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Drug education especially important on 4/20 Day [opinion]

Pennsylvania is making efforts to legalize adult-use recreational cannabis. Gov. Josh Shapiro’s latest budget address called for legalizing and regulating cannabis for adults. The aim is to have shops launching sales starting in January.

Despite the legal status of recreational cannabis in the state, 4/20 Day celebrations are happening in many parts of the state. It gives cannabis culture enthusiasts, everyday users and retailers the opportunity to celebrate cannabis culture.

As cannabis becomes more and more mainstream, there is an influence on younger people. This could come from peer groups, social media, pop culture or adults in their lives who are cannabis users.

Parents and educators can play an important role and utilize effective drug education to help young people understand the risks involved with using cannabis at a young age.

According to a 2022 Cannabis Brief, there were 131 medical marijuana dispensaries in the state in 2021, and medical marijuana patients made up 4.6% of the population. A 2019 Youth Survey found that 31.7% of 12th graders reported a willingness to try marijuana, up from 30.8% in 2017. More students in 10th and 12th grade report using marijuana than tobacco for both lifetime and short-term use.

Drug education can be implemented at any point. For instance, keep the conversations age-appropriate. Speaking with a 5-year-old is much different than speaking with a teenager. Use language and examples a child or teen would understand. Teach them about the dangers and what to avoid.

Most importantly, put yourself in your kid’s shoes. This can be especially important for teenagers as they face social pressures and situations at school or through social media. Make a point of understanding what they are up against.

When speaking to them about cannabis, stay calm and relaxed, stay positive and don’t lecture. Be clear and concise about boundaries without using scare tactics or threats.

However, it’s OK to set rules, guidelines, and expectations and create rules together as a family or class. Parents and educators can be clear about the consequences without lecturing; clearly state what you expect regarding cannabis use.

Choose informal times to have conversations about cannabis, and do not make a big thing about it. Yet continue talking to them as they age, and let them know you are always there for them.

Finally, speak to them about peer pressure and talk with them about having an exit plan when they are offered marijuana. Peer pressure is powerful among youth, and having a plan to avoid drug use helps children and students make better choices. Ultimately, it is about assisting them to make good choices as they age.

Marcel Gemme is the founder of SUPE: Substance Abuse Prevention Education. His work focuses on education, prevention, and rehabilitation.

Marcel Gemme
Marcel Gemme

Source: Berkshire mont

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