Campaign says marijuana is dangerous for kids

MICHIGAN — Leaders of substance-abuse prevention groups launched a statewide campaign to warn young people about marijuana at a meeting Monday in Clinton Township kicked off by U.S. Rep. Sander Levin.

Teens are confused about whether marijuana is safe or even beneficial because Michigan voters legalized the drug for medical use in 2008 and other states have approved it for recreational use, said Charlene McGunn, executive director of the Chippewa Valley Coalition for Youth and Families.

As more youths use the drug, “we’re going to have a generation of kids under performing in school and under performing in life,” McGunn said.

Leaders praised efforts by McGunn and others to create information packets for a campaign called Mobilizing Michigan — Protecting Our Kids From Marijuana, with videos and fact sheets for use by teachers, community leaders and faith-based advisers.

“I met with Oakland County high school students a month ago (in Birmingham), and they said marijuana was available to them anytime, anywhere, even in school. That’s when I decided: We really need to take this on,” Levin said, standing beside Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith and county Sheriff Anthony Wickersham. Levin, a Democrat from Royal Oak, has been a key supporter of funding for community coalitions nationwide.

Marijuana use among young people “hasn’t taken off very strongly yet, but it still may,” said Lloyd Johnston, a University of Michigan distinguished research scientist. Use by students nationwide “rose for several years, then leveled off in 2012, and we really don’t know why,” Johnston said.

In 2012, 6.5 percent of graduating seniors nationwide had used marijuana at least 20 times in the last 30 days, compared with 6 percent in 2000, “so it’s definitely up,” said Johnston, co-founder of Monitoring the Future, a study of drug use among school children that surveyed about 46,000 youths in grades 8, 10 and 12 last year.

Marijuana use might not harm some adults, but recent research shows that adolescents who use it can suffer serious brain impairment, he said. Kids who were heavy marijuana users in their teens were found in a New Zealand study to have sustained a drop-off of up to eight IQ points by their 30s, he said.

Organizers of Monday’s meeting screened attendees and, in a voice mail, turned away Detroiter Tim Beck, a activist for legalizing marijuana for adults, Beck said. So Beck showed up with a suit, tie and false name.

“I wanted to know what these people were up to, and they’re doing the right thing,” he said after the meeting. “This is a valuable service to the state because no rational person who believes that marijuana should be regulated like tobacco and alcohol thinks kids should be using any of these substances,” Beck said.



Posted by Tribune News Services

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