City of Ukiah, California

Police Department

Safety · Professionalism · Community Service

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    Continued Accountability

Kids and Drugs

Last week, I wrote about the new laws concerning recreational marijuana—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” 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.

With the legalization of recreational marijuana use, I can’t think of a better time than now to talk with your kids about drug and alcohol use. These topics can be difficult (like talking about the birds and the bees), but it’s important that we, as parents, do our best because our kids will learn about drugs, alcohol, sex, social media, bullying, and all the other difficult topics teenagers face growing up, either from us as parents – or from someone else. 

To help you start this conversation with your kids, I have some great news you can share with them: the number of teens using drugs and alcohol is at a new, all-time low. In other words, you can finally say to your teen, “Hey, it’s cool to say no to alcohol and drugs.”

For the last 42 years, the University of Michigan has conducted a yearly, national study on teenagers’ use of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. This study includes more than 45,000 students in eighth, tenth, and twelfth grades in 380 public and private schools. In December, the university released the results of its latest survey, indicating that teens’ use of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco has declined significantly—in some areas, to the lowest rates in 25 years.   

In 1991, 67 percent of students said they had consumed alcohol in the last year, compared to 36 percent in this year’s survey. That’s a reduction of nearly half. Tobacco had similar numbers, with 63 percent of students reporting tobacco use in 1991, down to 28 percent today.

Prescription narcotic drugs have also been a significant concern in recent years, but these numbers are also declining. In 2004, 9.5 percent of high school seniors (1 in 10) reported illicit use of prescriptions in the last year, versus 4.8 percent who reported use in this year’s study.

For marijuana, the results are mixed. For eighth and tenth graders, marijuana use has declined each year since 2010, with 9.4 percent of eighth graders reporting they had used marijuana in the last year, and 24 percent of tenth graders reporting they had used marijuana in the last year. For twelfth graders, the use of marijuana has remained steady since 2011, with 36 percent reporting use during the last year.

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 realize. Regardless of how your teen responds to the subject, it’s important that you share information, because the information your teen has will determine the choices he or she makes in the future.

As this study points out, most kids today are making better choices; talking with our teens can only help 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