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‘Talk Early, Talk Often’ effort takes aim at marijuana

21 percent of high school juniors in 2016 reported use of pot within the past 30 days, despite many misunderstandings

Do you recall seeing the “Talk Early, Talk Often” campaign throughout the last year? This campaign is organized by the Sherburne County SUP Coalition in an effort to help educate and empower parents and other caring adults to have ongoing conversations with the young people in their lives around drugs and alcohol. Although the coalition wants adults to have conversations on all drugs, we are specifically working to create awareness of issues surrounding youth marijuana use and its adverse effects.

While popular opinion and legal policies around marijuana have changed rapidly in recent years, misunderstandings about the potential impacts of this drug persist. Today’s marijuana is more potent than the marijuana that was available to a generation ago. Potency is measured by the amount of the mind-altering chemical THC that is contained in marijuana. In the 1980s the concentration of THC averaged 4 percent. In 2012 the concentrations averaged around 15 percent. The mild euphoric feelings smoking marijuana left someone in the 1980s have now been replaced by some users reporting being in catatonic states or hallucinating after using small amounts.

In 2016, approximately 21 percent of Sherburne County high school juniors reported past 30-day marijuana use on the Minnesota Student Survey, which was an increase of nearly 6 percent from 2013. The same year also saw decreases in perceived harm and less disapproval of use among teens. Unfortunately, developing brains may be more prone to damage. The part of the brain that controls reasoning and impulses, known as the prefrontal cortex, isn’t fully developed until about age 25. Marijuana use can reduce thinking, memory, and learning functions. These effects may last a long time or even be permanent.

Marijuana use carries real risks for our youth, just as alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs do. Parents are the most powerful influence in a child’s life. They can help youth by talking early and often about the risks, setting clear rules against drug use, and enforcing reasonable consequences for breaking the rules.

Article published in Star News Newspaper.

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