As of July 1, recreational marijuana is legal in Massachusetts for adults over the age of 21. Marijuana use, both medical and recreational in Massachusetts, is no longer a hidden thing.
As the Medical Director of Youth Health Connection, I feel a very powerful imperative to ensure that we understand the impact culturally for our communities, families, and youth, to be knowledgeable about the law, and to be fully clear regarding the inherent risks that come with both marijuana and alcohol use.
The research is very clear that alcohol and marijuana use can have dangerous effects on the developing adolescent brain. The earlier the age of first use, the greater the risk of substance use issues in adulthood. The research is pointing to the possibility of long-term cognitive problems, including deficits in learning and memory. We know that both alcohol and marijuana use impact judgment. Data demonstrates both can lead to addiction.
Research helps us understand that both parental use and peer influence can be drivers for teen use. Today’s marijuana, vaping and edibles are vastly different from the marijuana many adults used decades ago. THC levels today have greater concentration. Vaping is a delivery system that did not previously exist. Edibles were not sold in retail settings.
We do not have a process for determining “Operating Under the Influence” with marijuana use. The data that we have from other states that precede us in legalizing marijuana is guiding us as we tackle complex issues of safety, risk and addiction.
There are important messages we must deliver:
- It is vital to delay, delay, delay age of onset of use. Allow the beautifully developing teen brain to be safe and unharmed as it matures.
- Parental messaging and role modeling has power is one of the greatest anti-risk factors.
- Know the facts and use the science.
Our children’s lives and development matter. We must show them we care.
Want more information about legal marijuana? Save the date for South Shore Health System's "Weeding Through the Myths: Marijuana in Massachusetts." First debuted in 2017, the updated exhibit will be back at the Hanover Mall starting with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday, August 29 from 9 AM - 11 AM.