- A bill in the California legislature would make it illegal for marijuana advertising, such as billboards, to appear within 1,000 feet of a child-care center, a K-12 school, a playground or a youth center. The proposal is an example of ads promoting the state’s new recreational marijuana law getting ahead of regulations, Elizabeth J. D’Amico, a senior behavioral scientist with the RAND Corporation, writes in this blog post.
- Studies have already shown, she writes, that when teens are exposed to tobacco and alcohol ads, they are more likely to use those substances — and surveys of teens who reported seeing ads for medical marijuana were also more likely to report using marijuana within the previous month and saying that they expected to use it within the next six-month period.
- Educators, parents and healthcare providers, she adds, need to increase efforts to help students understand the risks associated with marijuana use and to “navigate this new information superhighway,” D’Amico writes. “Teens need to be reminded that ads don't ever tell the entire story about anything. By design, they are marketing snippets presenting best-case, often fantasy scenarios engineered to influence decision-making.”
The growing number of states that have legalized recreational marijuana are in a conflicted position. Marijuana sales is some states, including California, are being viewed as a new source of revenue for programs benefiting children and youth, but the easier access to the drug could make prevention among teens even more challenging.
In Colorado, recent data show that rates of marijuana use among youth have actually declined since recreational use became legal in 2014. But researchers at the Oregon Research Institute suggest that whether marijuana use increases among students can depend on whether they were already users in middle school.
Their research showed that those who had tried marijuana by 8th grade — before recreational use was legalized — were more than 25% more likely to report use in 9th grade, after the law went into effect. “Prevention campaigns that educate youth of the risks of using marijuana while their brains are still developing, and building capacity and resources for parents to discuss marijuana with their adolescent children, may provide guidance as communities and states navigate the new landscape of legal recreational marijuana,” they write.
As D’Amico notes, the abundance of new ads for marijuana also create opportunities for media literacy lessons, which have becoming increasingly relevant in classrooms and school libraries since the 2016 election.