Potential Consequences of Legalizing Recreational Marijuana

…Already legal in Oregon, Colorado, Washington, Alaska, D.C….


Dubious Distinction: RI vs. Other 49 States in 2015
Rhode Island ranks SECOND for past year marijuana use by 18 – 25 year olds.
Rhode Island ranks THIRD for past year marijuana use by 12+ year olds.
Rhode Island ranks FIFTH for past year marijuana use among 12 – 17 year olds.

In 2015 CHARIHO STUDENTS reported the following:

  • 17.5% of HS students versus 3.6% of MS students reported using MJ in the last 30 days.
  • 82.5% of HS students versus 96.4% of MS students reported NOT using MJ in the last 30 days.
  • 46.5% HS versus 76.4% of MS students reported they perceive MJ use as harmful, much lower than tobacco & alcohol
  • 82.9% HS versus 95.1% of MS students reported they think their parents would disapprove of their MJ use
  • 61.8% of HS versus 22.9% of MS students reported that they can easily access MJ

Youth, Marijuana and the Need for Prevention:

FACT: Marijuana use among youth will increase if society becomes more accepting of marijuana

  • A 10% decrease in the perceived harm of marijuana would generate a 28.7% increase in annual prevalence of marijuana use among youth. 1
  • The enactment of medical marijuana laws leads to a change in community attitudes on both medical and non-medical marijuana use, including reduced disapproval and perceived riskiness of use. 2

 “High rates of arijuana use during the teen and pre-teen years, when the brain continues to develop, places our young people at particular risk. Not only does marijuana affect learning, judgment, and motor skills, but research tells us that about 1 in 6 people who start using it as adolescents become addicted.”                                                     - National Institute on Drug Abuse Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D.

FACT: Science tells us that adolescent marijuana use often causes permanent damage to brain structure and functioning.

  • When marijuana users are intoxicated, their working memory is impaired, and they are more impulsive, less attentive, less motivated and slower to make decisions. 3 Teen marijuana use is linked to school dropout, other drug use, mental health problems, etc. 5

FACT: Medical marijuana legislation linked to higher teen use.

  • Approximately 74% of the adolescents (n=164) aged 14 to 18 in substance abuse treatment in the Denver metropolitan area had used someone else’s medical marijuana.

FACT: Driving under the influence of marijuana multiplies risks for young drivers.

Results from Nat’l Institute on Drug Abuse’s Monitoring the Future survey indicate that in 2007, more than 12 percent of high school seniors admitted to driving under the influence of marijuana in the 2 weeks prior to the survey.

FOR Sources:  http://www.oceanstateprevention.org/about.htm

Marijuana use is still in violation of the law.


Possession of an ounce or less of marijuana now is a civil violation carrying a $150 fine. The fines and penalties increase if a person is charged with three violations within 18 months, in which case the violation would become a misdemeanor with higher fines and/or jail time.

If a minor (under the age of 18) is found in possession of an ounce or less of marijuana, it shall constitute a civil offense. For the first and second offenses, the offender will be liable to pay a fine of $150 and will have to complete a court approved drug awareness program and community service. Failure to complete the course and/or pay the fine within one year of issuance will result in a fine of $300 and doubles again to $600 if it has not been paid within 90 days. A third offense within 18 months could result in a misdemeanor conviction punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $500.

R.I. POLICE HAVE ISSUED 850 TICKETS FOR MARIJUANA POSSESSION IN FIRST FOUR MONTHS OF NEW LAW: From April 1 through the end of July, magistrates have levied more than $110,000 in fines on 663 adults and 92 juveniles who have been found to have possessed an ounce or less of non-medical marijuana. Tracy Breton, Providence Journal, Aug. 10, 2013

Marijuana and Health – S.A.M. Smart Approaches to Marijuana



  • 1 in 10 people who try marijuana will become addicted to it, developing a dependence that produces withdrawal, cravings.
  • If marijuana use starts in adolescence, the chances of addiction are 1 in 6.i
  • Long-term studies from the USA and New Zealand have shown that regular cannabis smokers report more symptoms of chronic bronchitis than non- smokers.ii
  • And today’s marijuana is not the marijuana of the 1960s; potency has tripled in the past 15 years, according to a 2009 report from the U.S. government. It has grown 5 times since 1960.
  • In the U.S. since 1990, more people have gone to the emergency room after using marijuana even though the overall numbers of marijuana users has remained relatively stable.iii
  • In the U.S., cannabis emergency rates have been rising sharply for cannabis- related admissions. Visits to hospital emergency departments because of cannabis use have risen from an estimated 16,251 visits in 1991 to more than 374,000 in 2008.iv

The Brain and Mental Health

  • Marijuana use directly affects the brain, specifically the parts of the brain responsible for memory, learning, attention, and reaction time. These effects can last up to 28 days after abstinence from the drug.v
  • Science confirms that the adolescent brain, particularly the part of the brain that regulates the planning complex cognitive behavior, personality expression, decision-making and social behavior, is not fully developed until the early to mid-20s. Developing brains are especially susceptible to all of the negative effects of marijuana and other drug use.vi
  • Marijuana use is significantly linked with mental illness, especially schizophrenia and psychosis, but also depression and anxiety.vii

The Heart

  • Marijuana use can cause an increase in the risk of a heart attack more than four-fold in the hour after use, and provokes chest pain in patients with heart disease.viii

The Lungs

  • Research has shown marijuana smoke to contain carcinogens and to be an irritant to the lungs, resulting in greater prevalence of bronchitis, cough, and phlegm production.ix
  • Marijuana smoke, in fact, contains 50-70 percent more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than tobacco smoke.x
  • Evidence linking marijuana and lung cancer are mixed, with a recent study stating that “cannabis smoking increases the risk of developing a lung cancer independently of an eventual associated tobacco exposure.”xi Other studies have failed to find such a link.xii
  • Marijuana smoke also includes an enzyme that converts some hydrocarbons into a cancer-causing form, potentially accelerating the changes that produce malignant cells.xiii
  • Mark Gold, perhaps the most distinguished professor in the country on drugs and the brain and body, said, “It is possible, but not proven, that cannabis smoke may be less toxic than cigarette smoke, but it is not better than clean air. Clear, unbiased, and convincing evidence of safety and comparable efficacy are needed for therapeutic claims. It is smoke, after all.” “Columbus brought Tobacco to the ‘New World’ and it took nearly 500 years for absolute proof of tobacco smoke dangerousness to be established,” Gold continued. “To this day, each year, over 400,000 United States deaths are due to tobacco smoke.


  • Marijuana smoking during pregnancy has been shown to decrease birth weight, most likely due to the effects of carbon monoxide on the developing fetus.xiv

IQ, Learning, and Job Performance

  • One of the most well designed studies on marijuana and intelligence, released in 2012, found that persistent, heavy use of marijuana by adolescents reduces IQ by as much as eight points, when tested well into adulthood.xv
  • Other studies have found that marijuana use is linked with dropping out of school, and subsequent unemployment, social welfare dependence, and a lower self-reported quality of life than non-marijuana abusing people. xvi
  • According to the U.S. National Survey on Drug Use and Health, youth with poor academic results were more than four times as likely to have used marijuana in the past year than youth with an average of higher grades. This is consistent with an exhaustive meta-analysis examining forty-eight different studies by Macleod and colleagues, published by Lancet, who found that marijuana use is consistently associated with reduced grades and a reduced chance of graduating from school. xvii
  • In addition, studies have linked employee marijuana use with “increased absences, tardiness, accidents, workers’ compensation claims, and job turnover.”

Smoked marijuana is not medicine.


Although promoters of marijuana will tell you that marijuana is good medicine, there is no evidence that smoking marijuana in its raw form has medical benefits. No one wants to see their loved ones suffer, but there is no research to support the smoking of marijuana as medicine. The truth is, there are no FDA approvals and no guidelines for doctors to prescribe a dosage of smoking marijuana. Currently, only man-made forms of THC are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a very small number of specific medical uses. There are no FDA-approved medical reasons for children or teenagers to use marijuana or THC in any form.

What does marijuana look like?

This is a small amount, ready to be smoked. This is also a form in which parents might find around the house if their children are smoking marijuana. This a relatively small amount of marijuana and is readily available in our community.


This is another way parents might find marijuana - in plastic zip-lock type bags. This is a large bag and a large amount of pot. You might find smaller plastic bags with residue inside.


If your child is using marijuana, this is most likely the form that you might find it in if you discover it in your home - rolled-up, ready-to-smoke marijuana cigarettes or joints.

Parents’ attentiveness is critical.

Photos by DEA

Is Synthetic marijuana legal?

There are dozens of products today that are being sold as herbal smoking blends, legal bud, herbal smoke, marijuana alternatives, fake weed or herbal buds. 

What Does Fake Weed Look Like? Synthetic marijuana is a mixture of dried leaves from traditional herbal plants. They are various colors including green, brown, blonde and red. They are sold in small packets approximately 2 by 3 inches. The packets are foil packs or plastic zip bags.

spice.jpgFor several years, Spice mixtures have been easy to purchase in head shops and gas stations and via the Internet. Because the chemicals used in Spice have a high potential for abuse and no medical benefit, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has designated the five active chemicals most frequently found in Spice as Schedule I controlled substances, making it illegal to sell, buy, or possess them. Spice products are popular among young people; of the illicit drugs most used by high-school seniors, they are second only to marijuana.


On July 15, 2013, Governor Chaffee signed into law a ban of another class of substances, found in a wide range of fake marijuana products, by adding them to Schedule 1 of the Rhode Island Uniform Controlled Substance Act. Schedule 1 substances are deemed to have a “high potential for abuse” and “no accepted medical use.”