Commentary: Medical Marijuana – Time for Parents to Step In

To paraphrase a former First Lady, “What goes on in the White House is never as important as what goes on in your house.”

As the evidence mounts of the negative effects of medical marijuana laws in various states, it’s even more important for parents to recognize that marijuana needs to be on their parenting radar screen.

A Colorado study shows some of these impacts, where nearly 74 percent of a sample of teenagers receiving addiction treatment in that state told researchers they used medical marijuana that was recommended for someone else.

This news should be of no surprise because increased availability of marijuana is highly associated with increased use. Studies have shown that marijuana is not a safe, benign drug. It’s a highly addictive drug. When smoked it contributes to pulmonary damage. It significantly impairs judgment, and is associated with poor performance in school. Its use has also been linked to contributions to impairment on important measures of life achievement, including physical and mental health, cognitive abilities, social life and career status.

Marijuana is a drug that’s widely used by teens and young adults. Among teens aged 12 to 17, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, after several years of declines, current marijuana use increased in 2009 and again in 2010, to 7.4 percent of the population. Among young adults aged 18 to 25, almost 30 percent used marijuana in the past year, with almost 6.3 million young adult users in the past month.

Marijuana use is now more prevalent among teens than cigarette smoking. Marijuana smoke contains 50-70 percent more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than tobacco smoke. Moreover, the typical weed available to adolescents these days is so much more potent compared to the marijuana used by prior generations. This increased potency is particularly concerning in light of recent scientific findings that marijuana use deleteriously affects brain development, particularly in areas related to mood, reward, and learning.

Medical marijuana laws have made parents’ jobs tougher, no doubt about it. Although the provisions of the statutes differ, as of early July medical marijuana statutes had been signed into law in 17 states and the District of Columbia.

Parents are a mighty lobbying force – at the local, state and national levels – particularly when they act in groups. We are not suggesting that parents shouldn’t try to influence government at any one of these levels.

But because governments move slowly and not always in everyone’s best interests, parents can (and should) influence what goes on in their households. Science will continue to inform the public and seek solutions. But as the constant in a child’s life – with protective instincts that can be brought out by science but not replaced – it’s the parents who are the first lines of defense for their children.

Ken C. Winters, PhD & Amelia Arria, PhD

Dr. Winters is the Associate Director, Dr. Arria the Scientific Director, of the Parents Translational Research Center (PTRC) of the Philadelphia-based Treatment Research Institute. The PTRC is a NIDA-funded Center dedicated to developing practical, science-based tools for parents and other caregivers faced with challenges related to adolescent substance abuse.


20 Responses

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    Charlie Sheen

    March 17, 2013 at 10:22 PM

    I don’t have the time to go through here and read this but ive been using for 2 years, almost without missing a day. I have never craved it. I went through a few different stoppage points to get an internship and a job. I had no problems of addiction during these times. Despite a year of constant use. My grades and productivity in school went up my gpa went from 2.5 to around 3.2 talking upper level classes. My memories great and I function amazingly when on or off the substance. In my eyes it’s not a bad substance, and most accusations are false. It’s just not for the weak minded. Anyone who has trouble with this plant, are just weak in my eyes.

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    Cesar Garza

    October 24, 2012 at 1:31 PM

    Marijuana is not as bad as alcohol or tobacco. It’s also a plant that grows from the ground and is not man made. I won’t lie I smoked almost all my high school years, which I have successfully completed with a G.P.A of 3.89. I’m not going to say Marijuana should be done by every body, but I am going to say that Marijuana has never effected my judgement. Alcohol and tobacco has killed more people then Marijuana has ever had and parents shouldn’t let their children smoke, but parents should do research on their own. Marijuana was smoked by pass American’s such as Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, and they both lived good lives. If people want to smoke when they are old enough what can we do but present them with the facts. Medical patents should also not be to blame, they waste thousands every year on pill, when all they really need is a little marijuana. This could save them thousands every year.

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    October 20, 2012 at 4:44 PM

    As a teenager myself, I can honestly say that it is much easier to obtain marijuana from kids/friends/dealers in public schools and my neighborhood than it is to obtain alcohol or cigarettes.

    Marijuana is very popular, and is readily available. Alcohol is harder to come by, because it is harder to reach a connection.

    People are willing to sell weed to anyone at any age. Not as many people are available to buy alcohol for minors.

    Dealers are easier to find than trying to play “Hey, Mister” at a local liquor store.

    Just my two cents.

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    September 28, 2012 at 6:30 PM

    This paper clearly states that there is a problem with teenagers and that there is an increase in the numbers of teenagers taking marijuana, and that yes it is a problem for families to face but how do they deal with it? In reality what do you do as a parent if you have just found out that your child is smoking it. It is very well to make statements like “parents can (and should) influence what goes on in their households” is it unrealistic to think like this? Should you know what to do and how to deal with it? People make statements but where is the intevention or how do we look to the future for parents to deal with this worry.

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    Bill Crane

    September 14, 2012 at 4:58 PM

    Whoa. Isn’t this the same issue as kids getting into other medically-prescribed drugs (which is an acknowledged growing problem). The authors imply the problem is medical marijuana, an argument that sounds like it is directly from the propaganda mill at the DEA. How about some actual statistics regarding the impact of legal medical marijuana states vs those states that have no such laws. Is the marijuana use higher? Not so, say a number of studies, including a study in California for the period from 1996 (MMJ enacted) to 2008 that has found “no evidence supporting that the passage of Proposition 215 increased marijuana use during this period.” In fact youth use actually declined during this period. The more lies promoted from the drug war advocates the more the youth (and adults) mistrust their information.

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