Friday, October 31, 2014

How youth get regulated marijuana

In his message to state employees Governor Inslee wrote, "While it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to use or purchase marijuana, the reality is that legalizing the drug for adults makes it more accessible to youth." How is this possible when marijuana stores don't let anyone in who isn't over 21?

Because, like alcohol, teenagers who use primarily get it from friends.  A recent New York Times article about Colorado's marijuana system provides the perfect example.  It tells the story of Zach, a college student who buys medical marijuana and then sells it to others.  "Some of Zach’s clients are under 21 and cannot buy recreational cannabis legally. But others are older students who simply don’t want to pay the hefty tax — three times that levied on medical marijuana. So despite the abundance of recreational cannabis products since the first retail shops opened in January, there is still a vibrant black market for medical marijuana . . ."

A vibrant black market exists in Washington, as well.  When the Liquor Control Board was gearing up for marijuana market rule-making in 2013, they released data about who makes up the current marijuana market.

A quarter of current marijuana users are under the age of 21 - a thriving black market for anyone over the age of 21 who wants to share or re-sell their legally purchased marijuana. 

In another New York Times article a researcher states, "If I were to design a substance that is bad for college students, it would be marijuana" because it impairs working memory.  How marijuana use impacts student learning is one reason why substance use prevention programs from early middle school through college are especially important.  To be most effective, prevention activities need to include those that impact the wider community such as limiting the number of marijuana retailers and enforcing laws so that people cannot buy the drug outside of state-licensed stores.  Marijuana enforcement needs do not go away when the drug is legalized, they just change focus.  

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Free parent education forum: How to prevent teen drug use

All NE Seattle families are invited to a free parent education forum . . . 

Preventing teen drug use: What can parents do as alcohol, marijuana, and prescription drugs become more available?
Monday, November 3, 2014
7-8:30 p.m.
Nathan Hale High School
10750 30th Avenue NE

Dr. Leslie R. Walker, Chief of Adolescent Medicine at Seattle Children's Hospital, will discuss teen health, the impact of drug use, and what parents can do to prevent it.  Dr. Walker will be followed by a panel discussion.

Panel members:

  • Lisa Chinn, Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Seattle Children's Hospital
  • Annemarie Michaels, Nathan Hale teacher and parent of a teeenager
  • Rachel and Joseph, parents of a college freshman
  • Kipp Strong, Seattle Police Department
  • Nathan Hale student members of Raiders Against Destructive Decisions

Handouts will include A Parent's Guide to Preventing Underage Marijuana Use.

NE Seattle 30-Day (Current) Use Rates, grades 8 & 10
Source: Washington Healthy Youth Surveys, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Governor urges parents and grandparents to know the facts about marijuana and youth

Governor Jay Inslee sent the following message to state employees earlier this week:

As our state continues implementation of Initiative 502, it is important, as parents and grandparents, that we understand the facts about marijuana so we can have productive conversations with the children and young adults in our lives about avoiding drug use.

Below are key facts and resources to aid you as you talk to your children and teens about making healthy life choices.

  • In 2012, Washington voters approved Initiative 502 to allow the recreational use and purchase of marijuana for adults who are 21 years of age and older.
  • While it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to use or purchase marijuana, the reality is that legalizing the drug for adults makes it more accessible to youth. Youth are also exposed to marijuana advertising. These factors increase the likelihood that youth will use marijuana.
  • Marijuana is addictive. About 9 percent of users become addicted; this number increases for those who start young (to about 17 percent, or 1 in 6) and those who use marijuana daily (to 25-50 percent).
  • Students who use marijuana are more likely to have lower grades and drop out of school compared to students who don’t use marijuana. In addition, many students who use marijuana also use other substances, including alcohol and tobacco (2012 Washington State Healthy Youth Survey).
  • The good news is that most students do not use marijuana, alcohol or other drugs, and they are less likely to use them when they know their parents disapprove of this.

  • Marijuana: Know the Facts: What Parents Need to Know. Developed by the Washington State Liquor Control Board, this guide for parents has facts about the impacts of marijuana and I-502.
  • A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Underage Marijuana Use. The guide contains helpful information about the unique risks of marijuana to the developing brain, proven strategies to help keep youth drug-free, signs and symptoms of marijuana use, and what to do if you suspect a child or teen may already be using marijuana.
  • For tips on how to talk with your kids at different ages, and other ways to keep them healthy and drug-free, visit

We know that parental involvement makes a difference in keeping children, teens and young adults healthy, safe and in school. I encourage you to make use of these resources and to share them with others. Together, we can make our communities a safer and healthier place now and for future generations.

Additionally, for more information about marijuana research and minimizing risks for adult consumers, visit

Very truly yours,

Jay Inslee

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Prevention WINS uses tested and effective programs to prevent teen marijuana use

What programs are most effective for preventing teen marijuana use?  That question is being studied by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) which recently released an updated review of scientific evidence about prevention programs.  They reviewed 23 youth marijuana prevention and treatment programs  and categorized them as "evidence-based", "research-based", or "promising."  (Definitions appear at the end of this post.)

School-based Programs
For the Prevention WINS coalition, the report brings good news: Life Skills Training, the program implemented at Eckstein Middle School since 2007, is identified as one of two top-tier evidence-based prevention programs.

Parenting Programs
The two parenting programs implemented through Eckstein, Guiding Good Choices and the Strengthening Families Program, are considered research-based for preventing teen marijuana use.

Community Programs 
Communities That Care is the other evidence-based prevention program identified by WSIPP.  Similar to the Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF) that Prevention WINS uses, Communities That Care guides communities to identify local risk factors and implement tested and effective programs to address them.

Using the SPF, Prevention WINS this year, for the first time, identified "community laws and norms favorable to drug use" as NE Seattle's primary teen marijuana use risk factor.  The "laws and norms" risk factor is determined by how easy it is for teenagers to access a drug; if they think they will be caught by police if they use a drug; and what they think others in the community think of kids using the drug.

To address community laws and norms favorable to marijuana use, the Prevention WINS coalition will continue to advocate for policies that reduce youth access to marijuana and for the adoption and enforcement of laws regarding minors and marijuana. These types of policies will support the messages that children and families hear when participating in school-based and parenting programs.

Summary of definitions: For complete definitions, see page 4 of the report)

Evidence-based: A program that has been tested multiple times and the weight of the evidence from a systematic review demonstrates sustained improvement in at least one outcome.  It also means a program that can be implemented with a set of procedures to allow successful replication and is determined to be cost-effective.

Research-based: A program that has been tested once and demonstrates sustained desirable outcomes but does not meet the full requirements of evidence-based.

Promising: A practice that shows potential for meeting the evidence-based or research-based criteria based on statistical analysis or a well-established theory of change.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Seattle marijuana businesses and preventing teen marijuana use

Over the past few days the Seattle Times published two opinions about the emerging recreational marijuana system and what they see as barriers to the establishment of a commercial marketplace.

On October 24, an opinion piece laments, “The fact that Seattle, triple the size of any other city in Washington, has only a handful of stores is ‘odd’ . . . because there are 21 locations authorized for the city.”  Though there are multiple reasons for less than 5 of those 21 retailers opening shop at this point, the writer suggests that, “Tweaking I-502 to loosen the 1,000 foot rule seems an obvious fix for some of this.”  (The 1,000 foot rule disallows marijuana businesses from being within 1,000 feet of schools, community centers, parks, and other places where children congregate.)

Instead of allowing for more marijuana retailers, Seattle should support limits on the number of retailers since such limits on businesses selling alcohol and tobacco are proven methods for preventing teen alcohol and tobacco use.  If marijuana legalization is to be successful in keeping the drug out of the hands of minors, then limiting retail outlets is sound policy to implement and support.

Getting rid of recreational marijuana’s main competition – medical marijuana – is one way to encourage more recreational marijuana retailers to open shop.  As an October 25 editorial states, “In reality, Seattle marijuana users shun recreational stores because they’re getting the cannabis from a larger, cheaper and unregulated source: medical marijuana dispensaries.  As Seattle’s former U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan warned last month, medical marijuana is ‘not a loophole: It is the market.’”

The editorial goes on to say that the state legislature is to blame.  However, the City of Seattle can do something before the legislature decides whether or not to act on medical marijuana.  They can start by enforcing their own law and closing down medical marijuana businesses that opened within the last year.  Medical marijuana retailers are not recognized or protected by state law so they can be shut down if the political will exists.

With almost 40% of Seattle high school students who use marijuana reporting that they used marijuana that came from a medical marijuana dispensary, closing them is another way of preventing teen access to the drug.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

City informs medical marijuana businesses that they need to be licensed by state

Marijuana businesses that began operating after November 16, 2013 without a state marijuana business license are in violation of City of Seattle law and "can be subject to enforcement action" according to a recent letter to marijuana businesses from the Departments of Finance and Administrative Services and Planning and Development. 

In Seattle, 39% of high school students who use marijuana report using marijuana that came from a dispensary while 23% said they didn't know if they used medical marijuana.  While most high school marijuana users said that they got marijuana from a friend, these data suggest that a lot of friends get the marijuana they share or sell from medical marijuana businesses.

Source: 2012 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, Seattle Public Schools 
The Seattle PI reports that the letters were sent to 330 medical marijuana businesses.  With that many medical marijuana businesses in the city and so many high school marijuana users reporting that they use marijuana that came from a medical marijuana business, the link between outlet density and youth use seems to be, once again, supported.  Research done about alcohol and tobacco retail outlet densities repeatedly shows the link between youth use and the number of retailers in a community. 

Governor briefed on state marijuana prevention activities

Decreasing the percentage of 10th grade students who report smoking marijuana in the past 30 days from 19.3% to 18% by 2017 is one of Results Washington's goals for creating healthy communities.  In addition to preventing marijuana DUIs, state leaders briefed Governor Inslee on this goal during a meeting on September 24.

The discussion about youth marijuana use prevention starts at about 1:12 of the video.  The secretaries of the Department of Social and Health Services and the Department of Health provide an overview of current and planned prevention activities.  

At about 1:43 the governor asked a question about marijuana-infused foods to ensure they are not overly attractive to youth.  Rick Garza from the Liquor Control Board said that they are not allowing products that are:
  • brightly colored;
  • sugar coated;
  • anything that is "typically what a child would see and find appealing;"
  • mimicking candy bars.
He also said that the medical marijuana law needs to be changed to address marijuana-infused foods because they are currently not regulated under state law.
Medical marijuana is the "wild west" right now according to the governor.  Mr. Garza confirmed that there are no regulations on medical marijuana products that are attractive to youth. 

The governor also asked about the use of fear tactics in marijuana prevention campaigns.  Mona Johnson from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction replied that many years of prevention science research shows that scare tactics do not work and that prevention programs today don't use them.  The importance of educating parents about prevention was also discussed. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Marijuana ads mimic tobacco ads

A Prevention WINS coalition member recently sent me the photo below of a marijuana producer's billboard in Seattle.

It looks like marijuana businesses are using the same strategies tobacco and alcohol businesses use to attract consumers.

The Liquor Control Board provided marijuana businesses with information about how marijuana may be advertised.  Their online FAQ provides answers to a variety of questions.  Below are a few.

Online Advertising

May I have a website to promote my company? Are there any limitations on a company website?
Yes you may have a website to advertise your business. However, the law does not allow a business to use a website to sell marijuana/marijuana products. All recreational marijuana sales must take place at a licensed marijuana premises.

Can I use social media to promote my business?
Yes. Please use social media with caution and be mindful not to appeal to, or solicit, viewers under the age of 21. If possible, please restrict views to adults age 21 and older.

May I hire an online advertising company to promote my business through blog posts and other online options like videos?

Am I able to produce a YouTube page with comedy commercials promoting my marijuana business?
Yes. Please use social media with caution and to be mindful not to appeal to, or solicit, viewers under the age of 21. If possible, please restrict views to adults age 21 and older.

Am I able to have a mascot in the YouTube commercial?
Yes, as long as the mascot is not a cartoon character or is appealing to children.
Traditional Advertising

May I set up a separate business to promote my marijuana retail store?
Yes. That would be allowed if the business is used to sell t-shirts, hats etc. Those items, however, could not be sold within your retail marijuana store.

May I advertise for cannabis on the radio and TV?
The law states that licensed marijuana producers, processors and retailers “may not advertise marijuana or marijuana-infused products in any form through any medium whatsoever within one-thousand feet of the perimeter of a school ground, playground, recreation center or facility, child care center, public park or library, or any game arcade admission to which is not restricted to persons aged twenty-one years or older.” The fine is $1,000 for each violation.

Although print media, such as newspapers, are often delivered to locations at or near schools, the LCB does not intend to enforce the 1,000’ buffer for newspaper advertising as long as the advertising does not violate other provisions of I-502.

Television and radio, of course, carry across state lines as well as places where children can see or hear. TV and radio are also regulated by the Federal Communications Commission. Licensees should consult with their attorney and media-buyer or other advertising sales representative to ensure cannabis/related advertisements are permissible.

May I advertise in non-cannabis magazines and publications?
Yes, as long as the publications in question are not marketed towards children or people under the age of 21.

May I cross promote my business with a neighboring business (items such as glasses, t-shirts, lighters etc.)?
Yes, and vice versa.

May I use direct mail to households and inserts delivered via the Seattle Times and other publications?
Yes. Inserts may not contain coupons.

Branded Merchandise

May I sell t-shirts with my company’s trade name and logo on them in my retail store?
A licensee is not permitted to sell t-shirts from their retail store or business website. A separate business is necessary to sell items beyond what is allowed under I-502.

Could a separate entity (separate LLC, operating close-by) sell branded merchandise?

If pot is "everywhere" is it the new normal for kids growing up in Seattle?

"So under the new law it's prohibited to smoke pot in public, but do you feel like there's pot everywhere now?"  That question launched a discussion about public marijuana use during KCTS' recent look at legal marijuana.   The answer was unanimously: "Yes!"

If the smell of marijuana cannot be escaped in our city, what message does that send to our kids?  Is the smell of marijuana the new normal for young people growing up in Seattle?  Earlier this year, I blogged about how community norms impact teen use of the drug.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Marijuana shop opens next to church with three youth groups

Seattle's second recreational marijuana store opened last week and on Sunday members of the church next door started to protest its location.

The store opened at the corner of 23rd and Union and the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog (CHS) noted that they previously identified the likelihood of 23rd and Union becoming a fertile ground for Seattle pot ventures as one of the few areas that would qualify for a license under state rules and city zoning.”

“But Seattle City Council member Bruce Harrell tells CHS he is beginning a review of how the shop was allowed to open at the intersection in such close proximity to the church. Harrell said there is nothing yet on the City Council’s calendar but that he is beginning the process this week.” 

Under state law, a marijuana business cannot be located within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, libraries, community centers, and other places where children congregate.  The rule does not apply to churches.  That is concerning to church members since three youth groups meet next door to the store according to the church’s pastor.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Marijuana cafes in Seattle?

Marijuana tourism is the topic of a recent segment of Seattle Channel's City Stream.  Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata is interviewed and states that marijuana and smoking laws need to be adjusted to allow for marijuana cafes in the city.

If you are unable to watch the video through this blog, you can watch it on the Seattle Channel.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Learn more about marijuana-infused candy bars and other edible products

Marijuana-infused foods that have been sold as medical marijuana are soon to hit the shelves of recreational marijuana stores in WA.  KCTS broadcast a series of stories about the medical and recreational marijuana systems in our state.  The one focusing on edibles includes a brief discussion about children and marijuana-infused foods like cherry soda, chocolate bars, and candies. A former Prevention WINS co-chair is interviewed.