Podcast Interview on Marijuana

The new Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Drug Misuse Prevention and Recovery has posted the first part of a 2-part interview with me speaking about marijuana on college campuses. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Social role of marijuana

There is little doubt in my mind that should prop 19 pass, there will be a substantial change in the role of marijuana in our society. That said, within some parts of our culture the shift may have happened a while ago. Perhaps this Halloween costume is just one sign of the times. The irony it employs is deft, and clearly there is no harm in a costume, but it reflects an understanding that the current medical exemption is, for many, a joke allowing for recreational use already. I mean, since when is a doctor who treats terminally ill cancer patients the life of a party. Again, Gorman and Huber's (2007) assertion that linking marijuana to sick people would deter use is looking more and more off the mark. Neither the model in the Dr. Herb costume nor his female nurse "Medical Mary Jane" costume look sick to me, nor do I expect that their friends would shy away from being treated.

Gorman, D. M., & Huber, J. C. (2007). Do medical cannabis laws encourage cannabis use? International Journal of Drug Policy, 18(3), 160-167.  

First of probably many

My guess is this story is but the beginning of what will be a flood of stories on how Proposition 19 will affect colleges. It appears to be a well balanced, and thoughtful exploration of the issue. It’s going to be an interesting month.

The Network CA Launched

I’ve got the new website for the California members of The Network Addressing Collegiate Alcohol and Other Drug Issues up and running now. Feel free to check it out. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be populating the user list with member institutions and hopefully generating some traffic to it.

Also, I’ve decided to craft an online class on the impact of legalization on marijuana prevention strategies. It will be a free six-week class. You can find it at the iPrevention class platform.

Proposition 19, Legalizing Marijuana

Two polls last week showed conflicting results on the likelihood that Californians will legalize marijuana in November. SurveyUSA shows it passing rather easily, while Field Research has it narrowly loosing. There are all sorts of methodological reasons the two may differ, but suffice it to say, the possibility remains that marijuana will be legalized. Assuming for the sake of argument that it does pass either this time, or in some state in the near future, a whole host of complications face the field of AOD prevention. Prevention efforts have almost always relied on the illegality of marijuana to allow for some rather vague understanding.

For instance, marijuana almost certainly impairs cognitive functions necessary for driving safely, and thus its use should increase crash risk. However, we really don’t have an answer to how much marijuana would cause substantial increases in risk, or exactly what impairments are most likely to cause the crashes. Thus, the prevention message has mostly rested on the fact that folks shouldn’t really have any marijuana in their systems anyway, so just stick with zero as the answer to how much should be in the system when driving. But that answer will no longer suffice in a legalized environment. When someone may smoke as much as they please, and then only need to worry about “impaired” driving, then we really need to know far more precisely what amount of active drug is in the system and what level of impairment is caused by that level. We have it for alcohol because it turns out to be relatively easy to measure alcohol within the system, and there also turns out to be a relatively straightforward link between BAC and impairment. We just aren’t there yet with marijuana measurement.

That is only one of the many issues we will soon face if legalization happens. I’m hoping to bring together scientists and experts in the field of marijuana and alcohol to forecast the expected public health outcomes of legalization and its implications to prevention. It’s looking like I may have some government support in that effort. More will follow as I know more, so stay tuned.