Letter: Mayor Urges Community to Guard Against Underage Marijuana Use After Voters Approve I-502

Mercer Island Mayor Bruce Bassett writes in a letter to the editor that health risks have increased for local youth after the approval of Initiative 502, which partially legalizes marijuana.

Dear parents and families,

Given the recent passage of Initiative 502, Washington becomes one of two states (with Colorado) to legalize recreational marijuana for adults over age 21. Regardless of where one falls on the issue of legalization in principle, it creates a valid concern for the health and safety of our youth.  Adding marijuana to alcohol and tobacco on the list of addictive substances available for retail sale across the state foreshadows a major shift in how we approach the drug as a City and community. A study by the non-partisan RAND Corporation forecasts that legalization will result in a sizeable increase in use of the drug across the entire population--especially among youth. The medical community is already clear that marijuana use has significant negative consequences for children who now will be at increased risk for marijuana use. To protect our youth, the Island community must come together and adapt to this new threat to insure our youth remain as safe as possible.

While we wait to see how this historic event unfolds, it is important to remind one another of the good news-- the overwhelming majority of both middle school youth (98%) and high school youth (73%) on Mercer Island have never smoked marijuana. We can use this fact to anchor the inevitable conversations that parents across the Island must have with their children. City Staff from the Department of Youth and Family Services (YFS) who are professionals in substance abuse treatment and prevention have a message they hope Island youth hear loud and clear:

The adolescent brain continues to develop until the mid-twenties and drugs like marijuana can have a negative, and sometimes permanent, effect—choosing to not use marijuana as a kid is a great choice for your future.  

Many factors influence our children’s decision to use marijuana.  However, parents have the greatest influence.  As you talk to your teens about marijuana legalization, YFS staff suggest the message be fact-based, non-judgmental and in the spirit of concern for their health and safety.

Here are relevant facts related to marijuana use that might be helpful in your discussion:

  • Potency – today’s marijuana is 4-5times more potent than marijuana in the 60’s and 70’s.
  • IQ loss – permanent IQ loss in adulthood, even after prolonged abstinence, when heavy marijuana use begins before age 18.
  • Lack of initiative, energy and focus – academic performance decreases significantly among marijuana users.
  • Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (DUID) – marijuana is the most common illegal substance in traffic fatalities involving drug use.
  • Health risks – marijuana use increases the chance of schizophrenia and heart attack.
  • Addiction and dependence—approximately 1 in 9 who ever smoke marijuana will become dependent; chances increase to 1 in 6 among youth.

Parents should know that they are not alone. The City of Mercer Island, along with the Mercer Island School District, has several assets currently in place to address alcohol and drug issues among youth. The City’s Police enforce drug laws related to youth use and have a school resource officer available to all schools.  YFS drug and alcohol counselors and drug prevention specialists are available to students in the schools. The Communities That Care Coalition was recently refunded for five additional years of drug prevention efforts in the community.

It may be hard to imagine, but we should prepare for the emergence of a large-scale marijuana industry, regulated by the State, with commercialization and advertizing similar to alcohol and tobacco. Under this system, there will undoubtedly be many messages vying for your child’s attention.  However, let’s make sure that the first and most important message they receive regarding marijuana is from an invested community – parents, school, neighbors and city working together to prevent harm to our youth.

They are our greatest asset.

For additional information or resources, please contact the Department of Youth and Family Services for education, support and resources at 206.275.7611 or the Mercer Island Police Department at 206.275.7610.


Bruce Bassett

Mayor, Mercer Island

Baraky Obama November 13, 2012 at 01:51 AM
only the comment of lack of initiative might have some truth but all the other points are not true and it has been proven so many years ago he is just using old propaganda this person is out of date.
Gustavo Picciuto November 13, 2012 at 12:59 PM
You should be happy it passed for our kids sake. Now Marijuana will be behind a counter and controlled and regulated by US not gangs and drug cartels who don't care who they sell it to. Kids can get Marijuana now far easier than alcohol or cigarettes so it's not like there will be a boom in availability, if anything this will decrease with regulation. Be a parent to your kids, that is the most important thing to remember.
Thomas Imrich November 13, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Our mayor here is "on point", has thoughtful and scientifically supported advice, and his message deserves wide support.
Mel Griffin November 13, 2012 at 09:24 PM
Your facts, above, have no basis in fact, and are opinions only, and wrong. No, we don't want our kids to have legal access to pot, even if there is a small chance it may be harmful in any way. But!!! Just for starters, what is the implication of pot being more powerful now than before? It's a BS, or a 'so what?' sort of fact. One smokes pot until one gets the effect one desires. It takes less to do that now, that's all. The mayor needs to try a little weed when it becomes legal, and do a little research, so he can say he knows what he is talking about.


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