The New Marijuana Law in California and Teen Drug Use

The new marijuana law in California has a lot of parents worried about their teenagers. After all, marijuana has been one of the most common drugs used by teenagers for many decades. Although heroin use in California has been more publicized in the news due to a nationwide rash of opioid overdose deaths, the new California marijuana policy is cause for alarm. By opening the door to widespread teen marijuana use and abuse, the state populace can expect a flood of new teenagers on a dangerous path that tends to lead straight to youth treatment centers in California.

What is the New Marijuana Law in California?

The Adult Use of Marijuana Act, otherwise known as Proposition 64 before it became enacted in January of 2018, legalized the recreational use of marijuana by adults in California. The full name of the measure is the “Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act.” With the initiative passing with 57% voter approval, this dangerous legislation became law on November 9, 2016, leading to recreational cannabis sales statewide in early 2018.

Although the law only allows adults to possess and grow marijuana, the California marijuana policy also opened the door for a vast array of powerful non-medical marijuana products by state-licensed recreational retailers. Many of these products like marijuana gummi bears and marijuana-infused popsicles seem to target adolescents and teenagers. The pro-marijuana legalization campaign argued that the new marijuana law in California is no threat to teenagers. After all, teenagers are not legally allowed to buy marijuana from these retailers. This is a risky case of splitting hairs, which is far from the truth.

Indeed, such a perspective fails to account for the dangers of California marijuana policy and its rubber stamp of approval of a hazardous drug. As marijuana legalization opponent Patrick Kennedy lamented, “It’s disappointing that big marijuana and their millions of out-of-state dollars were able to influence the outcome of these elections. We will continue to hold this industry accountable, and raise the serious public health and safety issues that will certainly come in the wake of legalization.” Accessibility of marijuana to teens is one of these safety issues.

The California Marijuana Policy Opens the Door for Teenagers

From a teenager’s perspective, the recreational legalization of marijuana use makes the drug a legal, and thus, acceptable option. The new California marijuana policy has undoubtedly opened the door for teen drug use. “That is an unintended consequence of legalization. They think that if it’s legal, it must be OK,” explains Pam Luna, a consultant with the Rand Corporation, a nonpartisan research organization. Thus, marijuana will continue to be one of the most common drugs used by teenagers. Not only used, however, but abused.

Indeed, after an extended period of decline, marijuana use among 12-to-17-year-olds nationally has increased in recent years. The reasons behind such an increase are clearly explained in an editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The doctors and researchers compared marijuana to alcohol and tobacco, describing how, “Products that are legal only for adults inevitably find their way into the hands of adolescents…to a significant degree.” Drugs that are more accessible to adults are more accessible to teens as well.

Moreover, according to a recent report from researchers at UC Davis, the rate of children who were unintentionally exposed to marijuana, leading directly to a hospital visit, increased 610 percent in states with the legalized medical use of marijuana. The ingested products by the kids tended to look like familiar treats frequently desired by almost all children like candies and cookies. The children exposed to marijuana usage had rapid heart rates, loss of motor control, and degrees of paranoia. Imagine how that negative trend will continue to increase as medical use transitions to recreational use with the new marijuana law in California.

Since marijuana was legalized in Colorado in 2012, researchers found a sharp increase in the use of alcohol among 12-year-olds from 10 percent in 2013 to 29 percent in 2016. If 12-year-olds are drinking that much, just imagine what the effect of the new marijuana law in California will have on teenagers. Not only will they be smoking more marijuana, but they also will be drinking a lot more alcohol. After all, alcohol always has been illegal for teenagers, but legal for adults. It’s always been possible to obtain. Won’t the same be true for marijuana?

Parents Need to Know About California Marijuana Policy

Before detailing the dangers of marijuana historically as one of the most common drugs used by teenagers, parents must know the details about the new marijuana law in California. By knowing the details, you can better understand the threat.

According to the state of California as laid out in the “Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act,” here’s what is legal under the new law for adult use:

  • Adults may possess, transport, buy, and use up to an ounce of cannabis for recreational purposes.
  • Individuals are allowed to grow as many as six plants privately.
  • Buying cannabis no longer requires a current physician’s recommendation or a county-issued medical marijuana identification card.
  • Cannabis must be consumed on private property but it cannot be consumed, smoked, eaten, or vaped in public places.
  • Nobody is allowed to consume or possess cannabis on federal lands like national parks, even if the park is in California.
  • Even if you are traveling to another state where cannabis is legal, it is illegal to take marijuana across state lines.

The last two points are important to highlight because they reveal a vast national discrepancy between the Federal policy and California’s liberal take on the drug. As California admits on their own website, “Cannabis remains classified as a Schedule I drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act, and its purchase, possession, distribution, or use within California may be unlawful under federal law… Contact your attorney if you have questions about cannabis, what is (or is not) legal under state or federal law or need legal advice.”

The Federal Government Believes Marijuana is a Dangerous Drug

Indeed, this salient point that the Federal government still views marijuana as a dangerous drug needs to be highlighted to teenagers and young people in regards to the new marijuana law in California. From the Federal Bureau of Investigation to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Federal Government in Washington D.C. remains in stark disagreement with the state about the place of marijuana in the illegal drug hierarchy.

Federal marshals can still detain people using marijuana in any of its many forms of THC-infused products and charge them with a crime. If the Federal Government takes such a stance on marijuana, shouldn’t parents make sure their teenagers are not abusing this drug? Dressing up the drug in scientifically-questionable claims and selling it in fancy boutique stores does not change the alarming truth.

Marijuana is a dangerous drug for adults, but even more hazardous for growing teens. Without question, the science contradicts the new marijuana law in California. Although there was an argument for medical marijuana to treat particular health conditions like muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis or nausea from cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, the case for recreational legalization is fallacious at best.

Common Drugs Used by Teenagers = Marijuana and THC Products

Did you know that using marijuana can have a devastating effect on a teenager’s life? The new California marijuana policy ignores the dark facts like the following —

  • 38% of high school students admit to having used marijuana
  • Frequent marijuana use is linked to lower grades and school dropout
  • Teens that smoke marijuana trend toward lower educational achievement
  • Increased risk of mental health issues for teens that use marijuana
  • Impaired driving is common among teens that abuse marijuana
  • Research shows that 1 in 6 teens that try marijuana become addicted
  • Marijuana is a gateway drug that often leads to greater substance abuse

Indeed, these facts are backed by evidence. For example, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, marijuana is the most commonly detected drug in drivers and victims killed in car crashes nationwide. Moreover, the legalization of recreational marijuana has damaged youth-oriented drug education and prevention programs. How can teachers highlight the risks of marijuana when stores down the street are conducting marketing campaigns to celebrate the legal drug due to the new marijuana law in California?

Teen Marijuana Use a Gateway to Teen Heroin Use in California

Although many people deny the gateway drug theory, there is ample evidence that marijuana opens the door to harder drug abuse. Yes, the majority of people that try marijuana never move on to harder drugs. However, thousands upon thousands do make this toxic jump. Marijuana is a social gateway to hard drugs.

Teenage marijuana smokers socialize with drug-using peers in settings that open the door to further substance abuse with access to illegal drugs at an earlier age. As anyone that has gone to high school knows, there is a drug subculture among teenagers where the “stoners” and “partiers” have positive attitudes toward the use of other illicit drugs. They listen to music that promotes drug use and celebrate pop cultural figures that have died from drug use or suicide like Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison of the Doors, Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots, and Kurt Cobain of Nirvana.

In states that legalize marijuana, the National Institutes of Health describe in published research how increased availability, greater social acceptance, and lower prices lead to an increase in teen use of marijuana. Comparing the American experiment with legalization in California and other states to the Dutch long-term legalization of marijuana in the Netherlands, the results are startling. In the Netherlands, legalization leads to black market dealers targeting teenagers with limited financial means for illegal sales. Since adults can buy in the stores, the dealers sell their products to the kids.

Even scarier, in the Netherlands, growing up within 12 miles of a marijuana dispensary has been linked to kids using marijuana at a much earlier age than kids that do not live within such a radius. Considering the substantial diversion of medical marijuana to adolescents in the past, is this surprising? The legalization of recreational use has made the diversion of marijuana and highly-potent THC-infused products more accessible than ever before. Teens have more access than we could even imagine as kids.

Moreover, marijuana use creates an atmosphere where drug experimentation is promoted and celebrated among teenagers. In the New York Times, esteemed psychiatrist Robert L. Dupont, the president of the Institute for Behavior and Health and the first director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, clearly outlines how abusing marijuana can lead to teen heroin use in California and nationwide, saying:

“It should come as no surprise that the vast majority of heroin users have used marijuana (and many other drugs) not only long before they used heroin but while they are using heroin. Like nearly all people with substance abuse problems, most heroin users initiated their drug use early in their teens, usually beginning with alcohol and marijuana. There is ample evidence that early initiation of drug use primes the brain for enhanced later responses to other drugs.” As Dr. Dupont states, most heroin users have started their drug use in their teens, and there is evidence that early use of drugs influences the potentially addictive effects of later drug use.

Given the nationwide opioid epidemic and rash of drug overdoses and deaths, are you willing to take the chance of teen marijuana abuse leading to heroin use in California?

New Marijuana Law in California Ignores Teen Health Risk

The marijuana lobby wants you to believe that marijuana is a mild drug that is less dangerous than either alcohol or nicotine. To be blunt, this is untrue. When it comes to adolescents, the new California marijuana policy is flooding youth treatment centers in California with new patients.

According to a recent National Academy of Sciences report, there are imminent health dangers from the abuse of marijuana. Moreover, teenagers are at a much higher risk than adults. The report revealed how “persistent cannabis use” impairs the cognitive functioning of teenagers, leading to a dramatic decline in scores on IQ tests. Researchers explain how marijuana has “a neurotoxic effect on the adolescent brain.” In other words, extended marijuana use causes brain damage that leads to memory loss, cognitive impairment, and the lowering of intelligence.

Dr. Theodore Petti, a professor at Rutgers University’s Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and the chief researcher, hopes that his findings lead to states that have legalized the drug also bolstering their education and prevention efforts. Petti explains how teens tend to change when they actually learn of the potential dangers. He clearly states, “When teenagers understand the potential risk, and it’s put to them not with drama but just the facts, teenagers will be more likely to say, ‘Maybe this is not something I want to get engaged in.’”

Do teenagers know that several recent deaths have been linked to marijuana edibles and the resulting severe intoxication? The severe intoxication was caused by kids that just kept eating the THC-infused products. Current studies clearly show that legal marijuana laws lead to an increase in teen marijuana use and teen marijuana-related behavioral issues.

Indeed, if your teen is using marijuana, you should access help sooner rather than later.

Youth Treatment Centers in California for Marijuana Use

There is nothing good about the new state marijuana policy being a boon for youth treatment centers in California. If anything, there was a lack of beds and space before the new marijuana law in California. Now, these youth treatment centers in California are under siege as more and more kids fall prey to marijuana marketing schemes.

We are not trying to be alarmist. As you have learned, the science and the facts are on our side. The new marijuana law in California presents a real danger to teenagers.

In the past, kids that smoked pot did not necessarily go to teen rehab. However, the world has changed for the worse. The new California marijuana policy means parents need to be on high alert, making sure that their kids do not slide down a slippery slope that leads to addiction, jails, institutions, and death. The stakes are too high.

If your teen is experimenting with marijuana, please take steps before it’s too late. Contact us today so we can advise you on the next steps to potentially consider.