Saturday, August 17, 2019 -
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Focus on kids, marijuana

Side-by-side comparison of Swedish Fish candy and look-alike marijuana edible.AS part of the Association of Colorado Independent Schools (ACIS) circle of influence counselor’s group, Denver Jewish Day School recently hosted a 90-minute program called “Generation Marijuana: Understanding the New Realities of Oils, Edibles and Smokeless Systems.”

More than 80 parents gathered for presentations by Gina Carboni of Smart Colorado — a nonprofit dedicated to protecting youth from marijuana — and Dr. Chris Thurstone, a local child addiction specialist.

“As administrators, teachers and parents, it is our responsibility to be aware of the trends and developments in an industry that poses a significant danger to our students, and to children everywhere,” said Avi Halzel, Denver JDS head of school/CEO.

With the legalization of medical and now recreational marijuana in Colorado, there are currently more than 340 dispensaries in Denver proper alone.

That’s more than Starbucks, McDonalds or liquor stores. As access grows, so too does the likelihood of youth and adolescents being exposed and marketed to by the marijuana industry.

From cartoon-style advertising in commonplace magazines and websites to free bike repair offers by dispensary employees standing outside their storefronts to product packaging designed to look like snacks especially popular with kids (pop tarts, candy bars, gummy bears, potato chips, goldfish, cereals and sodas, to name a few), Thurstone says “we are seeing a lot of the same tactics for targeting marijuana to youth and adolescents that the tobacco industry used years ago.”

It’s disturbing but not surprising, says Thurstone. “Marijuana has a pediatric onset for addiction.”

Normal brain development continues into the mid 20’s, and studies show that marijuana affects the hippocampus (critical for learning and memory) as well as the prefrontal cortex (which governs complex decision making and analysis) in developing brains.

Another important fact is that today’s marijuana has a significantly higher potency than in the past.

According to research presented by Smart Colorado, THC levels (the drug component of marijuana) were around 2-3% in the 1960s and ’70s. Today, smoke-able forms are closer to 23% and have tested as high as 60%.

WHAT’S more, the marijuana industry has extended far beyond smoke. These days, it is easily eaten or vaporized — and those methods of consumption come with two big red flags for parents and others concerned about keeping marijuana away from youth.

While the packaging on edibles mandates that they are clearly labeled, once the items come out of the package, it can be almost impossible to tell the difference between marijuana edibles and regular foods.

Additionally, a bite-sized brownie or candy edible regularly contains as much as 10 “servings” of the drug.

Smokeless forms of marijuana can’t be seen or smelled, so they’re easily concealed.

Designed to mimic commonly used items, electronic marijuana vaporizers come in many forms, including hi-liter pens, asthma inhalers, mascara wands, electronic cigarettes and more.

According to the Smart Colorado presentation, edibles, oils and vapors have some of the highest levels of THC, reaching 70-90% in the form of concentrates and waxes, which are consumed by a process called dabbing.

“Hosting this program was an important way for us to collaborate with parents in promoting the safety and growth of our kids,” said Halzel. “We are committed to educating both parents and students alike.”

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