Wednesday, May 18, 2016

History repeats: Marijuana tax revenue dedicated to prevention shifted to general fund

Over the years, this blog has included posts about tax revenue earmarked for teen substance use prevention being diverted to the state general fund. Prior to the passage of Initiative 502 which created the legal commercial marijuana system in our state, prevention advocates warned that the initiative's dedicated funds for prevention could and would be moved to fund other things as soon as the legislature was legally able to. And legislators did.

The Seattle Times editorial board recently wrote about it after a Seattle 16 year-old died because he "likely jumped from a balcony in a panic after smoking pot for the first time."The editorial describes the broken promises that, not surprisingly, are similar to previous broken promises for tobacco and liquor revenue earmarks:

Based on the revenue coming in or forecast through 2018, the state Department of Social and Health Services should have had $113 million for programs “aimed at the prevention or reduction” of substance abuse among middle and high schoolers — kids the age of Warsame. Instead, the agency is budgeted to receive only about half that amount.

Similarly, the state Department of Health should have had $77 million to operate a marijuana-education hotline and a statewide public-education campaign regarding marijuana for youths and adults. Instead, the Legislature earmarked less than one-third that amount — $24 million — and the marijuana-information hotline hasn’t materialized.
Source: Seattle Times, May 17, 2016

In communities, this means that while access to marijuana increases, as children are exposed to marijuana advertising, and marijuana use becomes normalized, young people aren't receiving messages to counteract marijuana marketing, not all middle schools are implementing tested and effective prevention programs, and not all parents are learning skills for supporting healthy decision making among their children. It means that, once again, legislators and those who promised Washingtonians that marijuana legalization would be good for substance use prevention are failing to do their part to help our teenagers stay drug free.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Prevention WINS meets May 10

The Prevention WINS coalition will meet:
Tuesday, May 10, 8:00 a.m.

All coalition meetings are open to the public. Everyone is welcome!

Agenda items include a presentation about King County's Secure Medicine Return Program and updates about coalition and other local prevention activities.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

What is substance use prevention?

The annual National Prevention Network (NPN) meeting was held in Seattle last fall and the University of Washington's David Hawkins gave a keynote address about substance use prevention. As our state expands prevention programming, particularly activities for preventing youth marijuana use, his keynote address provides a good reminder about what works and what does not.

Before a great deal of prevention research was done, many substance use prevention programs were used that have since proven ineffective. The last thirty years of research have made a significant difference in understanding what is most effective.

For example, while it may seem intuitively correct that providing information about drugs would be a straight-forward way to prevent young people from starting to use drugs, such a strategy actually increased drug use in some studies.

Locally, the UW's Social Development Research Group studied the effects of risk and protective factors on youth drug use. They found that protective factors can reduce youth drug use even in the presence of many risk factors.

Protective factors include the communication of clear standards in families, at schools, and in the community. When families, schools, and communities express clear standards against teenagers using drugs, youth are less likely to use drugs.

Individual prevention programs that encourage family bonding, teach skills that teenagers need to be able to avoid or refuse drugs, and provide parents with information about giving their children opportunities and recognition for pro-social behaviors have been found to be effective.

Communities have a role to play in prevention, too. Policies such as the minimum legal drinking age, taxes, and restrictions on where and when legal drugs are sold are proven methods for preventing youth drug use.

So, which prevention activities should be implemented in communities? Whichever ones address the problems specific to a community. Prevention activities are not one-size-fits-all. Know your community and what factors are putting teenagers at risk and what factors are protecting against drug use.

The entire keynote presentation may be viewed by clicking here.