Australian ABC News recently interviewed Dr. Leslie Walker and two Seattle marijuana business entrepreneurs for a story about marijuana legalization in Washington. The resulting story, Cannabis Inc., is available to view online.
Marijuana addiction starts early
During her interview, Dr. Walker notes that addiction is a pediatric disease that carries over into adulthood. The vast majority of adults who are addicted to drugs, including alcohol and marijuana, started using when they were adolescents. The tobacco and alcohol industries make their profits from the people who use a lot of their products, including people who are addicted to them. For the marijuana industry to be profitable, they will need to do the same. Like the tobacco and alcohol industries, the marijuana industry will need to attract young people to use their products because the people who start using before they are legally eligible to will make up the majority of their future adult market.
Regulating the cannabis industry
To counteract industry activities to attract young people to use their products, strict regulations need to be adopted and enforced. For instance, marketing and advertising restrictions, such as the strict restrictions on tobacco marketing and advertising, can be adopted. This includes a ban on sweet flavored products. Another example is limiting the number of marijuana retailers that are located in a community. The Guide to Community Preventive Services provides a list of policies that prevent tobacco and alcohol-related harms and can be used to do the same for marijuana.
As those of us who work to prevent youth drug use know, the tobacco and alcohol industries are constantly trying to loosen or eliminate regulations. They are constantly lobbying lawmakers to create a more business-friendly environment for them. The same is already true for the marijuana industry. (The ABC News journalist interviews a marijuana industry lobbyist in Washington, DC.) To counteract marijuana lobbying, people concerned about the health of adolescents will need to be vigilant, organized, and prepared to provide lawmakers with information about how marijuana policy affects children in their communities.