Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (“Prop 64”) legalized the cultivation, possession, and use of marijuana/cannabis by adults (age 21+) for nonmedical purposes. Approved by CA voters in November 2016, this law allows adults over the age of 21 to grow and possess marijuana for personal use, and use marijuana in their private residence. Prop 64 also signals the emergence of a commercial cannabis industry, which is expected to rival and even use some of the same tactics as the tobacco and alcohol industries.
It continues to be unlawful to consume marijuana in public, and in places where smoking is prohibited, and illegal for anyone under 21 to be in possession of marijuana/cannabis. It is youth and minors under the age of 21 who face the most consequences for possession, use, and smoking in places where tobacco is prohibited.
The penalties for youth possession, use and smoking include suspension or expulsion from school, Infraction, Misdemeanor, and fines and even jail time to minors 18+. Besides trouble with law enforcement, which continues to be a greater risk for people of color, penalties can cause more long-term consequences for youth because they impact access to financial aid, education and employment opportunities. Studies also suggest that exposure to marijuana ads for youth has increased sharply over the last seven years, and may encourage youth to increase use of marijuana.
Despite the fact that no local permits for recreational cannabis operations have been issued in Pasadena to date, recreational (non-medical) marijuana and products are accessible in our community, and they are getting into the hands of youth. Examples of products available in our city today from illegal operators include high potency THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol)edibles that resemble popular flavored candy and snacks and wax concentrate for vaporizer pens.
In 2017, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) reviewed the available scientific evidence on the health effects of cannabis and cannabis-derived products, and while noting substantial evidence of therapeutic effectiveness of medicinal cannabis for a few indications, the study noted evidence of association of cannabis use with harm in a wide range of areas. The NASEM study found “substantial evidence” to support the following conclusions:
They associate cannabis use with increased risk of motor vehicle crashes
They associate maternal cannabis smoking during pregnancy with low birth weight in offspring
Use of cannabis at an early age or more frequent use is a risk factor for developing dependency and addiction
They associate long-term cannabis smoking with worse respiratory symptoms and more frequent chronic bronchitis episodes
They associate cannabis use with increased risk of developing schizophrenia and other psychoses, with the highest risk among the most frequent users
In addition, NASEM study found that emerging evidence suggests that early and frequent use of marijuana is associated with impaired academic achievement, harms to the developing brain such as decreased cognitive function, and increased risk of suicide. These also represent significant risks, especially for youth.
Under the state law, each city can decide how to regulate cannabis. On June 5th of this year, Pasadena voters approved two ballot initiatives that reversed the cities prior ban on all marijuana sales and operations to allow a limited number of marijuana retailers, cultivation, and lab testing operators to legally operate in the city of Pasadena, as well as a tax structure to collect revenue from sales.
With the promise of profit that is attracting businesses and entrepreneurs into our city, this is an important time to ask who will benefit and who will be harmed the most from marijuana sales in Pasadena? Best Practice regulations for retailers are needed to get things right and reduce harm to public health and safety and protect youth. The city is in a position to learn from best practices that have been used to regulate tobacco retailers and no-so good practices that have been implemented in cities in other states where marijuana is also legal. It is also important for all adults who interact and work with youth to know and understand the facts and gather around one unified message to empower youth and adults to make informed decisions about marijuana use.
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