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.