Campaign brings awareness of high potency pot
This isn’t your mother’s marijuana.
Smart Colorado has turned their attention to a new social media campaign targeted at parents and teens to warn them about the dangers of modern marijuana, which contains significantly higher levels of the drug’s psychoactive ingredient THC than in the past.
“Many parents still think of marijuana as leaves in a bag,” said Henny Lasley, executive director of Smart Colorado. “In essence marijuana now comes in over 300 forms of products like edibles, dabs, wax and shatter. It’s a much different, highly bio-agriculturally processed product, and it’s nothing like what was coming out in the 70s and 80s.”
Smart Colorado is a statewide advocacy group, which started with a handful of concerned parents after the passing of Amendment 64 in 2012, legalizing recreational marijuana. The group’s goal is to engage with and inform Coloradans about the potential risks of cannabis consumption, especially youth consumption.
A main concern is the rising levels of THC in marijuana, and lack of awareness.
In the early 1990s the average THC potency in marijuana samples was about 3.7 percent, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institute on Health, NIH. Today that number has ballooned to over 17 percent for someone ingesting bud or flower. Average potency of concentrates is currently sitting around 62 percent, according to a report published by the Colorado Department of Revenue called Marijuana Equivalency in Portion and Dosage from late 2015.
Lasley said parents often underestimate the potency of modern marijuana due to their own past experiences with the drug. She also said that as cannabis becomes more available and commercialized teens are becoming indoctrinated into the idea that it isn’t harmful.
“We attribute it to the fact that it’s now legal, sold in store fronts and licensed by the state,” said Lasley. “So people think it’s safer. What we hope is that as people become more informed they recognize that it’s not the harmless product that it’s been marketed as with green crosses all over the state and herbal names for dispensaries.”
While studies regarding the effects of cannabis use are often conflicting or contradictory to one another, there is strong evidence that negative effects are increased the younger someone starts consuming the substance.
People who start using marijuana before the age of 18 are four-to-seven times more likely to develop a marijuana use disorder than normal, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Several studies have also shown a correlation between adolescent cannabis use and a decline in long-term brain function, although these studies appear to be inconclusive, as subsequent studies have refuted the claim.
The National Institute of Health is currently funding the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development study, a 10-year longitudinal study meant to shed some light on the issue.
Smart Colorado doesn’t have an anti-marijuana agenda, but instead acts as a network for parents and teens to educate themselves about modern cannabis products.
“We try to help people out with confusion,” said Lasley. “A lot of people think, ‘how can marijuana be bad if it can help a child with seizures?’ That’s why we want to focus on the THC component of marijuana that is directly tied to damaging the adolescent brain.”
Marijuana products that are low in THC and higher in CBD, or Cannabidiol, can still be effective medicinally.
Smart Colorado puts up informational billboards, and sends representatives to speak at city council meetings and parent get-togethers all over the state. But their main platform is Facebook.
“The social media campaign is an attempt to provide information in a social media platform that kids as well as adults can participate in, said Lasley. “Information is power, and we want to give adults the facts they need to answer questions that many Colorado youth have been forced to navigate on their own.”
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