Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Liquor Control Board to limit marijuana-infused products appealing to children

Today, the Washington State Liquor Control Board adopted emergency rules adding a requirement that all marijuana-infused products, packaging, and labeling be approved by them.  The rules are to clarify the types of marijuana-infused products the board will allow to be produced and sold.  The board's issue paper on the emergency rules states:

"Many marijuana-infused products on the medical marijuana market today are appealing to children.  Products such as lollipops, gummy bears, and cotton candy are very appealing to children too young to read a label."

To gain approval from the board, marijuana processors must submit a picture of the product, its label, and packaging to them.  The board will not approve products that appeal to children.

Marijuana-infused products that look like foods and beverages that children commonly eat and drink have been a concern for Prevention WINS members even prior to the I-502 vote.  Concerns were expressed to the Liquor Control Board during their rule-making process and as they developed recommendations for reconciling the recreational and medical marijuana systems.  During rule-making, Prevention WINS included the following in our letter to the board:

Recently, a report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association – Pediatrics discussed the increase in unintentional ingestion of marijuana among children in Colorado.

As the Board knows from experience, many flavored malt beverages are fruit flavored and particularly attractive to minors. In one survey about underage drinking, when asked what one type of alcohol drink they would most prefer, 30% of teens said “alcopops” (the term used to describe these flavored alcoholic beverages – a combination of “alcohol” and “pop”).

In the past, the Board has banned the sale of certain alcohol products because of the high likelihood that the products are attractive to minors. A similar ban should be placed on marijuana-infused products that are attractive to minors and resemble products primarily consumed by children. Examples of such products, many of which currently may be sold in medical marijuana access points, include but are not limited to:
  • Snow-cones,
  • Hard candy, lollipops, and cookies shaped like animals, people, cartoon and other characters, Christmas trees, snowmen, stars, etc.,
  • Soda-pop,
  • Juice,
  • Candy bars,
  • Pop-Tarts,
  • “Gummy” candies shaped like worms, bears, etc.

Some flavored tobacco and alcohol products are also banned because of their potential to attract young people. The Board should ban marijuana products containing flavorings such as fruit, candy, and vanilla.

The emergency rules also include guidelines regarding serving sizes.  The new rules read:

"Marijuana-infused products in solid form that contain more than one serving must be scored to indicate individual serving sizes, and labeled so that the serving size is prominently displayed on the packaging."

"Marijuana-infused products must be homogenized to ensure uniform disbursement of cannabinoids throughout the product."  

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Prevent teen drug use, prevent teen DUIs

Earlier this year, the Washington State Toxicologist reported that the primary drug, including alcohol, detected in DUI cases among people under the age of 21 is marijuana.  A recent study confirms that marijuana-related driving crashes are a significant problem among younger drivers. From the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: 

The profile of a drugged driver has changed substantially since 1993, according to a new study released today in the journal Public Health Reports, which shows that more drivers are now testing positive for prescription drugs, marijuana and multiple drugs.

. . . The study examines trends in the characteristics of U.S. drivers who were involved in fatal crashes between 1993 and 2010 and tested positive for drugs.

. . . Almost 60 percent of cannabis-only users were younger than 30 years.  (About 36% of meth users and 25% of prescription drug and cocaine users were younger than 30.) 

We see that cocaine and methamphetamine are becoming less and less prevalent. Drugged drivers now would be much more likely to be using marijuana and prescription drugs, and they would probably be more likely to be mixing those drugs with alcohol. We see that overall fatalities are going down, perhaps because people are more likely to be in seat belts, but the mixing of alcohol with drugs is not trending down. It’s becoming more of a problem. 

The author notes that “these trends are likely to continue into the future given . . . increasing initiatives to legalize marijuana.”   

One way to prevent DUIs among people under the age of 21 is to prevent drug use, including marijuana and alcohol, among adolescents. Young drivers who do not use drugs don't drive under the influence. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Underage Marijuana Use Prevention Toolkit now available online

An Underage Marijuana Use Prevention Toolkit was recently launched by the Washington State Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery to help educate people about the new law and the risks associated with adolescent use of the drug.  The toolkit is available online and includes several posters, including these two.

Since no current funding exists for a full scale educational campaign, DBHR is relying heavily on community-based organizations, including coalitions and their partners, to use the toolkit to educate parents, youth, and the wider community about the new law and how marijuana impacts adolescent health.  

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Teen marijuana use is risky

As the Prevention WINS coalition plans for addressing the decreasing perception of risk associated with marijuana use among teenagers in NE Seattle, understanding what the risks are is important.

An article about the adverse health effects of marijuana use was published in the New England Journal of Medicine earlier this month.  It especially highlights the harmful effects of marijuana use among teenagers.  From the article:

Intoxication: When under the influence of marijuana, it can interfere with memory, perception of time, and coordination which can lead to consequences such as motor vehicle crashes.

Addiction: One in six people who start using marijuana as teenagers become addicted to the drug.  Among those who use marijuana daily, 25 to 50% become addicted.

Brain development: Frequent use of marijuana from adolescence into adulthood is associated with significant declines in IQ.  This may be due to fewer connections established in the brains of people who used marijuana regularly during the teen years compared to people who did not.  These long lasting brain changes can hinder academic and social achievements.  

Yes, teen alcohol, tobacco, and opiate use are risky, too.  Like most drug use prevention programs, the Prevention WINS coalition addresses multiple substances used by teenagers and provides information about the harms associated with all of them.  The current focus on marijuana is a result of the declining perception of risk among NE Seattle teens who receive messages from adults in the wider community that marijuana is a safe drug to use.  

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Prevention WINS to address decreasing perceptions of risk

Over the past few months, the Prevention WINS coalition has been conducting a community assessment so that we may address new risk factors contributing to teen drug use in NE Seattle.

The coalition started by analyzing WA Healthy Youth Survey data to determine why alcohol and marijuana use rates and prescription drug abuse rates are increasing in our community.  Among several risk factors identified, coalition members chose to focus on the decreasing perception of harm/risk associated with drug use.  Perceptions of risk are well-documented indicators of teen drug use.

During last month's meeting, coalition members identified factors that may be contributing to these decreasing perceptions of risk.  The drafted logic model below outlines factors coalition members identified.  One of the next steps is to collect data to confirm that these factors are indeed affecting risk perceptions among NE Seattle teens.  

Coalition members formed a workgroup that will meet later this month to take a closer look at perceptions of risk, identify ways to collect local data, and begin to identify prevention activities to address the perceptions.  For more information about the meeting, contact the Prevention WINS coordinator.

When the logic model is complete, it will accompany a comprehensive plan for preventing teen drug use in NE Seattle,  In addition to coalition prevention activities, the plan will outline activities others in NE Seattle may conduct to address additional risk factors.  Other NE Seattle risk factors include increased access to alcohol and marijuana and perceptions among teens that they won't be caught by police if using alcohol and marijuana.