Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Liquor privatization & marijuana legalization: The impact of policy change on youth

This morning, the WA House Early Learning & Human Services Committee held a work session about youth access to alcohol and marijuana since the adoption of Initiative 1183 (liquor privatization) and Initiative 502 (marijuana legalization.)

Data collected by the Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery (DBHR) indicate that since the adoption of I-1183:
  • Pro-alcohol attitudes among youth increased significantly;
  • Perceived access to alcohol among youth increased;
  • Emergency department visits for alcohol-related conditions significantly increased among minors;
  • In King County during the first 16 months post-privatization, emergency departments reported an estimated additional 5,500 visits for alcohol-related conditions; 
  • Our state has more than 1,000 new places to buy liquor;
  • Theft of liquor, including theft by minors, increased.   
Though not enough time has passed since the adoption of I-502 to be able to analyze long-term effects, early data indicate that youth perceptions of risk associated with marijuana use significantly declined.  With retail stores scheduled to open this year, researchers expect increased availability of marijuana among minors.

The report from DBHR was followed by compelling testimony from people working with youth in local communities about what they see happening.

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