City of Ukiah, California

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Marijuana and Our Kids

In October of last year, a 16-year-old Ukiah High student was traveling to school early in the morning. He was on the school bus with both elementary school students and middle school students.

While on the bus, he gave two 15-year-old Ukiah High students cookies containing marijuana, and after the bus stopped at an elementary school, the 16-year-old gave other students on the bus marijuana cookies.

By the middle of the first period, one of the 15-year-old students was beginning to feel “weird.”

The 15-year-old said that he was thirsty, had difficulty breathing, felt anxious, and was very sick to his stomach. As he sat in class, he had the feeling he was going to pass out. Eventually, the student was transported by ambulance to Ukiah Valley Medical Center’s Emergency Room and treated for marijuana ingestion.

Our department later arrested the 16-year-old who gave out the cookies and charged him with Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor, Possession of Marijuana on School Property, and Unlawfully Giving Away Marijuana – all misdemeanor crimes.

The University of Columbia, one of our nation’s most highly ranked universities, published a blog about eating marijuana a few years ago. It said that many people who don’t want to smoke marijuana will eat or cook with it, instead.

Although a person who eats marijuana is not exposed to the marijuana smoke, eating it increases the risk of unpleasant side effects. It is common, the University says, to feel nauseated or physically uncomfortable after ingesting marijuana, and the risk of overdosing is greater.

Because the stomach doesn’t absorb marijuana evenly, people don’t immediately feel the effects of the marijuana they’ve eaten, and it is harder for people to estimate how much they need to eat to feel intoxicated. Because eating marijuana delays the effects (compared to smoking it), many people believe they haven’t eaten enough to get the desired effect, and they consume more and more, which often leads to a marijuana overdose.

Symptoms of marijuana overdose, the University says, include disorientation and feeling feverish. People can become paranoid, hallucinate, or even have panic attacks – which can make them harmful to themselves or others. Even though an overdose of marijuana might feel like the end, the University says, the good news is that marijuana itself is not lethal.

The University blog explains that when eating marijuana, people cannot escape the unwanted side effects until the drug breaks down within their bodies. Those side effects include a dry mouth, blood-shot eyes, increased heart rate, and increased blood pressure. 

The University cautions that marijuana has a stronger, more prolonged effect on the body when it’s eaten, and that makes activities that require concentration such as schoolwork – or even driving a car – much more problematic and dangerous.

Regardless of your position on the legalization of marijuana, I hope we can all agree that we must do whatever we can to make our Ukiah community safe. That includes making sure our kids are going to school to learn, without being impaired by drugs or alcohol.

As our children return to school after the holidays, I thought it was important to tell you more about cooked marijuana products. I hope you talk with your children about this. 

The use of drugs and alcohol can very confusing to our kids, and their exposure to these issues is occurring earlier and earlier. The use of marijuana brownies has been highlighted on many television shows like That ‘70s Show, The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Grounded for Life, Taxi, Laverne & Shirley, Barney Miller, Family Guy, How I Met Your Mother, Desperate Housewives, Glee, The Big Bang Theory, and a host of others.

A national study indicates that the average child first consumes alcohol as young as 11 years old, and that they use marijuana for the first time as young as 12 years old.

Here in our community, the availability and use of marijuana is especially common. Just ask a teenager; most can tell you about many different ways to obtain marijuana. 

Because of the availability and potential danger, I think it’s essential that we, as parents, take time to talk to our kids about marijuana.

The website says that when parents take time to talk–and more importantly to listen–to their kids, that kids are more comfortable discussing tough issues. The website has a number of tips to help you talk with children about these difficult topics:

  • Start early.
  • Initiate conversations with your child.
  • Create an open environment.
  • Communicate your own values.
  • Listen to your child.
  • Try to be honest.
  • Be patient.
  • Use everyday opportunities to talk.
  • Talk about it again and again.

I think that as parents, we must provide our kids with opportunities to choose activities and outlets other than drugs, opportunities that help kids build self-confidence and self-esteem.

Without alternative choices, making the choice to experiment with or abuse drugs can be tempting. Giving children alternatives – afterschool activities; a hobby like music, art, or athletics; a positive influence or role model; scouting; a place to hang out like the Boys and Girls Club – helps them decide that there just might be something more meaningful and more fun for them to do than get high.

To help them make the right choice, positive self-confidence and self-esteem are essential. Find something your child is good at and give them opportunities to excel. It might be a self-defense class, or maybe a ceramics class. Praising and reinforcing positive efforts are our best tools in preventing drug abuse. 

Why do kids use alcohol or drugs?

There are lots of reasons. Maybe they don’t know how dangerous drugs are. Or maybe they feel bad about themselves or don’t know how to handle their problems. Or, maybe they don’t have someone to talk to about drugs.

Although we might not understand all the reasons why a child would want to use alcohol or drugs, I do know we can help kids find reasons not to.

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