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Posted: 03/20/13

NWMPC begins anti-
marijuana campaign

by CHRIS GRAY
Observer Staff Writer
      A Michigan-based survey states 44 percent of Macomb County teens have admitted to trying marijuana.
       This is just one of the talking points that the Northwest Macomb Prevention Coalition (NWMPC) plans to present as it takes part in the Mobilizing Michigan campaign to dissuade youths from using marijuana.
       The NWMPC is a group of volunteers made up of district court officials, prevention specialists, school administrators and parents looking to deter drug abuse amongst local youths.
       Jynil Schneider, prevention director with Macomb Family Services, said marijuana is the most commonly abused substance by teens. She said the NWMPC should take action because the legalization of medical marijuana in Michigan has caused a decrease in perceived risk.
       "As the perception of harm decreases, the use increases," Schneider said.
       Data from the Michigan Profile for Healthy Youth (MiPHY) survey shows the perception of risks of marijuana use amongst Macomb County teens has decreased. In 2008, 68.8 percent of 11th grade students thought it was risky. In 2012, the number dropped to 56.3 percent.
       Just over 40 percent of those same students reported in 2008 they tried marijuana. In 2012, it increased to 44 percent.
       She said this trend is seen in Michigan due in part to the voter-approved Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, which legalized marijuana use to treat certain medical conditions.
       "They feel there's less of a risk of getting in legal trouble, though it's still federally illegal," she said.
       She said part of the risk of this decreased perception is that marijuana acts as a gateway drug to more dangerous substances.
       "As a preventionist in the schools, the adolescence will argue us to death on this point," she said. "We usually go after it with it's more of a lifestyle choice."
       Schneider said part of the concern is that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels in modern marijuana are higher than in the past, claiming it has doubled in the period of 1993 to 2008.
       She said studies have shown marijuana to be addictive as well. The Office of National Drug Control Policy reports that 62 percent of teens in drug treatment are addicted to cannabis.
       "Each year, more teens enter treatment with a primary diagnosis of marijuana addiction than for all other illegal drugs combined," she said.
       Schneider cited National Institution of Drug Abuse reports, which said marijuana smoke contains 50 to 70 percent more cancer-causing chemicals than tobacco smoke, and causes respiratory problems over time.
       She pointed to other risk factors as well, such as the Colorado Department of Transportation reporting that the number of drivers that tested positive for marijuana in fatal accidents doubled between 2006 and 2010.
      
       A NORML issue
       Schneider said the NWMPC will begin informing the community about these facts and other talking points within the coming year in order to curtail marijuana use in local youths. These include town hall meetings and mailings and handouts for parents to use when speaking to their kids.
       She said the campaign is an effort against "pro-marijuana" advocates such as National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).
       "Right now we're not well-formed as a country or as a state for the anti-marijuana stance that we take," Schneider said.
       On its website, Michigan NORML states its mission is to move public opinion to repeal cannabis prohibition so responsible use of marijuana is not a penalty under the law.
       It suggests the state could benefit from growing industrial hemp, which can be used in textiles, paper, paints, clothing, plastics and animal feed, while cannabis use in medicine helps treat pain from various diseases, and even prevents some forms of tumors.
       "Of all the negative consequences of marijuana prohibition, none is as tragic as the denial of medicinal cannabis to the tens of thousands of patients who could benefit from its therapeutic use," the website said.


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