Jody Boulay: Are 4/20 celebrations influencing youth to use marijuana?

Small conversations about marijuana make a big impression.

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File) This Oct. 20, 2018, photo shows marijuana clone plants displayed for sale by Interstate 5 Farms at the cannabis-themed Kushstock Festival at Adelanto, Calif.

Marijuana is legal for medical use in Utah, while recreational use is prohibited. 4/20 celebrations may not be as vibrant in the state as with others, but it does not stop its influence on youth.

Recreational marijuana continues to be a big business nationwide. 4/20 events have moved past counterculture protests to now a massive commercial showing. It’s another opportunity for cannabis companies to promote the industry and its products, similar to alcohol companies during the Super Bowl or St. Patrick’s Day.

The influence these companies have on youth cannot be ignored. There are significant investments in these events, like The Cannabis Cup. Celebrities, influencers and businesses attend these events and push their products and brands.

With the broad reach that social media has, this is something that parents should be aware of and have constructive conversations with their kids about marijuana and its associated risks.

“Early prevention and education efforts go a long way and have a real tangible impact on the decisions youth make regarding marijuana, alcohol, and other drugs,” said Marcel Gemme, owner & founder of Addicted.org.

The Utah Department of Health found that among youth in grades 8, 10 and 12, 8.2% reported marijuana use within the past 30 days. Other stats have shown close to 6% of 12- to 17-year-olds reported using drugs in the last month. Among those teens, 73% reported using marijuana, according to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics.

Small conversations about marijuana make a big impression. Consider some of the following pointers:

  • Short and frequent conversations are more effective than one big talk because it helps builds trust and strong communication.

  • Show disapproval for underage drinking, marijuana use, and other drug use. Reinforce why it is essential to avoid using drugs and alcohol.

  • Make your views and rules clear about marijuana. Lead by example, as actions speak louder than words.

  • Be a reliable source of factual information. If an answer is unavailable, search it out together.

  • Avoid lecturing, threatening or using scare tactics. Show them you are paying attention, which will discourage risky behavior.

  • Listen to their opinions and answer their questions. The conversation goes both ways.

  • Help build their skills to avoid peer pressure — practice scenarios and rehearse what to say.

Ideally, it is better to have these conversations before they are exposed to drugs or alcohol, but this is not always possible. Parents significantly in their children’s decisions to use drugs or alcohol. These conversations can help prevent drug use altogether.

There is reason to worry for teens, as age matters the first time someone uses marijuana. The teen brain is actively developing and continues to develop until age 25. THC has addictive properties, which a young developing brain is more susceptible to.

The adverse effects can include difficulty thinking and problem-solving, problems with memory and learning, reduced coordination, difficulty maintaining attention and issues with school and social life. It can also lead to mental health issues and addiction.

No one is implying that every youth who uses marijuana once goes on to become a hardcore drug user. However, knowing the risk of addiction increases when any mind-altering substance is used at a young age is vital.

The media covers most of 4/20 Day as a consumer-interest story. Like any other growing business, it requires new clients and future clients. Early prevention and education efforts are effective, and it is never too late to have these conversations.

Jody Boulay

Jody Boulay is a mother of two with a passion for helping others. She currently works as a Community Outreach Coordinator for Addicted.org to help spread awareness of the dangers of drugs and alcohol.