Monday, September 30, 2013

Enforcement of laws part of a comprehensive drug prevention strategy

Today’s Seattle Times article, “Downtown street offenses going unpunished”, reflects what Prevention WINS members have been struggling with since 2007.  While the article focuses on downtown crime, a similar situation exists in NE Seattle when it comes to the enforcement of underage drinking and marijuana use laws. 

The Times’ articles starts:

Tova Hornung was walking past Westlake Park downtown this summer when she saw a large group of young people with pit bulls and skateboards, smoking pot. One young man started swinging his skateboard as she passed, threatening another when he wouldn’t share his dope.

Hornung, who lives in Seattle, approached a group of bicycle police officers nearby and asked, “Why aren’t you doing anything? Isn’t there a law?”

“No,” she said she was told by the officers. “There’s nothing we can do.”

Underage marijuana use is illegal.  Smoking pot in public is also illegal.  At the very least, warnings could have been given, in line with stated police policy.  (Police are to give people who use pot in view of the public a warning first and, if the warning is not heeded, tickets are to be given.)  But, then again, marijuana remains the lowest priority for police enforcement in Seattle. 

Enforcement of minor in possession laws
In 2007, Prevention WINS surveyed North Precinct police about underage drinking and law enforcement.  The survey results indicated that while police think underage drinking is a problem in NE Seattle, they felt that “top law enforcement officials” were not very supportive of the enforcement of underage alcohol violations.  They cited the apparent lack of consequences and follow-up to their efforts as a primary reason for not enforcing underage drinking laws more vigorously.* 

In the Times’ article, Mayor McGinn seems to support the police point of view:

“I think what has been going on, quite bluntly, our officers are not going to write tickets if there’s no ultimate consequence for writing the ticket. That’s just not a good use of their time,” McGinn said when asked what direction he gives police about law enforcement downtown.

Community laws & norms favorable to drug use
In August, I blogged about the significant increase in the adolescent substance abuse risk factor “community laws and norms favorable toward drug use”.  One of the main components of that risk factor is the non-enforcement of laws.  It turns out that this may not be unique to NE Seattle.  

A multi-faceted prevention strategy is most effective
In the Times' article, the Mayor notes that previous "enforcement-only" approaches have not worked.  Youth substance abuse prevention advocates know this well.  Multiple solutions that are implemented at the same time are the most effective way to prevent a community problem. Every community member has a role to play.

In NE Seattle, Prevention WINS coalition members and associated organizations are doing multiple things to prevent underage drinking and marijuana use.  Evidence-based substance abuse prevention programs for students and parents are implemented at Eckstein Middle School.  Middle and high school students conduct prevention activities in their schools.  A social marketing campaign urging parents to monitor their teenage children started two years ago.  But as community laws and norms become more favorable toward drug use, community institutions such as Seattle Police, City Council, Mayor, and City Attorney need to step up to the plate and play their role, as well. 

* Please note that when police cite underage consumers with minor in possession violations, kids are not put in jail.  In Seattle they are not even brought to the police precinct.  Minor in possession cases are referred to a county diversion program.  No criminal record is established.  In fact, the criminal justice system is one important way that youth who need help with drug problems are linked to the help they need.

Update: According to an October 4 Seattle Times article, minors using and dealing marijuana at Westlake Park is an ongoing problem.

In an August letter sent to Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and members of the Seattle City Council, William Mackay — a resident of the Seaboard Building and president of Friends of Westlake — urged officials to permanently assign police officers to Westlake Park, citing the alleged attack on the security guard. According to his letter, a gang of 20 to 30 young people have taken over the southern section of the park, where they remain all day with their dogs and possessions, selling and smoking marijuana.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Minors make up 24% of the current marijuana market

The average marijuana user consumes about 123 joints per year, according to an article in today's Seattle Times.  While the article discusses consumption data which the Liquor Control Board is using to determine what the new commercial marijuana market will look like, it does not provide a complete picture of who is currently using marijuana.

According to the Liquor Control Board, 24% of current marijuana users are under the age of 21.

For those 24%, the law that concerns them is not changing and they likely will continue to get marijuana the way they currently get marijuana: socially.  Virtually none of the proposed Liquor Control Board rules address preventing social distribution to minors.  Rules and already established laws that do address social distribution continue to rely on local police for enforcement.  In Seattle, current police policy is to not enforce marijuana laws.

The Seattle Times' article also touches on the issue of concentrated marijuana products, that was blogged about yesterday.

But the state recognizes that the joint is losing popularity, particularly with younger stoners. A panel discussion at the Drug Policy Alliance’s upcoming biennial conference is even titled: “Is the joint obsolete?”

Edibles, topicals and concentrates, such as hash oil, have become so popular that the state figures the market for those products will be as large as the more traditional buds and flowers combusted in joints and pipes.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Seattle Councilmember: Marijuana policy to create "massive social change"

Marijuana stores in Seattle were discussed at the very beginning of the September 17 edition of the Seattle Channel's City Inside/Out: Council Edition.

Councilmember Nick Licata said that the Council likely will vote on the proposed marijuana zoning and land use ordinance on October 7.  The vote was delayed several times because they wanted to ensure that Seattle laws would work in concert with the Liquor Control Board's rules for marijuana businesses.  When asked if he was concerned about the possibility of a concentration of marijuana businesses being located in the industrial SoDo area, Councilmember Licata said that he expects businesses to be located throughout the City.  Multiple places throughout the City will be available for marijuana business development.

When Councilmember Tim Burgess was asked about medical marijuana businesses, he stated that the medical system cannot co-exist with the new recreational marijuana system.  He noted that with the establishment of a legal commercial marijuana system we are on the verge of "massive social change".

Friday, September 20, 2013

Substance abuse prevention is suicide prevention

Earlier this year, I blogged about how preventing youth substance abuse is also about preventing academic failure.  We can say the same for preventing suicide.  Here are excerpts from a recent White House blog post:

When we prevent or successfully treat substance abuse, we prevent suicides.

. . . In 2010, U.S. emergency departments treated 202,000 suicide attempts in which prescription drugs were used as the means, 33,000 of which were narcotic pain relievers

. . . Many of the factors that increase the risk for substance abuse . . . also increase the risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors, and substance abuse, like mental health problems, is linked with a several-fold increase in suicide risk.

. . . There is hope, however: Prevention works, treatment is effective, and recovery is possible. Life skills that support effective problem-solving and emotional regulation, connections with positive friends and family members, and social support can protect individuals from both substance abuse and suicide.

In September 2012, a newly revised National Strategy for Suicide Prevention (NSSP) was released by the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention in conjunction with the Office of the Surgeon General.  . . . The connection between suicide prevention and the prevention and treatment of substance abuse is either implicit or explicit in each of the 13 goals of the NSSP, as it should be.  Recognizing this, the NSSP calls for several actions, including: 
  • Work with individuals, families and other social groups, and communities to reduce access to drugs, especially access to lethal quantities of drugs among individuals at increased risk for suicide.  This includes reducing stocks of medications kept in the home, locking up commonly abused medications, and encouraging the proper disposal of unused and unneeded prescription drugs . . .

 Let us commit to stronger collaboration between substance abuse and suicide prevention efforts at all levels: community, state, tribal, and national. And let’s take action. The stakes are too high to do otherwise.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Learn about plans for marijuana tax revenue

The Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery (DBHR) is hosting a series of Community Forums regarding implementing the legislative mandate for Initiative 502.

DBHR, along with other state agencies, has begun to prepare for the funding expected in late 2014 from Initiative 502 (I502) marijuana sales tax revenue. This funding is designated for community assessment, media-based education campaigns for adults and youth, prevention hotline, youth marijuana use prevention, youth treatment, and evaluation.  DBHR will share plans for implementing their legislative mandate and provide an opportunity for input from partners, service providers and community members.

Who should  attend:
  • Community providers, members and volunteers interested in preventing marijuana abuse among youth
  • Community coalitions with a  focus on substance abuse prevention
  • Community and public health professionals
  • School administrators
  • Treatment providers

Dates and Locations:
A community forum will be held in Seattle on October 4, 2013, 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.  Please RSVP at  Seating is limited to approximately 100.

A webinar will be offered October 9, 2013, 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.  To join the webinar you must RSVP at:

For more information about these forums visit

Questions?  Contact P. Scott McCarty at

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Binge & heavy drinking among teens

Between 2005 and 2011, high school seniors nationwide reported the following rates of binge drinking within the last two weeks:
  • 20% reported drinking 5 or more drinks;
  • 11% reported drinking 10 or more drinks;
  •  6% reported drinking 15 or more drinks. 

Authors of the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association this week, call consuming more than 10 alcoholic drinks “extreme binge drinking”.  The number of seniors engaging in the most extreme drinking "is really concerning because they're most at risk for the really severe consequences," including reckless driving, car accidents and alcohol poisoning," said lead researcher Megan Patrick of the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research.

The study is important because it provides insight into seemingly conflicting trends:  that reported levels of binge drinking – traditionally defined as having five or more drinks in a row – have been declining among adolescents, although medical emergencies involving teen alcohol use have not.

Heavy drinking locally
While the WA Healthy Youth Survey (HYS) does not measure binge drinking like this recent study does, it does collect data about heavy use.  

Below are two charts from the 2012 HYS showing the rates of drinking among Nathan Hale High School and Roosevelt High School students (in blue) compared to the state average (in green).  As you see, most students do not drink (the lightest shaded areas in the columns).  However, most of those who do drink use alcohol often and/or heavily.  

The darkest colors at the bottom of the columns show the rate of "heavy drinking" -- 6+ days of drinking in the past month and/or 2+ episodes of binge drinking (5 or more drinks at one time).

The next shade lighter shows the rate of "problem drinking" -- 3 to 5 days of drinking in the past month and/or 1 day of binge drinking.  

Nathan Hale High School (blue)
WA (green)

Roosevelt High School (blue)
WA (green)

These charts are available on the Prevention WINS website under 2012 Healthy Youth Survey Results, high school summaries.  

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Adolescent Medicine Open House October 8

Prevention WINS is part of the Division of Adolescent Medicine at Seattle Children's Hospital.  The Division's Adolescent Substance Abuse Program includes a continuum of services -- prevention, school-based early intervention, and out-patient treatment.

Earlier this year, the Division moved off of the hospital campus and across the street to one of the Springrbook office buildings.  The community is invited to an open house on October 8 to tour the new clinic and offices and meet faculty and staff.

Adolescent Medicine Open House
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
4:30 - 7:30 p.m.
4540 Sand Point Way NE, Suite 200

For more information please contact Adolescent Medicine.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Prevention WINS general meeting next week -- all are welcome!

Prevention WINS General Meeting
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
8-9:00 a.m.
Seattle Children's Hospital, Room OA.5.340
4800 Sand Point Way NE

All coalition meetings are open to everyone concerned about youth substance use in NE Seattle.

For more information, contact the Prevention WINS coordinator.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Possible marijuana business locations in NE Seattle

Yesterday, the City of Seattle Department of Planning and Development released an updated map that shows where they currently think that marijuana businesses could be located in the City.  The map takes into consideration proposed Liquor Control Board rules and the proposed City of Seattle land use ordinance.

In their latest set of proposed rules, the Liquor Control Board (LCB) changed the definition of the 1,000 foot buffer between marijuana businesses and schools, playgrounds, and other places frequented by children.  Marijuana business interests lobbied for the change stating that the original definition limited possible business locations too much.

Here is what the NE Seattle section of the City's map looks like:

In the map above, the yellow areas indicate places where marijuana businesses may be located using the initial definition (as the crow flies) of the 1,000 foot buffer.

The pink areas indicate the additional land that would be acceptable for marijuana businesses under the LCB's newly proposed definition: "along the most direct route over or across established public walks, streets, or other public passageway between the proposed building/business locations to the perimeter of the grounds of the entities listed."

Since the LCB and the City of Seattle have yet to adopt their proposed policies, this map is not to be considered a final representation of where marijuana businesses will be located.

Update: It turns out the the pink areas will not be considered for marijuana businesses.  On September 13 the LCB released the following statement:

The Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) announced today that it will file an emergency rule on October 16, 2013, to make a single technical revision to the recreational marijuana rules. The emergency rule will revise the method of measurement of the 1,000 foot buffer measurement between a licensed marijuana business and an elementary or secondary school, playground, recreation center or facility, child care center, public park, public transit center, library, or arcade where admission is not restricted to those age 21 and older. The emergency rule will not affect the Initiative 502 implementation timeline.

The current proposed rules filed with the Code Reviser on September 4, 2013, state “the distance shall be measured along the most direct route over or across established public walks, streets, or other public passageway between the proposed building/business location to the perimeter of the grounds.”

The emergency rule will state: “The distance shall be measured as the shortest straight line distance from the property line of the licensed premises to the property line of the entities listed below…”

“The current measurement mirrors the existing method of measurement between liquor-licensed businesses and schools,” said agency director Rick Garza. “We’ve since learned that this measurement, as it pertains to marijuana, conflicts with federal law. Although the emergency rule won’t be filed until October 16, it is critical that we announce our intentions now so that potential licensees, local government and law enforcement will have clarity and predictability going forward.” 

WA Prevention Summit: October 20-22

Registration for the 2013 Washington State Prevention Summit is now open.  This annual event is a great way for adults and youth to network and learn about preventing youth substance abuse.

When: October 20-22, 2013
Where: Yakima Convention Center

Dr. Leslie Walker, Chief of Adolescent Medicine at Seattle Children's Hospital, is a keynote speaker this year!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

How many marijuana stores will be located in Seattle and King County?

The Washington State Liquor Control Board (LCB) today approved the filing of proposed supplemental rules that, if ultimately enacted, will help govern Washington State’s system of producing, processing and retailing recreational marijuana. The LCB earlier this summer filed proposed rules and chose to revise them after receiving public input.

In addition to the rules, the LCB released information about how many marijuana stores will be allowed to open in every county.  Here is a list of King County jurisdictions and the number of proposed marijuana stores in each one.

The LCB would like your input on the proposed rules to implement Initiative 502.  Please send your initial comments to the LCB by October 4, 2013 at:

Rules Coordinator
Liquor Control Board
P.O. Box 43080
Olympia, WA 98504-3080

Public hearing will be held on October 8 and 9 -- details to be posted on their website:

Free webinar: How to prevent medicine abuse

The Medicine Abuse Project
Thursday, September 5, 2013
Noon - 1:00 p.m.

Click here for more information and to register.

This webinar will illustrate the nature, extent, and underlying attitudes/beliefs related to intentional medicine misuse and abuse behavior within the general population.  It will identify proactive steps, resources, and tools to effectively address the issue. Participants will understand the positive role they can play as well as the broader network of organizations working to reduce prescription and over-the-counter medicine abuse. Finally, the presenters will detail the range of free resources provided by a range of association, nonprofit, and government organizations available for use at the community level.