- Usage rates above the state norm – especially 9th graders up by 10%; 11th graders up by 3 %
- They don’t really understand why the usage rate is up so high in 9th graders
- Usage rates for 7th grade about the same at state
- But usage for both 9th and 7th grades went up
- Alcohol usage went way down
oWill rise – especially with the younger kids
oWill be happily surprised if it stays the same
Marijuana usage rates for young people will rise due to:
Unique population of the Tahoe-Truckee Area. Rough and ready frontier folks come here. In general they have more education and more money. Young people move here to ski and party; they stay for a season or decide to stay on. They have pick up jobs such as working in a bar so they have flexibility to ski. For some partying becomes a life style. This seems especially ingrained in the culture of free skiers: work hard and play hard. There is definitely a divide between those that have money and those that have to work hard to make a living for their families. The most critical way of making a living is to cater to tourists who want to party and have fun when they are here. That includes drinking and marijuana use.
Culture and Attitudes. Among adults aged 30-60, probably 50% have used marijuana at some point in their lives. But they have some naiveté about using pot -- the pot they used is different from the marijuana available today which is much stronger. Their attitudes towards pot usage are casual:
- “Live and let live”
- “It’s a life style up here – not that big a deal”
In addition, most see themselves as progressive (this area is the only real “blue” political area in both Placer and Nevada Counties). They think the “war on drugs” was a failure and they believe the criminalization the marijuana was a waste of resources. They are tired of the negative stigma on marijuana use. These adults are parents and they are governing institutions and systems. Their attitudes rub off on their children and society in general. This is a dramatic shift from the Clinton era and “I didn’t inhale.”
There is a pro-business attitude in this area: “We need to meet people’s vacation needs.” A majority probably favors legalization of marijuana. In addition, politically, this area wants more local control and independence from county policy. There might even be some sense of superiority – “rules shouldn’t apply to us.”
Marijuana growing, selling and use is a low priority for law enforcement unless it is a big business/trafficker. School district policy recommends drug diversion-not suspension anymore. The fear of punishment has gone way down.
As a result of these adult and parental attitudes young people get mixed messages from adults. They see their parents and other adults do a lot of social drinking. There are not strong role models of having fun without drinking or drugging. Another message is that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol or pills: “There is no ‘overdose;’ you just fall asleep.” Young people who like to feel superior to adults think: “we’re better than adults who use alcohol.” In addition young people don’t understand consequences of misuse of marijuana or they get it but think they are invulnerable -- they’re young and don’t evaluate risk well. Previous messages about harm have failed to impress.
Access. The Tahoe-Truckee area is on the outskirts of the biggest growing areas in California. Estimates of the marijuana growing industry are at $980 million, but it probably bigger than that. Even though there are no medical marijuana dispensaries in the area, there is a lot of access. There are mobile delivery services and a healthy black market of indoor growers who usually have licenses. Youth report that as an underage youth it is easier to get marijuana than alcohol. In addition the area is right off I80 which creates easy access for drug and human trafficking.
Marijuana characteristics. There are characteristics of marijuana that make it easier to use. There are no short term unpleasant consequences. There is a medical association—some people use it to relieve pain and other symptoms and that is a good thing. The general stigma, especially among youth, on marijuana use is much lower than alcohol. It’s small and easier to hide than a bottle or flask. Even though there are few “edibles” in the area so far (youth are mostly smoking it), because there are no dispensaries, it seems likely that edibles will arrive soon on the scene. The alcohol industry got hit hard when they developed sweet products attractive to young people. It will be interesting to see if the marijuana industry will get hit as hard on sweet edibles (like cookies/brownies) for young people.
Overall, negative attitudes are so low on marijuana use that you would expect the use rate of marijuana to exceed alcohol in the future – especially with edibles. Edibles are a perfect storm for youth usage.