana legislation & its impact on local youth

During this year's state legislative session, two bills were adopted that make changes to the marijuana systems in Washington. Below is a summary as they relate to youth in NE Seattle.

Cannabis Patient Protection Act (5052)
  • Eliminates medical marijuana businesses.
  • Requires the newly re-named Liquor & Cannabis Board (LCB) to increase the number of marijuana retail licenses they issue.
  • Creates a voluntary medical marijuana registry. Those who register as medical marijuana users are exempt from the marijuana excise tax. With a medical marijuana authorization card, people can possess more marijuana than they can without one.

Comprehensive Marijuana Market Reforms (2136)
  • Permits local jurisdictions to reduce the buffer between marijuana businesses and community centers, transit centers, libraries, arcades, and child care centers from 1,000 feet to 100 feet. The 1,000 foot buffer between schools and marijuana businesses remains.
  • Allows retailers to have an additional sign identifying their business and trade name.
  • Prohibits consumption in a "public place" instead of "in view of the public".
  • Eliminates the 25% excise taxes on marijuana producers (growers) and processors and increases the excise tax on retail marijuana sales to 37%.
  • Provides some marijuana tax revenue to local jurisdictions based on retail sales and population.

Local Impact
  • More businesses: LCB likely will increase the number of marijuana business licenses for Seattle.
  • Smaller buffer zones: The City Council likely will reduce the 1,000 foot buffer between marijuana businesses and places where children frequently congregate.
  • Business clusters: Since most of Seattle is zoned as single family residential, which is off-limits for any marijuana business, marijuana businesses likely will continue to be clustered along large arterials and in only certain areas of the city.
  • Businesses in a few neighborhoods: In NE Seattle, areas that could see more marijuana businesses include the University District, Lake City, Northgate, and Jackson Park.
  • Continued public use: Since most tickets for using marijuana in public are given to people in the greater Downtown area, the public use definition change likely will have little impact on NE Seattle. It is unclear if the public place definition will change enforcement of the law during festivals like Hempfest.

What Prevention Science Tells Us
  • Research has repeatedly shown that the more places that sell alcohol, tobacco, and fast food in a community the more likely teenagers are to consume those products.
  • Research has repeatedly shown that taxes on cigarettes and alcohol decrease youth use of those products.
  • Substance use prevention coalitions are proven to reduce population-level adolescent drug use rates. This is especially true when schools that are part of coalitions implement evidence-based curricula, such as Life Skills Training and Project Alert.
  • Most teenagers who use alcohol and marijuana report getting the drugs socially, mostly from friends. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Encouraging parents to talk to their kids about marijuana

The Washington Poison Center continues to report increased "exposures" to marijuana among teenagers. In other words, kids continue to gain access to marijuana and report adverse health effects.

That's why it is particularly important for parents to talk to their children about not using marijuana. To help parents, Prevention WINS and other coalitions in the Seattle area have been conducting an awareness campaign with billboards and transit ads featuring doctors from Seattle Children's Hospital.

This one, featuring Dr. Glen Tamura, appears at the corner of Lake City Way and NE 95th Street.

The billboards direct parents to visit Parenting guides are also available through the ADAI Clearinghouse.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Learn about impact of alcohol retail outlets on teen health

Learn more about community strategies for preventing youth drug use through a free webinar:

July 23, 2015
11:00 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

Learn from policy experts about the impact of high concentrations of alcohol retail establishments on community health, evidence-based practices to control the density of these establishments, and measures that communities can take to reduce negative impacts of existing outlets. Hear about grassroots community work in establishing and enforcing restrictions. 

Register here

Friday, May 15, 2015

WA Attorney General asks Liquor Control Board to ban flavored marijuana products

Last December, the Prevention WINS coalition sent a letter to the WA Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) reiterating our advice included in a June 2013 letter to ban marijuana products that are fruit and candy flavored. Our December 2014 letter said:

To treat marijuana as a public health issue, not a criminal justice issue, public health research on other products that are harmful to minors should be heeded.  Public health experts have found that fruit-flavored alcohol and tobacco products are popular among underage users.  

Fruit-flavored alcohol products are marketed to and popular among youth. 

Fruit and candy flavored cigarettes are banned by the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention Tobacco Control Act.

Public health officials recently recommended that the Food and Drug Administration prohibit flavors in all tobacco products, not just cigarettes.   They cite “scientific evidence on flavored tobacco and its relationship with initiation and maintenance of tobacco use among youth and young adults.”  

To avoid similar public health problems associated with sweet-flavored marijuana products, Washington has the unique opportunity to protect child and adolescent health by strictly regulating marijuana before the industry is fully formed.  It will be much more difficult to do so in the future, as is evident by current public health efforts to more tightly regulate tobacco and alcohol products that have been legal for a long time.  

On May 6, the WA Attorney General's Office sent a letter to the WSLCB reiterating their similar comments. They referred to comments they, too, made in December that included:

Congress banned most flavored cigarettes -- an obviously non-edible product -- precisely because research showed that these products were especially appealing to children. The issue paper also refers to emerging research regarding youth-appealing flavored electronic cigarettes -- another non-edible category of product. 

As we understand it, WAC 314-55-077 empowers the WSLCB to prohibit only marijuana-infused products that are especially appealing to children. Because flavored usable marijuana and flavored marijuana concentrates are potentially especially appealing to children, these categories of products likewise should be subject to the WSLCB's authority under WAC 314-55-077. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

New campaign urges parents to talk to kids about marijuana

Recently, University of Washington researchers found that only 57 percent of Washington parents in a survey knew the legal age for recreational pot use.  

A new campaign to educate parents about the law and the importance of talking to children about marijuana recently was launched by Prevention WINS, the PEACE Coalition, and other stakeholders in Seattle. Three physicians from Seattle Children’s Hospital are featured in the campaign. With an increase in the number of Poison Center calls for teenagers who have consumed too much marijuana, physicians are particularly concerned.  

Parents are the number one influence on children, even in their teen years, so it’s important to know the law when talking to children about it. Research also shows that it is important for adults to help children develop the social and emotional skills needed to avoid drug use. For more than 20 years prevention programs have rejected scare tactics and have been providing parents with advice about promoting healthy decision-making among teenagers. With mixed messages children are receiving about risks associated with teenagers using marijuana, these parenting skills are more important than ever.  

For the record, it is legal only for people 21 years old and above to use marijuana in Washington.  
What else do parents and teenagers need to know about the law?

Legal products include foods and beverages with marijuana in them.Some of these products may be attractive to youth and mistaken for common food and beverages. Examples include candy, soft drinks, and baked-goods.

It is illegal for people under 21 to drive under the influence of any amount of marijuana.  

The new law allows marijuana advertising. Be aware of marijuana advertising that your child is exposed to online, in magazines and newspapers, and in the community. Talk about the ads and the messages they send, especially if ads use images of young adults. Use these talks to stress your family rules about not using drugs, including marijuana.

It is illegal for adults to provide marijuana to people under the age of 21, including parents giving their own children marijuana (unless they have a medical marijuana authorization.)  

It is illegal to grow marijuana at home unless a medical marijuana authorization is obtained.  

It is illegal to consume (smoke, eat, drink) marijuana products in public.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Black market marijuana continues to be avaiable to teenagers

Black market marijuana costs one-third as much as marijuana sold in legal (I-502) stores, according to an article appearing in today's Seattle Times.  "State Liquor Control Board (LCB) Director Rick Garza acknowledged a black market for marijuana likely will remain even after a system overhaul.  Garza assumes about 25 percent of the state's current black market is considered to be people under 21 who aren't allowed to buy recreational marijuana legally."

Black market marijuana is largely shared or sold to high school students by their friends.  Results from the 2012 Seattle Public School Youth Risk Behavior Survey show that almost 70% of high school students who use marijuana get it from friends.  

Black market marijuana in Washington is largely grown in Washington. So much is grown locally, Washington weed is sold throughout the United States. 

To eliminate the black market, Washington and local jurisdictions can invest in substance use prevention to reduce demand and enforce laws to reduce supply.  Changing the medical marijuana system will help reduce a significant portion of the supply to underage users, but not as much as investing in methods for preventing youth marijuana access and use for which coalitions like Prevention WINS have been advocating for long before state voters approved I-502.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Seattle Schools: Most drug disciplinary actions involve marijuana

Last night, KOMO broadcast a story about marijuana-related disciplinary incidents among Seattle students so far this school year.

While school administrators mostly confiscate smoked marijuana from students, they are increasingly confiscating marijuana-infused foods and beverages as they learn to differentiate them from regular foods.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

NE Seattle adults encouraged to Mind Your Meds

The Prevention WINS coalition is launching a Mind Your Meds campaign with NE Seattle middle and high schools sending fact sheets home with report cards.  The campaign encourages adults to lock up medications as a way to prevent prescription drug abuse among teenagers. 

While less than 10% of NE Seattle middle and high school students report abusing prescription drugs, the rates of abuse steadily increased among 8th and 10th graders since 2008. The Prevention WINS coalition is particularly concerned about this trend considering potential health consequences related with prescription drug abuse. 

Percent of students reporting abusing prescription drugs, Washington State Healthy Youth Survey

Learn more about the Mind Your Meds campaign and what you can do to prevent teen medicine abuse! View and share short clips on the Prevention WINS YouTube page about what NE Seattle parents can do.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Pediatricians recommend strict enforcement of marijuana laws

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released an updated policy statement about marijuana laws on Monday.  One of their recommendations says: 

In states that have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes, the AAP strongly recommends strict enforcement of rules and regulation that limit access and marketing and advertising to youth.

In our state, the recreational (I-502) marijuana rules and regulations that are meant to limit access, marketing, and advertising are only effective if they are enforcedMany policies are based on research conducted on limiting access, marketing, and advertising for alcohol and tobacco.  

One proven way to limit access is to limit the number of stores in a community.  A few bills introduced to the state legislature this session would increase the number of marijuana stores allowed in communities.  Current rules prohibit stores from being 1,000 feet from schools, community centers, and other places young people frequent.  The legislature is considering bills that would reduce this buffer to allow for more marijuana shops. Rules that limit underage access to marijuana not only need to be enforced, they need to be maintained, not made weaker.  

Board of Health urges legislature to align medical and recreational marijuana regulations

Last week, the Washington Poison and Drug Information Center reported a record number of marijuana exposures in Washington State since before recreational marijuana was legalized in 2012.  The majority of calls occurred within the 13 to 19 age range quickly followed by the 20 to 29 age group.  The majority of exposures were a result of intentional abuse in ages 13 and older followed by unintentional, unsupervised ingestion. 

Marijuana products implicated in these exposures included but were not limited to marijuana chocolate bars, brownies, butane hash oil, marijuana-infused drinks, and marijuana gummy bears.  

To address the problem of child and teen exposure to these kinds of marijuana products, the King County Board of Health asked the state legislature for help.  A resolution was adopted during their January meeting that states, in part: 

Whereas, twenty percent of all marijuana-related calls to the Washington Poison Center involved children in King County . . .

Whereas, many edible marijuana products available in medical marijuana dispensaries are designed, packaged and advertised in ways that are attractive to youth, including the development of products such as candies, cookies, chocolates and soda and other sugary drinks . . . 

Whereas, medical dispensaries are not required to ascertain the age of consumers . . .

Whereas, legalization of marijuana for adult use in Washington state may have made access to marijuana easier for people of all ages, including access to edible marijuana products . . . 

The Board of Health calls on the Washington state Legislature to ensure that the marijuana industry in Washington state properly safeguards the health and safety of our children and youth, and to align regulation of the medical marijuana industry with the recreational marijuana market in order to provide an equal level of protection to children and youth in both industries.

Friday, January 23, 2015

What's going on with King County's medicine return program?

When the state legislature failed to pass bills that would establish a statewide medicine return program two years in a row, Prevention WINS joined other substance abuse prevention, healthcare, and environmental organizations to advocate for a program in King County.  Medicine return programs are part of a multi-pronged strategy for preventing prescription drug abuse among teenagers by reducing access to the drugs in homes.

In 2013, the King County Board of Health adopted a secure medicine return program despite threats by drug manufacturers, who would be responsible for the program, of a lawsuit.  Drug companies filed a lawsuit against King County a few months after the policy was adopted.  They had already filed a lawsuit against Alameda County in California which adopted a similar policy in 2012. The drug manufacturers claim that the policy violates the United States Constitution. 

In 2014, a federal appeals court disagreed with the drug manufacturers who are now appealing to the Supreme Court.  The lawsuit against King County is on hold until a final court decision is made in the Alameda County case.  In the meantime, King County is moving forward with the implementation process which will lead to medicine return drop boxes in all pharmacies in the county. 

Teen drug abuse is a community problem that requires prevention activities conducted by multiple organizations.  Like schools implementing prevention programs, parents monitoring the medications in their homes, police hosting regular medicine take-back days, and physicians using the Prescription Monitoring Program, drug manufacturers can play a key role by running take-back programs. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Juvenile justice holds kids accountable

When Prevention WINS members talk about the need to enforce laws dealing with minors in possession of drugs and alcohol, some community members are alarmed and think that the coalition wants to put teenagers in jail.  This couldn't be farther from the truth.  King County has a robust juvenile diversion program that diverts teenagers from jail and into programs meant to help them.

In the video below, a King County Prosecutor talks about the diversion program and about how it has reduced the number of juveniles in detention facilities.

He notes that "the vast majority, if not all" of teenagers who come into contact with the juvenile justice system have a substance abuse problem.  This is another reason why substance use prevention programs targeting middle school students are so important.  It is also why policies that limit youth access to drugs and therefore prevent youth use of those drugs is important.  Preventing youth substance use can prevent juvenile crime.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Medical marijuana products at school

Cannabis Quencher Strawberry Lemonade was confiscated from a high school student by Seattle Public Schools staff earlier this month.  District staff shared photos:
This product was likely sold as medical marijuana since the label does not meet Liquor Control Board standards for recreational marijuana products.  If sold as recreational marijuana and regulated by the Liquor Control Board it would contain 8 servings.  (1 serving = 10 mg of THC)  

Board of Health urged to ban marijuana edibles that appeal to children and teenagers

Several Seattle community members testified before the King County Board of Health last week asking that they ban medical marijuana edibles that are attractive to children and teenagers.  They spoke about the many medical marijuana stores in their communities, a spike in marijuana poisonings in our state, and provided personal stories about losing a child to drugs.

The Board of Health was also briefed about the implementation of the secure medicine return program which was adopted in 2013 as a way to reduce prescription drug abuse among teenagers.  The program is moving forward despite pharmaceutical companies suing the county in an effort to block it.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Easy access to medical marijuana among teenagers

On Saturday, the Seattle Times published two pieces about the unregulated medical marijuana system in our state and how it plays out in Seattle.  

"How I learned it's ridiculously easy to buy pot at medical marijuana dispensaries without a 'green card'" is written by a reporter who, apparently, looks young for her age.  After easily purchasing fruit-flavored strains of marijuana in two out of three medical marijuana dispensaries without showing ID or an authorization, she wonders, "Why did these guys have to make it so easy, especially if they thought I looked too young? What if I were an underage kid?"  

Prevention WINS coalition members representing schools, parents, juvenile probation, and drug counselors have been reporting how easy it is for teenagers to get medical marijuana for a few years.  This became especially true once Seattle started licensing medical marijuana dispensaries as businesses and they started popping up along north Seattle arterial roads like Lake City Way and Aurora.  One student at a north end high school was caught many times sharing and selling medical marijuana to friends that he bought from a nearby dispensary.  Five students from another high school required medical attention after eating high potency medical marijuana edibles last year.  A middle school drug counselor complained to police about students coming to school with marijuana they purchased at a medical marijuana dispensary on Rainier Avenue.  All of these reports were apparently ignored by public officials.

An accompanying editorial, "Unregulated medical-marijuana market is creating a hazy future", calls on the City of Seattle and the state legislature to do something about medical marijuana.  They state that there is "no excuse to ignore existing authority, including criminal charges against black-market dealers masquerading as dispensaries."

Monday, December 1, 2014

Mayor prepares to make zoning recommendations for medical marijuana businesses

During the medical marijuana symposium hosted by the Mayor's Office last month, the Seattle Department of Planning and Development shared maps of possible scenarios for medical marijuana business zoning.

Two possible scenarios would create 500 foot buffer zones between medical marijuana businesses and places where children congregate including schools, playgrounds, daycare centers, parks, and libraries.  One of those scenarios measures the buffer zones according to "how the crow flies" and one according to "common path of travel" - the shortest walking distance.  This is what the two scenarios look like in NE Seattle:

As the Crow Flies
Yellow = estimated areas for medical marijuana businesses
Gray & pink = medical marijuana businesses not allowed
Red dots = existing medical marijuana businesses
Green dots: existing medical marijuana businesses that would be allowed

Common Path of Travel

If the City decides to use a 500 foot buffer, instead of the 1,000 foot buffer required "as the crow flies" around recreational marijuana businesses, city-wide187 (as the crow flies) or 210 (common path of travel) medical marijuana businesses would potentially be allowed to remain open.  This is in addition to 21 recreational marijuana retailers and an unknown amount of recreational marijuana growers and processors in Seattle.  

Marijuana business density is of concern for teen drug use prevention efforts because research has repeatedly shown that teens who live in communities with many tobacco and alcohol businesses have high rates of tobacco and alcohol use.  A study recently published in the journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence found that "higher total density of medical marijuana dispensaries was related to greater likelihood of past year use of marijuana."  In other words, the more available a drug is, the higher use rates are.  

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

"Marijuana Mess"

City Attorney Pete Holmes, Reverend Harriett Walden, and City Councilmember Nick Licata recently appeared on City Inside/Out and discussed the medical and recreational marijuana systems in Seattle.

Councilmember Licata said that if the state legislature does not "fix" the medical marijuana law, Seattle likely will have to shut down marijuana dispensaries.

He noted that legal and regulated alcohol is more abused than marijuana and suggested that perhaps alcohol stores should not be located near churches if people disapprove of marijuana stores near churches.

When it comes to the illegal use of marijuana in public, the councilmember encouraged people to complain by calling 911 and asking for a quick response.  He stated that minors should not go to jail for alcohol and marijuana violations which echoes long-time city and county policy that refers minors to a diversion program, not jail.