On November 8, 2016, the voters of California passed Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act. While Proposition 64 makes it legal for adults to carry up to an ounce of marijuana and to grow it at home and consume it for pleasure, the law also gives cities and counties a strong say about how the law is implemented and regulated within their jurisdictions. Cannabis activity such as manufacturing, commercial cultivation, testing labs, distribution and adult-use retail stores are being decided by the local government with community input.
Our hope is that policymakers and community members will seriously consider the public health impact – particularly as it relates to our youth – when deciding what types of cannabis activity to allow in Marin. Below are some important issues to consider.
In the National Academies of Sciences (NAS) report entitled The Health Effect and Cannabis and Cannabinoids, based on a review of approximately 10,000 academic articles, it was found that there is substantial evidence that cannabis use leads to:
Increased risk of development of schizophrenia or other psychoses
Increased risk of motor vehicle accidents
Problem cannabis use for those who start using at an earlier age
The World Health Organization reported similar findings that:
Regular cannabis users can develop dependence
Association between cannabis use in adolescence and risk of developing psychosis or schizophrenia
Approximately nine percent of marijuana users become addicted. This number increases to 17 percent among young people who use marijuana. (NIDA)
It is important to note that nearly all studies conducted to date have not assessed the risks of using newly available high-potency cannabis products marketed for recreational use that contain up to 99% THC content. The exact effects of these more potent cannabis products are not fully understood which is a reason to take a cautious approach when introducing the products into an environment where youth can perceive it as harmless because it is legal and available.
There is no solid evidence that selling cannabis through legal channels keeps it out of the hands of youth. In fact, based on reports out of Colorado, the black market seems to be thriving. (HIDTA)
Car crashes and drugged driving deaths have increased in some states that have legalized cannabis.
Altria (formerly Phillip Morris) made a $1.8 billion investment in Canadian marijuana producer, Cronos Group, purchasing a 45% equity stake in the company, as well as a warrant to acquire an additional 10% ownership interest in it. Separately, Altria announced it will invest $12.8 billion in e-vapor manufacturer JUUL Labs for a 35% equity stake in the company, valuing JUUL at $38 billion. (7)
There is no guarantee that the town will profit from cannabis revenue. Towns with limited staffing resources need to consider the costs of processing applications, performing inspections, gathering records and enforcing cannabis-related ordinances. The expense of regulation and oversight could easily outweigh any tax benefit.
For every dollar gained in tax revenue, Coloradans spent approximately $4.50 to mitigate the effects of legalization. (Centennial Institute, 2018)
Prop 64 doesn’t equate to recreational storefronts
Marin voted in favor of Prop 64, yet most jurisdictions maintain strict local ordinances. While Prop 64 decriminalized cannabis possession and consumption for adults, it gave local control to individual cities and towns to decide what level of business activity was the best fit for their community.
Marin County youth rates of use
Based on the most recent California Healthy Kids Survey data – as well as trends over the past several years, local youth already have higher than average rates of cannabis use. This is how we compare in reported current use of cannabis among 11th graders:
California - 20%
Marin County - 32%
Considering the local conditions, stricter policy would create more protections for at risk youth.
Normalization and Perception of Harm
We know that cannabis use is already normalized in our community which decreases the perception of harm by young people – and the less harmful it is perceived, the more likely youth are to use it. The presence of a storefront that sells commercial marijuana and cannabis products including concentrates of up to 99% THC is likely to send the message that these products are okay even though cannabis has known harmful effects on developing adolescent brains.
Adults have access
There is access for patients who rely on medical marijuana – as well as adults who choose to use cannabis recreationally. Currently, anyone who needs marijuana or wants cannabis products can get it safely, easily and legally through personal home cultivation and delivery.
While there are strict regulations around who can enter and purchase cannabis at dispensaries and retail outlets, diversion is a real concern. In a study conducted with adolescents in substance abuse treatment in the Denver metropolitan area, approximately 74% of the adolescents had used someone else's medical marijuana, and they reported using diverted medical marijuana a median of 50 times. (Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry)
If we look at the history of availability of tobacco and alcohol to individuals under the legal age of 21 – and the marketing of these products to youth – we can see cannabis following the same pattern.
Cash only businesses
Since marijuana is still illegal on a federal level and banks are under federal control, cannabis businesses deal primarily in cash which can make them a target for theft.
Role of parents
While it is the parents' responsibility to educate their children, set boundaries and model healthy behaviors - we know that some will and some won't. Regardless, it is not enough. Protective policies and environmental prevention are proven to reduce access and use.
More Articles and Research
In first states to legalize pot, teen use triggers concerns. SF Gate, June 2019.
Marin Voice: Fairfax needs to say ‘no’ to recreational cannabis shops. Marin IJ, April 2019.
The dangers of pot. The Boston Globe, July 2018.
U.S. cannabis legalization and use of vaping and edible products among youth. Drug & Alcohol Dependence, 2017.
Waiting for the Opportune Moment: The Tobacco Industry and Marijuana Legalization. The Milbank Quarterly, 2014.