City of Ukiah, California

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Drugs and Kids – A Dangerous Combination

A few weeks ago, Ukiah Unified Superintendent Debra Kubin wrote a School Desk column about a November 2017 article published by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) on the effects of cannabis in children. 

In case you missed it, the AAP study entitled, Understanding the Highs and Lows of Adolescent Marijuana Use, talks about the increased potency of THC in marijuana today compared to potency levels that existed thirty ago, and the worrisome effects cannabis can have on adolescent brain development.

Now more than ever, we need to pay attention to the effects of cannabis, especially on adolescents as they grow and mature. In its article, the AAP debunks myths that suggest cannabis use is “healthy because it is natural” or that it is “safe because it is legal.” In fact, the AAP explains, “Cannabis is well known to be particularly detrimental to the developing adolescent brain.”

The good news is that it appears teenagers nationwide are decreasing their use of drugs, alcohol and tobacco. For the last 42 years, the University of Michigan has conducted an annual study of more than 45,000 students in eighth, tenth, and twelfth grades in 380 public and private schools. The most recent study indicates that in some areas, teen use rates are the lowest they’ve been in 25 years. So, although societal views on adult cannabis are shifting in favor legalization, it looks like we’re still able to convince many of our kids that using drugs and alcohol is a bad idea.

If you haven’t talked with your teen about the dangers of drug and alcohol use, now is the time. With the legalization of recreational cannabis use for adults going into effect this month, some teens may believe cannabis is safe for them. The fact is our kids will learn about drugs, alcohol, sex, social media, bullying, and all the rest, whether we share it or someone else does (better us than peers who may not have accurate information). 

Last week, I wrote about some of the new laws concerning cannabis—who can use it and where. If you missed that column, here’s a brief recap:

  • It is now legal for adults 21 years or older to possess, transport, or give another adult up to one ounce of marijuana, and to grow up to six plants at their residence. (Here in Ukiah, it is still illegal to cultivate plants outdoors.)

  • No one is allowed to consume marijuana in any of the following places: in public; in any non-smoking area; within 1,000 feet of a school, day care, or youth center while children are present; or in an “open container” (not in a container/readily available to use) while driving or as a passenger in a vehicle, boat, or airplane.

  • It remains illegal for anyone under 21 to use, possess, transport, or cultivate marijuana. A violation is subject to a $100 dollar fine for those 18 and older, or drug counseling and community service for those under 18.

Discussing drug and alcohol use with a teenager can be difficult. Sometimes our teens know way more than we do; other times they are quick to tell us that everyone “does it.” Maybe, however, your teen will be more open to talking about these difficult subjects than you expect.

Regardless of how your teen responds, it’s important that you share information. It’s the only way you can be sure your teen will have the facts they need to make good choices in the future.

Most importantly, your teen should know that cannabis use can be detrimental to their brain development, and as the AAP points out, cannabis causes “decreased concentration, attention span and problem solving skills – all of which interfere with learning.”

Let’s help our teenagers continue to make better choices. Please talk to your kids and reinforce the good choices they make.

As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have any suggestions or comments about how we can improve, please feel free to call me, complete our online survey, or leave a crime tip on our website: 



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Safety · Professionalism · Community Service