April 21st, 2014
On April 10, the 100th day since legal sales of recreational marijuana began in Colorado, Colorado’s Attorney General John Suthers told funders gathered at the mid-year meeting of Philanthropy Southwest, held in Denver, that foundations need to pay attention to the “fallout” over the legalization of marijuana as this will be a “huge issue in America over the next several years.”
Suthers, who described himself as an inherently optimistic guy, said he’s pretty pessimistic about the outlook in Colorado because of the widespread availability of marijuana. The success or failure of this experiment should be judged by three measures, he said—the rate of youth drug use, the impact of marijuana use on school performance, and the impact on criminal organizations.
Use of marijuana by youth is already increasing markedly, said the attorney general. While youth use of alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana have decreased in the United States over the past ten years, he noted that recent studies have found one in eight Colorado youth smoked marijuana twenty or more times in a month, putting marijuana use by Colorado youth markedly above the national average.
Most people think smoking pot is pretty harmless, said Suthers. Not so for youth, he said, noting that heavy marijuana use before age eighteen can lead to a permanent loss of IQ, along with an increased opportunity for mental health problems. As well, Suthers said that 20–25 percent of those who regularly use marijuana before age eighteen will become drug addicts, compared with 4–5 percent of users over age twenty-one.
While Colorado funders have been meeting to discuss ways to help diminish harmful effects of marijuana, they are following the state’s lead on health- and safety-related efforts said panelist Bill Fowler, senior vice president, Grants Program, for the Daniels Fund. Most important, right now, said Fowler, is education. He said the Daniels Fund is interested in developing a messaging campaign to help adults understand how to talk with young people about marijuana, how to store edible pot products safely out of reach of children, and what is and isn’t legal. Read the rest of this entry »