The Snoqualmie Valley Community Network (SVCN) recently partnered up with the Mount Si PTSA to hold a community meeting designed to raise awareness about youth substance use and to offer concrete skills to parents and community members that can help keep youth safe. More than 75 community members joined together for the Legalized Marijuana and Our Teens event hosted at Mount Si High School. Principal John Belcher was on hand to speak to questions related to what the administration sees happening at the school and how the administration is responding.
The event provided participants with the opportunity to hear directly from a youth panel about any impacts they are noticing now that marijuana use has been legalized for those of over 21. When asked about underage marijuana use, Mount Si Freshman Ellie Stedman shared her thoughts:
“I think that kids who have not used marijuana are not phased by the legalization because either way, it’s still illegal for the kids to use it because they are under 21. I think that kids who smoke weed in high school do it regardless of legality. The legalization of marijuana has not increased or decreased the amount of students using it in a dramatic way at all. The freshman class has had no big impact in that way but I can’t speak comparatively because I’m at the freshman campus.”
Adults in the audience expressed concerns about the new marijuana edibles and how those can be kept out of the schools. Administration and parents acknowledged that this is going to be a big challenge, and parents were encouraged to get out and learn more about what is (or will be) available for purchase. Figure 1 below shows some of the products being sold in medical marijuana dispensaries that are expected to be sold for recreational use as well.
Figure 1: Edibles
Next, the participants learned about marijuana’s impact on the growing brain from Kevin Haggerty, School of Social Work. He noted that the potency of marijuana in the United States is changing (See Figure 2 below) and is not the same marijuana that many people think it is. Additionally, he shared some research on marijuana and teen mental health (See Figure 3 below). The good news is that there are programs that teach specific parenting techniques that are shown to prevent youth from making risky choices related to substances and two of those programs, Guiding Good Choices and Staying Connected with Your Teen, are taught annually in the Snoqualmie Valley. The next Guiding Good Choices class will be held in the fall.
Figure 2: Potency
Figure 3: Marijuana and Adolescent Mental Health
Officer Nigel Draveling from Snoqualmie Police Department spent time reviewing Washington’s medical and recreational marijuana laws. The theme throughout his presentation was that it is still illegal for people under the age of 21 to use marijuana. Use of medical marijuana by someone under 21 requires parental consent.
The evening concluded with a presentation from Parent Educator and Prevention/Intervention Specialist Phoebe Terhaar. She described concrete tools that parents can use within the home to decrease the likelihood that their children will use illegal substances (See Figure 4). Terhaar also identified some of the ineffective approaches that families sometimes resort to using (See Figure 5).
Figure 4: Effective Approaches
Figure 5: Ineffective Approaches
Terhaar’s presentation concluded with a slide of resources that are available for parents and /or teens related to preventing substance abuse (See Figure 6).
Figure 6: Resources for Parents/Teens
he information offered during this particular event related to marijuana; however, please remember that it is important to have ongoing conversations with the youth in your life about any harmful substances that are available to them. Please talk to your kids early and often.
SVCN is also partnering with the Riverview School District PTSA Council to host Community Awareness events in that area. The next event will be held April 18 from 6:30-8:30pm at Tolt Middle School and will focus on drug and alcohol abuse prevention.
To view the slideshows that were part of the Legal Marijuana and Our Teens presentation, please visit here.