With the newly enacted marijuana laws, local organizations are working to keep children safe and healthy against the recreational drug.
The Carson City Sheriff’s Office School Resource Officers and Partnership Carson City are starting a Marijuana Awareness Campaign to educate children in the dangers and myths about recreational marijuana.
“We want to educate them about the dangers of marijuana because the legalization has put it into a favorable light and we want to be able to dispel those myths that many kids think it is safe to use,” said Deputy Jarrod Adams. “With them more exposed to it now, marijuana has become pertinent and some don’t understand why their parents or older family members or friends can use it and not them.”
The campaign is a program built by youth to teach and talk about issues youth want to hear regarding marijuana use.
“We aren’t talking about extremist use, there are basic dangers involved with marijuana use,” said Hannah McDonald, community outreach coordinator with Partnership Carson City. “That is what it is about, marijuana is still a drug by federal law and it has side effects with it, but we aren’t taking an extremist view on it.”
While the new laws have legalized the drug, several regulations are in place, especially for children. Regulated similar to alcohol, marijuana is still illegal for anyone under the age of 21, is illegal to smoke in a public place, and illegal to drive while high and is a citable or arrestable offense.
“Kids make bad choices, but we want to give them the tools to make good choices,” said Deputy Dean Williams. “We want to help give that education on real-life issues they are dealing with so they can have better, more productive lives. Plus it helps us and them to be able to interact with law enforcement on a positive light.”
For this campaign, the SROs will be going around to the schools and various youth programs during the year and teaching classes about the dangers of marijuana.
“The wonderful thing is that this campaign is very diverse and can be used in a public setting or work in the classroom,” McDonald said. “It is a session-based curriculum and youths are the ones who created it so they can comprehend and understand it at their level. We didn’t want a program that felt like it was made by adults.”
During the summer, the SROs will also be cracking down on enforcement activities by checking popular teen party spots, off road areas such as by the river, in the hills and the beaches as well as checking popular community events.
“People who jump on the legalization say it isn’t harmful and we want to show what happens with marijuana use and debunk that myth that it doesn’t have any repercussions,” Adams said.
Studies show marijuana has a number of consequences for children and teens including delayed cognitive and brain development, educational failure, automobile and other accidents, reduced job performance and productivity, overdose and death, said McDonald.
“They are young and their brains are still forming,” Williams said. “So marijuana has more impact on their developing brain and can adversely impact them more than an older adult’s brain.”
McDonald said it’s important they start focusing on marijuana so the dangers and consequences become apparent to kids.
“With the new law it is important to educate on the possible consequences and remind young people that even though marijuana is legal, there are still dangers,” McDonald said. “We are constantly stressing about alcohol abuse or opioid abuse and marijuana just gets swept under the rug.”
The goal of the campaign is to help youth be more aware before potentially dangerous outcomes with marijuana and in turn McDonald said they hope this will delay and deter students from using marijuana before it is legal for them.
“The ultimate goal is to delay the onset of use,” McDonald said. “This generation is all about impact on the world and if we can create that impact with positivity and delaying that onset of any drug, then I say go for it.”