Experts Suggest Strategies to Keep Legalized Marijuana Out of Kids’ Hands

Using lessons learned from alcohol and tobacco regulation can help keep legalized marijuana out of children’s hands, according to experts at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University.

Laws legalizing recreational marijuana have been passed in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska* and Washington, D.C. While all of the current laws make marijuana use legal only for those over the age of 21, the researchers say the laws normalize marijuana use, and can put the drug more easily into the hands of young people. The experts note it is more difficult to regulate marijuana than alcohol or tobacco, because people can grow it at home.

Brendan Saloner, PhD and colleagues suggest four strategies to prevent marijuana use among minors. These include using tax policies to keep prices high, reports. “Research has shown that young people are particularly price sensitive and tend to reduce cigarette use at higher rates than adults after price increases,” commentary co-author Beth McGinty, PhD noted in a news release.

Retail availability of marijuana should be tightly regulated, the public health experts write in Pediatrics. States should more strongly enforce existing laws, including more compliance audits and tougher penalties. States should keep marijuana away from playgrounds and schools, and prohibit stores that sell other products from also selling marijuana, they advise.

To prevent the accidental ingestion of marijuana by children, states should regulate the appearance of foods containing the drug, and reduce the amount of THC, the main psychoactive ingredient, allowed in these foods. They also recommend childproof packaging and clear labeling for these products.

The article notes that Washington state enacted emergency rules banning images of cartoons, toys and other pictures that appeal to young children on foods containing marijuana. Colorado regulates child-safe packaging of marijuana products.

The experts also suggest restricting marketing of marijuana products.

*CORRECTION: Alaska has legalized recreational marijuana, and not Arizona.

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    Dave Finch

    May 7, 2015 at 6:46 PM

    Did these “experts” consider that high taxes, just like prohibition, foster the proliferation of street drugs that most teenagers who want them can access? How do you raise taxes and prices on street dealers? And the people who advocate tougher penalties? Have they considered how ineffective penalties are when it comes to the adventurous or depressed teenager who decides to try a little pot? Sorry — but while I favor all dialogue on how to keep drugs out of the reach of minors — these folks who talk about making legal cannabis tougher to sell seem out of touch with the sad realities. We need a system of adult use toleration and adult only access to drugs through a tightly controlled dispensary system that would displace the ubiquitous street dealers. Information about such a system can be obtained at my blog site.

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    Lloyd Johnston, PhD

    May 7, 2015 at 12:14 PM

    One thing that we know from our findings on access to cigarettes by those who are underage is that the most frequently mentioned sources of illegal sales is in gas stations and convenience stores. So, it would be important to be sure that such outlets not carry marijuana, if we want to keep it out of the hands of those under 21.

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    Fred C

    May 6, 2015 at 1:42 PM

    I just wanted to point out that during prohibition of alcohol, people made their own bathtub gin and prohibition of MJ has proven to be equally unsuccessful. Also, to throw my two cents in, I would like to say that I am in favor of medicinal MJ because it helps our returning veterans with the issue of PTSD and other medical problems, but I am not in favor of general legalization because when I did it (back in the 60’s) all it did was make me fat, lazy and stupid.

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    Skip Sviokla MD ABAM

    May 6, 2015 at 1:00 PM

    Sounds as though this horse has already left the barn.
    Skip Sviokla MD ABAM

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