As recreational use of marijuana recently became legal in Washingtonstate, many concerned parents and educators feel this decision is sending the wrong message to our youth and teens. While sales continue to be brisk in Colorado, one expert voices concern about the drug serving as a gateway for youth and teens searching for harder drugs.
“It’s truly a shame that yet another state has allowed and is now peddling recreational marijuana,” said Janina Kean, substance abuse and addiction expert and President and CEO of High Watch Recovery Center. “Allowing the sale of recreational marijuana in Washington will only perpetuate drug use in the state and provide a gateway for our youth for doing more hardcore, illicit drugs such as heroin, which is currently plaguing the nation.”
Logo of the United States National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Kean is on the front lines in the war against substance abuse. Her interaction with youth, teens and parents over the past 16 years in her treatment facility has shaped her views about the recently approved legislation legalizing recreational use of marijuana in Washington State. As an internationally recognized expert and spokesperson in the field of substance abuse, Kean led the first AA meeting to ever take place in the Opiate Triangle of the World, the Yunnan Province of China, where she was invited to teach physicians how to properly care for patients with heroin addiction.
Keen has firsthand experience that marijuana is not as benign a drug as most people believe, and contrary to popular belief, marijuana is addictive.
She explains that many of her current opiate addicts she treats, who began using marijuana only a decade earlier, always stated “Marijuana is safe, it’s not addictive, it can’t hurt you.”
“Well, the recent legalization of recreational marijuana has only reinforced the belief of adolescents—that this is a safe drug,” explains Kean.
“If it used for medicine or medicinal purposes”, her patients argue, and is legal, “it can’t harm me.”
Estimates from theNational Institute on Drug Abuseindicate that about 9 percent of users become addicted. The number increases to 1 in 6, or 17 percent, in users who start in their teens, and to 25-50 percent in daily users.
Kean explains that many patients she treated, whom only “casually” used marijuana, have since gone on to use harder drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and MDMA or Molly after reaching a plateau, and end up back at her treatment facility.
In fact, according to a 2010National Survey on Drug Use andHealth(NSDUH), marijuana accounted for 4.5 million of the estimated 7.1 million Americans who were addicted to, or abusing illicit drugs.Datafrom 2009 in a similar study indicates that marijuana was the primary drug of abuse in those 12 years and older entering drug treatment programs. And 61 percent of persons under the age of 15 also reported marijuana as their primary drug of abuse.
In response to allowing recreational use of the drug, Kean feels that states such as Washington and Colorado that want to make money off the sale of recreational marijuana need to include statutes in their legislation which dictate that a certain fixed percentage of recreational marijuana profits be directed toward treatment beds and research on the use and misuse of marijuana in each state.
In fact, according to anarticlein USA Today, Colorado has already collected nearly 24 million in marijuana taxes from state licensed stores, and Washington State looks forward to collecting up to 190 million dollars in the next 4 years based on government projections.
“These states are only allowing use and sales of marijuana because there is money to be made and as such, they need to pay for the consequences of their profits, increased drug abuse and addiction among the youth,” added Kean.
As of now, there is no allocation of funds as part of legislation in Washington or Colorado which dictates (or mandates) care or research to study and measure abuse and addiction that may follow from marijuana use. Kean feels this is the moral thing to do if these states will be allowed to continue to sell the drug for recreational purposes.
With two deaths directly stemming from marijuana edibles (one suicide and one murder case) in the past year, along with the ever-present question regarding “legal” or “allowable” amounts of marijuana in drivers, defining the future of recreational marijuana use in the US continues.
“We are in the middle of a heroin epidemic–and, in the middle of a heroin crisis amongst our youth, we have now legalized a drug they all use,” stated Kean.