Wednesday, July 30, 2014

How public marijuana use impacts children

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.   

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Community costs of underage drinking

Underage drinking parties in our parks is a problem the Prevention WINS coalition has been raising awareness about since 2006.  Today, Q13-FOX reported on an underage drinking party at Gas Works Park during which teenagers plastered it with graffiti.

Photo from Q13FOX, July 29, 2014
Cleaning up graffiti and trash left behind by underage drinkers costs Seattle Parks and Recreation money they would probably prefer to use for other purposes.  Other costs include personal ones associated with driving drunk as well as first responder and medical costs associated with injuries from drunk driving crashes.  View a video produced by Prevention WINS on this very subject at

Update (11:55 a.m.):  A reporter from KIRO said that it was a "huge party" of more than 100 minors that did not appear to be homeless.  

Friday, July 25, 2014

Seattle City Council hopes state will license medical marijuana businesses

When the Seattle City Council last year adopted a marijuana business zoning ordinance, it included a stipulation that all medical marijuana businesses be licensed by the state by January 2015.  The stipulation was included because the Council thought that the state legislature would establish a medical marijuana licensing system during their 2014 session.  The legislature did not.

Since there is no way that Seattle's 200+ medical marijuana businesses can be in compliance with the City's zoning ordinance, the Council is now considering extending the deadline believing, again, that the state legislature will adopt a medical marijuana licensing system during their next session.  While originally considering extending the deadline to July 1, 2015, during Wednesday's public hearing about the extension Councilmember Nick Licata indicated that they will move the deadline to January 1, 2016.  He recognized that the state would need time to establish rules if the legislature passes a licensing bill.  

Before the public hearing started, Councilmember Tim Burgess asked about the legality of the 67 medical marijuana businesses that opened after the ordinance was adopted.  Licata confirmed that these businesses are illegal.  The Department of Planning and Development enforces the ordinance based on complaints they receive.  To date, about 12 complaints were received, mostly about marijuana growing.

The Finance and Culture Committee will review the proposed changes to the ordinance during their meeting on August 13.  

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Local conference to focus on social media and health

Using social media to improve adolescent health is the topic of a conference being held in Seattle next week. One way that social media can improve health is by providing easy access to information about health-related topics, such as teen drug use.  In the video below, Dr. Megan Moreno talks about how parents can guide their children in accessing online health information.

Similar videos are available on the SMAHRT YouTube page, providing a good example of how social media can be used to share health-related information.  Prevention WINS shares information through YouTube, Facebook, this blog, and Twitter.

The conference takes place July 31 through August 2 and information is available on the SMAHRT website.  Registration costs $10 per day - a bargain!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tweeting for teen drug use prevention

Prevention WINS is on Twitter!  Here is the latest tweet:

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

City Councilmembers talk about marijuana

Right off the bat, City Councilmembers Burgess, Godden, and Licata answer questions about marijuana during this week's City Inside/Out: Council Edition.

Jean Godden says she wants the city to get some marijuana tax revenue to pay for enforcement costs and costs associated with potential downsides of marijuana use.

Nick Licata discusses the two marijuana systems -- medical and recreational.

Tim Burgess thinks that the city is looking for trouble with two marijuana distribution systems in place.  He advocates for one system.

Monday, July 14, 2014

City Council to host public hearing about medical marijuana licensing July 23

Last year, the Seattle City Council adopted a zoning ordinance regarding where marijuana businesses can be located within the city.  The ordinance includes a stipulation that all medical marijuana businesses be licensed by the state by January 2015.  At the time the ordinance was adopted, the state only planned to license recreational (I-502) marijuana businesses.

The City Council is now considering a change to the ordinance to extend until July 1, 2015 the deadline for lots, business establishments, and dwelling units where the production, processing, selling, or delivery of marijuana was being conducted prior to November 16, 2013.

The intent of the January 2015 deadline was to provide time for implementation of medical marijuana legislation, including the licensing of businesses selling medical marijuana, that was to be created by the Washington legislature in 2014.  However, the state did not adopt new medical marijuana regulations in 2014.  The newly proposed city legislation includes a six-month extension of the original deadline to July 1, 2015.  The hope is that the legislature will adopt legislation during their 2015 session that will license businesses that sell medical marijuana.

The Council’s Finance and Culture Committee  will hold a public hearing on the proposed legislation:
July 23, 2014
2:00 p.m.
Seattle City Hall
600 Fourth Avenue

A few facts about the marijuana market:
  • Seattle is currently home to more than 200 medical marijuana retail businesses and an unknown amount of businesses that produce or process medical marijuana.  
  • The Liquor Control Board allocated 21 recreational (I-502) retail marijuana business licenses for Seattle, similar to the number of liquor outlets in the city prior to privatization (I-1183).  
  • About 10% of people over the age of 12 in King County used marijuana within the last month, according to research conducted for the Liquor Control Board last year.  
  • About one quarter of the state's marijuana consumers are people under the age of 21 according to research conducted for the Liquor Control Board last year.
  • Medical marijuana may be sold to people under the age of 21, recreational marijuana cannot.
  • This past spring, a Washington State Court of Appeals ruled that medical marijuana businesses are illegal under state law.  

Adolescent medicine doctor provides tips for parents about preventing underage marijuana use

From the Teenology 101 blog:

This week the first recreational marijuana stores opened in Washington State. Initiative 502 was passed in 2012 to legalize marijuana in the state without a physician’s recommendation, but it was just yesterday that recreational stores could legally sell it. One store opened in Seattle, the others were in Bellingham, Prosser, and Spokane. It remains illegal for anyone under age 21 to use or possess marijuana, but legalizing recreational use does send a message to those who aren’t yet adults: it’s legal now, so it must be ok, right? We’ve had posts on marijuana legalization and teen marijuana use in the past, but here we wanted to highlight the importance of parents in preventing underage use.What can parents do?

Click here to

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

King County drug abuse trends 2013

The annual King County Drug Trends report was released last month by the King County Drug Trends Workgroup.  Among their major findings is that heroin use continues to increase in King County and statewide; young adults are a major population of concern.  Heroin involved deaths among those under 30 has increased from 7 deaths (14%) in 2009 to 34 deaths (34%) in 2013, the numbers for all ages increased from 49 to 99 respectively.

The report includes information about drug treatment admissions and for adolescents (under 18 years old) marijuana remains the primary reason for entering treatment.  For young adults (under 30 years old) heroin is the primary reason for entering treatment and alcohol is the primary reason for all other adults. 

A complete copy of the report is available at

Teenagers and marijuana-infused foods, beverages

In this news story, Lisa Sharp from Seattle Public Schools and Yolanda Evans from Seattle Children's Hospital discuss the consumption of marijuana-infused foods among adolescents.  The story highlights the need to educate parents about marijuana-infused products and marijuana concentrates.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

How do teenagers get marijuana and alcohol?

Marijuana retail stores are expected to start opening in our state next week.  As an adolescent drug use prevention coalition, Prevention WINS is interested in how youth access drugs, including marijuana.  What we know is that minors who use alcohol and marijuana mostly get the drugs from their friends.

Results from the 2012 Seattle Public Schools Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) indicate that most high school students who use marijuana get it from friends.  This is true for alcohol, as well.  Most Seattle high school students who use alcohol report getting it from a friend or at a party, according to the Washington State Healthy Youth Survey.

When marijuana stores open, it is expected that teenagers will get marijuana like they currently get alcohol: socially, including through family.  Increased access among adults who are willing to sell or give marijuana to teenagers leads to increased distribution to teenagers.  Increased parental use means more marijuana in the home for teenagers to take with or without permission.    

The YRBS results support this.  When high school marijuana users were asked if they ever used marijuana that came from of dispensary, 39% said yes and 23% were not sure, despite only 6% buying it from a dispensary.  Among those who said yes, it is likely that an adult or friend with a medical marijuana authorization provided the drug to them after purchasing it at a dispensary.  

Will marijuana stores sell to minors?  Likely not, at least as this new market gets up and running.  If the legal recreational market is to be successful, businesses need to show that they are responsible.  But adults who have easy access to marijuana, and teenagers who have medical marijuana authorizations, need to be held responsible, too, if distribution to minors is to be prevented.  

Policies that reduce drug availability are part of a comprehensive approach to drug prevention

Drug overdose deaths, particularly those caused by prescription painkillers, declined in Florida after state policy changes were made, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Their success provides a perfect example of how drug prevention is not only about school-based programs and parenting, it’s also about adopting policies that reduce the availability of drugs and enforcing those policies. 

From a New York Times article about the decline in deaths:

"Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the C.D.C., said the pattern provided a hopeful example of the effect that policy could have on one of this country’s most entrenched public health problems, one that takes the lives of more than 20,000 Americans a year."

“This tells us that policies and enforcement work,” Dr. Frieden said."

From the CDC's report on the decline in drug-related deaths:

“. . . policy changes in Florida were followed by declines in the prescribing of drugs, especially those favored by Florida prescribing dispensers and pain clinics, as well as by declines in overdose deaths involving those drugs. Florida has reported that approximately 250 pain clinics were closed by 2013, and the number of high-volume oxycodone dispensing prescribers declined from 98 in 2010 to 13 in 2012 and zero in 2013. Law enforcement agencies in Florida also reported that rates of drug diversion (i.e., channeling of prescription drugs to illicit markets) declined during 2010–2012.

Like the most effective substance use prevention strategies, Florida took a multi-pronged approach to preventing drug-related deaths.  The approach relied heavily on policies that reduce access to prescription painkillers and the enforcement of those policies.  

Communities need to support parents with a "no drug use" message for teens

Yesterday, KING 5 broadcast a story about how parents can talk to their children about not using marijuana.


Parents need the support of other adults in the community so that teenagers get consistent messages that support healthy youth development.  In the KING 5 story, Dr. Leslie Walker says, "Just like parents should be doing with alcohol.  This is not a safe for you at this stage in your life.  It can possibly cause permanent damage to you as an adolescent with a developing brain.  I do not want you to use marijuana at this time."  People and institutions in our community need to express this message, too.

Prevention research evolved a great deal since the "just say no" days and we now know that we must provide teenagers with the tools they need to be able to follow through on family rules against drug use.  Adults can coach children:

  • Role play situations where they are offered drugs, including marijuana, by a peer.
  • Help them to find the right words to express their intention not to use.
  • Help them suggest an alternative to drug use.  (This is why it is important for communities to have alternative activities readily available.)
  • Tell them that is fine to walk away from someone, including a friend, who is offering drugs and, if needed, to call for a ride home.  

More about preventing underage marijuana use is available here.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Teen marijuana use prevention: It takes a community

Legislature should find the will to fund teenage marijuana use prevention” reads a recent Seattle Times editorial headline. 

The editorial states: “Just Say No” messages won’t work in this era."

Adolescent substance abuse prevention has evolved a great deal over the past twenty years thanks to prevention research and has not been about “Just Say No” for quite a while.   What does research tell use about how to effectively prevent adolescent substance use, including marijuana use?

For parents:

Prevention needs to start early.  Parents should start talking to their children about not using drugs by the end of elementary school and at the latest by the end of middle school.  A locally-developed parent guide can provide parents with information on what to say.  Among the research-backed strategies: 
  • A “no use” attitude is important.  Children whose parents have a positive attitude toward marijuana use are five times more likely to use marijuana by 8th grade. 
  •  Be clear about family rules against using drugs, including marijuana, and set clear guidelines.
  • Make sure those guidelines are followed and follow through on reasonable consequences if rules are broken.  
  • Monitor your own behavior – parents are role models for their children. 

For lawmakers:

As the editorial states: “With other budget pressures, Olympia will be tempted to tap into future marijuana tax revenues that I-502 specifically dedicated to prevention.”  In recent years, the legislature cut and then eliminated funding for the statewide Community Mobilization program, an evidence-based prevention program.  Most prevention funding now comes from the federal government and they, too, are always looking to cut expenditures. 

In addition to funding, lawmakers can be a part of a comprehensive prevention strategy.  Examples of policies that prevent teen drug use include: 
  • Enforcing marijuana laws, both medical and recreational.  Seattle drug use prevention coalitions have heard from kids that they can get marijuana easily through retail dispensaries.  Among Seattle high school students who use marijuana, 39% report using marijuana that came from a dispensary, likely through friends who bought it legally (with a recommendation) or illegally (without a recommendation.) 
  • Enacting and enforcing social host laws for both marijuana and alcohol to prevent parents from providing teenagers with the drugs. 

For communities:

Adolescent substance use prevention is most effective when multiple sectors of the community implement a variety of strategies.  To guide the selection of prevention strategies, communities can look at their local Healthy Youth Survey (HYS) data which not only provides data on use rates but information about risk factors that are specific to their community. 

For instance, the Prevention WINS coalition recently started planning to address the risk factor of “decreasing perception of risk” associated with marijuana use.  Since 2006 the coalition has tracked risk and protective factors specific to NE Seattle and every two years HYS data indicated that perceptions of risk decreased.  Data-driven decisions worked in NE Seattle in the past and continue to guide future prevention activities. 

The video below, featuring Dr. J. David Hawkins from the University of Washington, provides more information about what communities can do when working together and guided by local data.  

The Communities That Care system is very similar to the Strategic Prevention Framework used by most WA communities that have a drug use prevention coalitions.