Monday, August 25, 2014

As I-502 is implemented, an understanding of prevention is needed

The need to scientifically-define prevention is once again obvious when reading the latest Brookings Institute report on our state’s implementation and evaluation of I-502.  In the report, the author notes that some marijuana revenue is dedicated to funding prevention and treatment programs.  He claims, “Given the paucity of good scientific information about marijuana, this is a tall order . . .”  In fact, research has already shown what works to prevent adolescent marijuana use.  A few examples of evidence-based programs are:

Revenue from I-502 earmarked for prevention will fund community coalitions.  These coalitions will then identify drug-related risk factors particular to their communities and implement programs, policies, and practices that are proven to reduce those risk factors.  The programs listed above are examples of prevention activities to be implemented, but community-based policies and practices (also called “environmental” strategies) will also be implemented. 

What we don’t know is if policies and practices that work for preventing alcohol and tobacco use among adolescents will work for marijuana since it has never been marketed and sold like alcohol and tobacco.  Right now, prevention providers advocate for the following policies that are best practices for alcohol and tobacco prevention:
  • Limit the number of retailers that sell the drugs in a community. 
  • Limit days and hours of sale.
  • Levy high taxes on the drugs.
  • Enforce age limits for purchasing and using.
  • Limit where products may be consumed.

Most of these policies are included in the new marijuana system.  The policies limiting the number of marijuana stores in a community, limiting hours of sale, limiting where marijuana products may be consumed, and high taxes on marijuana should be maintained and studied.  As the Brookings paper suggests, this is an experiment and we should strive to learn as much as possible from it. These policies work for alcohol and marijuana, we should find out if they work for marijuana, too.  

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