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4/20 celebrations and the influence on young people

Jody Boulay

Special to the Village News

Much of the idea of 4/20 has moved from being a counterculture protest to more of a consumer-interest story within the media. Legal marijuana is a big business in California.

The 4/20 festivities, like Hippie Hill, are another opportunity to promote the industry and its products, much like alcohol companies during the holiday season or St. Patrick's Day.

Ignoring its influence on young people is hard when celebrities and social media influencers push brands and products. This is genuinely something that parents should be aware of and make an effort to have constructive conversations with their kids about marijuana.

"There are risks for teens and age does matter the first time someone uses cannabis. We are not saying that every first-time pot user becomes a hard-core addict. We want parents to know that THC has strong addictive properties, which young developing brains are more susceptible to," said Marcel Gemme of Addicted.org.

In California, 10% of 12 to 17-year-olds report using drugs in the last month. Among those teens, 85% reported using marijuana in the previous month, according to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics.

The teen brain is actively developing and continues to develop until around age 25. Marijuana harms the developing brain.

The short and frequent conversations parents have with their kids about marijuana, and the risks have a real tangible impact on their choice to use the drug. Small prevention efforts go a long way. Consider some of the following pointers:

· Parents should talk often and build an open and trusting relationship. Lots of little talks are more effective than one big talk.

· Parents should also make their views and rules about marijuana clear. Discuss beliefs and opinions. Be honest and express a clear message, yet do not lecture or make threats.

· Ask them questions about what they know about marijuana, listen to their opinions, and answer their questions. The conversation goes both ways.

· Lead by example; what parents do is just as important as what they say.

· Provide factual information about the risks and dangers, and be prepared to share personal experiences.

The conversation changes as they age, but the principles remain the same. Prevention and education help anyone make informed decisions and understand consequences.

The reality is there are adverse effects when teens begin using marijuana. This can include difficulty thinking and problem-solving, issues with memory and learning, reduced coordination, difficulty maintaining attention, and problems with school and society. In addition, there is an increased risk of mental health issues and addiction.

The cannabis industry has become directly involved in 4/20 events, and like any other product, it will always need new customers. Parents' conversations with their kids now make a big difference in the end.

Jody Boulay is a mother of two with a passion for helping others. She currently works as a Community Outreach Coordinator for Addicted.org to help spread awareness of the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

 

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