Marketing Cannabis to Colorado Kids
The article published earlier this week in the Denver Post in which reporter Nancy Lofholm cited sharp increases in my hometown of Grand Junction, Colorado, of marijuana possession and ingestion by local teens was frankly completely unsurprising. Don’t get me wrong, just because this trend was completely predictable in the wake of Colorado’s legalization of recreational pot for adults doesn’t mean that it’s not really bad news. It’s terrible news for those kids whose health, and cognitive function and judgment may be effected–some permanently–by marijuana intoxication. Sadly it appears that Pandora’s pot box has been opened and THC in all its appealing packages is out there tempting our kids. Cannabis and candy, in many cases, are one and the same.
It’s well established that marijuana in any form has negative physical and psychological effects on the developing brains of young people. Since the frontal cortex of the typical human brain doesn’t fully develop until the mid-twenties, this means that the most ardent fans of pot are also its most unfortunate victims. Don’t unleash the hackneyed, pro-pot arguments–if you’re so inclined– until you have read the following peer-reviewed studies on the the cultural, physical, and psychological destructiveness of pot use among young people.
Legalization of Marijuana: Potential Impact on Youth (American Council of Pediatricians)
Cannabis: A Danger to the Adolescent Brain: (Massachusetts Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics)
The Influence of Substance Abuse on Adolescent Brain Development: (National Institutes of Health)
Marijuana: Myths and Facts: (National Criminal Justice Reference)
Criminality Increases Among Pot-using Teens: Learn about Marijuana (National Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute)
In November of 2012, a majority of Colorado voters opted to legalize the recreational use of pot and make its use a human right by passing Amendment 64. This initiative was characterized as “regulating pot like alcohol” and promised to be a boon to the state, since the already thriving pot culture of Colorado would, theoretically, be decriminalized and its commercial activities regulated and taxed. Less than a year out, Amendment 64 is proving to be somewhat of an electoral boondoggle. Illegal activity related to pot has skyrocketed in Colorado, while the legislature wrestles with what it really requires to “regulate pot like alcohol.” And wisely, many towns and counties across the state have simply passed permanent local bans on its sale and public recreational use.
Despite the cultural problems of remaking a social evil into a harmless pastime, potrepreneurs are coming up with some insidious ways to market marijuana. The plant itself–along with the harsh effects of smoking it–has almost been eliminated from many of the products coming out of the “recreational pot” industry. These are little more than doses of highly concentrated THC suspended in a relatively pleasant matrix. You got it–Cannabis Candy.
Colorado’s regulatory machine has failed to catch up with the potrepreneurs looking to get fat off newly decriminalized recreational marijuana. There are few if any guidelines for how concentrated THC can be in its various distillates. And commercial manufactures have been able to do little to stop pot candy and food producers from copying their trademark packaging. It should be clear to everyone that these products; lollipops, chocolate bars, soda drinks, breakfast pastries, butter, cookies, etc. are targeting pot’s biggest market and most vulnerable victims, youth of ages from 12 to 25.
Parents take heed. As marijuana foods in their various forms, from chewy candies to smoothies, become readily available, children as well as many adults who ingest them are at risk. Cannabinoids derived from marijuana today are much stronger than in the past, and it is very difficult to discern how much THC a user is getting from a handful of candy vs. a joint from hippidom’s heyday.
Intoxicants have always been a coarse patch in the fabric of society. Unfortunately as the underground pot culture gets a wink and a nod from Colorado government, it surfaces as an innocent and enticing way to relax and socialize. Though Amendment 64 was intended only to decriminalize THC for adult consumers, the effect on teens in the state will be profoundly bad. Those who bought into the marketing of Colorado’s pot law thought they were getting a sweet deal. The truth is that legalized pot for our kids is a very bitter pill.
by Marjorie Haun 11/16/13