Community norms are among the strongest predictors of youth marijuana use according to research conducted by the University of Washington’s Social Development Research Group. Community norms are communicated to children through social practices, policies, and adult expectations. An example of a social practice that is not uncommon in Seattle is the public use of marijuana.
An opinion piece in today’s Seattle Times discusses concerns from parents about this norm. The piece starts with a description of what recently happened to a parent at one of our city’s parks:
She took three kids — two 8-year-olds and a 7-year-old — for a quick mid-afternoon trip to Golden Gardens on Sunday. Pails, shovels and ice cream in hand, they set up camp… and were enveloped in a cloud of marijuana smoke from three adults sitting upwind just a few feet away.
He then goes on to share a personal experience:
Last winter, my son’s middle-school ultimate frisbee match at Cal Anderson Park came to a sudden halt when the kids turned their noses to the marijuana smoke wafting from the nearby skateboard park. I yelled at the tokers to put it out, and was ignored. I support Initiative 502 for the same reasons as Natalie, but left the park wondering what we’d actually done.
People who don’t see a problem with public marijuana use are going to say that parents need to tell their kids that marijuana use is for adults only. They are right. But as prevention science tells us, it takes a village to raise a child. Parents alone cannot prevent adolescent marijuana use – they need the support of other adults who model healthy and responsible behaviors. They need the support of policies that prevent the public use of marijuana. They need community norms to support healthy youth development.