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Asking Tough Questions

September 10, 2012–As the November election nears, voters in three states (Colorado, Oregon, and Washington) will decide whether to legalize the production, distribution, and retail sale of marijuana.  On today’s Huffington Post, National Families in Action’s president and CEO, Sue Rusche, asks: “Can Our Experience with Tobacco and Alcohol Teach Us How to Protect Children from Pot if Marijuana is Legalized?  Read it here.

Frequent marijuana use before age 18 tied to drop in IQ

August 27, 2012–A new study reinforces the need to protect adolescents from a commercial marijuana industry that will come after them, like the tobacco and alcohol industries do, if marijuana is legalized.

The study, reported today by the Associated Press, involved more than 1,000 people in New Zealand who were interviewed and tested several times, beginning at age 13 and ending at age 38.  Those who used marijuana persistently by age 18 experienced an average IQ drop of 8 points at age 38.  Reducing use or quitting did not fully restore the drop in IQ.  Those using marijuana frequently after age 18 did not experience a drop in IQ.

The study was published online today by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Marijuana Legalization Initiatives Will Be on the November 2012 Ballot in Three States

August 1, 2012–Voters in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington will decide whether to legalize the production, distribution, and retail sale of marijuana in November.  If any state legalizes, for the first time in history a vast commercial marijuana business will emerge.

Researchers predict that, depending on the federal response, over time legal marijuana’s price could drop by as much as 80 percent. Users and dealers from other states would be likely to buy the cheaper pot, bringing a windfall of taxes to the legalization state and pressuring other states to legalize to retrieve their share of taxes.

True, if a state legalizes marijuana in November, marijuana will remain an illegal drug under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act (CSA).  But Congress can change that and national polls now show that half the population supports legalizing marijuana.  In fact, a bill with 20 co-sponsors has been introduced that would remove marijuana from the CSA so that states could move forward with legalization.

If legalization occurs, profit motives will quickly trump public health concerns.  Like the tobacco and alcohol industries, a commercial marijuana industry will target society’s most vulnerable people, children, as potential life-time customers.  Research is showing how to limit the tobacco and alcohol industries’ marketing efforts to children; can we prohibit similar efforts before a commercial marijuana industry emerges?

With the help of experts who work to prevent underage drinking and smoking, National Families in Action developed 12 provisions that states should include in regulations to govern a commercial marijuana industry.  Our provisions address such questions as:

  • Should that industry be allowed to sell marijuana edibles – marijuana infused chocolate chip cookies, fudge, and brownies – like medical marijuana dispensaries sell?
  • Should marijuana retail shops be located near schools?
  • Should use be allowed on the premises of marijuana retail outlets?
  • Should the industry be allowed to advertise?  On TV?  At sports events?  On the Internet?  At points of purchase?
  • Could an increase in use among youth automatically trigger legalization repeal?
  • Should a marijuana industry, like the tobacco industry, contribute to a dedicated fund to treat addiction and other health problems marijuana causes?

National Families in Action calls upon responsible leaders to develop contingency plans for regulations that will prohibit a commercial marijuana industry from marketing its products to children if voters legalize the drug.  We offer our provisions as a way to begin.

An Analysis of How Current Marijuana Legalization Initiatives Stack Against the 12 Provisions

Introduction (Slides 1-3)

June 14, 2012–This presentation was given originally on March 13th, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia, to the director and board members of National Families in Action, which is conducting a public education campaign about marijuana legalization called “But What About the Children?” Since the presentation, some slides have been revised or omitted to reflect the most accurate and up-to-date information available.  The presentation consists of an introduction and three sections.

The research and analysis presented here is the collective work of a class of 16 students from Carnegie Mellon University’s John Heinz III College, School of Public Policy & Management. These students all participated in a course called Policy Modeling Workshop, taught by drug policy expert Professor Jonathan P. Caulkins. Since Spring 2010, this course has offered students the opportunity to dig into timely marijuana-related issues and ultimately present their findings to key drug policy decision makers. In 2010, the students analyzed California’s Proposition 19, and in 2011, the class focused on medical marijuana. This year, the course centered on the legalization of marijuana for recreational use by comparing and contrasting the content and implications of the state marijuana proposals for 2012. As the culmination of the course, pairs of students presented the work of the class to the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), the director of Congressional Affairs from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), drug scholars at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), and Congressional representatives.


Section 1.  Overview of Current Initiatives and Likelihood of Passage (Slides 4-18)


Section 2.  The Impacts and Implications of Marijuana Legalization (Slides 19-38)


Section 3.  How Do the Initiatives Stack Up Against the Twelve Provisions? (Slides 39-74)



Complete Presentation (Slides 1-74)

Legalization of Marijuana and the Impact on Children

June 12, 2012–The legalization of marijuana for recreational use is being proposed by direct voter referendum in Colorado and Washington in November, 2012.  Part of the discussion that is missing on legalization is just what effect this would have on children.  Will it be similar to alcohol and tobacco…both legal products?

California voted down Proposition 19 to make personal marijuana use legal in 2010…but may be headed to a vote again in 2012.

Proponents say that state regulation will prevent underage use of marijuana, but statistics show that states have not done a very good job of keeping alcohol and cigarettes from youth under the legal age of possession.  (See Commerce Trumps Age Limits, below.)

Substance Abuse 411 talks to Sue Rusche, President and CEO of National Families in Action, about this looming crisis and what safeguards should be put in place if indeed voters legalize marijuana and turn it into the next commercial industry whose profits will depend on addicting people, especially young people. Click here to listen.

What 6-year-old wouldn’t want to eat one of these chocolate chip cookies?

June 11, 2012–Pictured here are chocolate chip cookies infused with marijuana, just one example of “marijuana edibles.” A new industry has emerged to supply marijuana edibles to patients eligible for medical marijuana, now legal in 17 states and the District of Columbia. If voters approve ballot measures to legalize the production, distribution, and retail sale of marijuana for recreational use, not only will smokeable varieties of the drug be sold in retail outlets, but also food products like these. How will we keep them out of the hands of children? Other marijuana edibles include:


Marijuana Caramels and Fudge

Marijuana Pancakes

Marijuana White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

And Marijuana Cookbooks

Two More California Legalization Ballot Initiatives Fail to Qualify

June 11, 2012–The Marijuana Penalties Act of 2012 (Tracking Number 1518) and the Repeal Cannabis Prohibition Act of 2012 (Tracking Number 1524) both failed to collect enough signatures to be placed on California’s 2012 ballot.  Two other initiatives continue to collect signatures.  They are:

  • The Medical Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act (Tracking Number 1571), which legalizes the production, distribution, and sale of medical marijuana and prohibits state and local law enforcement agencies from helping federal agencies enforce the Controlled Substances Act and other federal laws.

Number 1544 had until June 4 to collect more than 500,000 signatures; no word yet from the Secretary of State as to whether proponents succeeded.  Number 1571 has until July 13 to collect the required number of signatures to place the initiative on the state’s ballot.

California Won’t Be Regulating Marijuana Like Wine This Year

April 10, 2012–The Regulate Marijuana Like Wine Act of 2012 (Tracking Number 1516), a ballot initiative sponsored by Judge James P. Gray, William McPike, Stephen Collett, Steve Kubby, and the Regulate Marijuana Like Wine Committee failed to collect enough valid signatures to be placed on California’s November 2012 ballot.

Four other California marijuana legalization initiatives, however, are still collecting signatures:

  • The Marijuana Penalties Act of 2012 (Tracking Number 1518)
  • The Repeal Cannabis Prohibition Act of 2012 (Tracking Number 1524)
  • The Cannabis Hemp and Health Initiative 2012 (Tracking Number 1544), and
  • The Medical Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act (Tracking Number 1571), which legalizes the production, distribution, and sale of medical marijuana and prohibits state and local law enforcement agencies from helping federal agencies enforce the Controlled Substances Act and other federal laws.

Two years ago, California voters turned down Proposition 19, which would have legalized marijuana for recreational use.  It lost by a slim margin (54/46).  Ironically, voters in two other states may beat California legalization advocates at their game.  The Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act of 2012 has made it to Colorado’s 2012 ballot, as has The Washington State Initiative Measure 502.  Both will legalize the production, distribution, and retail sale of marijuana for recreational use if voters approve them and both establish state executive branch agencies to regulate the commercial marijuana business that will emerge.

Colorado citizens concerned about protecting young people from being targeted by a commercial marijuana industry if the drug is legalized should ask the Colorado State Department of Revenue executive director Barbara Brohl  (303.866.5610) to incorporate our 12 Provisions into the marijuana regulations it develops.

Washington citizens should contact Sharon Foster, Board Chair, (360-664-1600) Washington State Liquor Control Board with the same request if Measure 502 passes.

Access to Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Increases Marijuana Use and Sales among School Children

March 14, 2012–A collaboration of Colorado media groups reports that suspensions for drug violations at the state’s public schools increased 45 percent over the past four years, expulsions for drug violations increased 35 percent, and referrals to police increased 17 percent, while all other violations declined. Highlights of their findings, published in Education News Colorado, are:

In Denver, referrals of school drug violations to law enforcement increased a whopping 71 percent over the same four years.  Denver police began keeping separate records for schools in 2010, recording 179 arrests for marijuana possession or sale at 43 Denver public schools during the 2010-2011 school year. One third of those arrests occurred at elementary and middle schools.

Some 53 medical marijuana dispensaries are within 1,000 feet of Colorado schools, while 95 elementary schools, 27 middle schools, and 23 high schools are within a half mile of a dispensary.  School officials say the vast majority of the drug violations involve marijuana and the dispensaries are driving the increase.  Colorado legalized medical marijuana in 2000 and dispensaries have proliferated.

Students say they stand outside the dispensaries and ask approaching customers to buy marijuana for them.  They call this “shoulder tapping.” Others say they ask friends with medical marijuana cards to buy it for them.  Statewide, 41 minors have obtained cards.

One boy, 16, says he thinks the large number of dispensaries makes the drug more attractive.  “It’s like Starbucks. You think what’s so good about Starbucks? And you’re going to go try some.” he said.

Five dispensaries are within a three-block radius of the campus of Denver’s East High School, regarded by many as the city’s premiere high school. Its former principal says he asked both city council members and state legislators about the impact dispensaries would have on youth.  “They told me, ‘It’s not something we thought about,’” he says.  “I’m disappointed that young people weren’t considered when our government decided to implement a law and make medical marijuana legal.”

Today’s question.  If Colorado legalizes marijuana for recreational use in November, what kinds of provisions can be put into regulations governing the retail sale of the drug to avoid this problem?

Our thanks to Monte Stiles, executive director of the Prevention Idaho Foundation, for sending us this article and to Education News Colorado, Solutions, and the I-News Network for conducting this investigation.

Two Initiatives Legalizing Marijuana for Recreational Use Make It to the Ballot

March 7, 2012—To date, marijuana legalization initiatives have made it to the ballot in two states, Colorado and Washington.

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol collected enough signatures to place Initiative 30 on the November 2012 ballot as Amendment 64: The Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act of 2012. If voters pass the initiative, among other things it will:

  • legalize the production, distribution, and retail sale of marijuana,
  • prohibit sales to anyone under age 21,
  • designate the Colorado State Department of Revenue as the agency responsible for regulating marijuana commerce.

New Approach Washington also collected enough signatures to place Measure 502 on that state’s November ballot. If approved, Measure 502 will also:

  • legalize the production, distribution, and retail sale of marijuana,
  • prohibit sales to anyone under age 21,
  • designate the Washington State Liquor Control Board as the regulatory agency.


Copyright 2011 by National Families in Action. All rights reserved. Last Updated: