Nathan Hale High School health teacher Annemarie Michaels-Plumpe writes this letter to the editor about a party last Friday, sponsored and covered by The Stranger, celebrating the one-year anniversary of marijuana legalization. Held at Seattle Center, the party was 21 and over, and hidden from public view inside a closed canopy. But Michaels-Plumpe says adults having fun with pot in a somewhat public setting sent a dangerous message to children:
I am writing this letter in response to Ben Livingston’s Stranger article entitled: Antidrug Activists Try to Shut Down Pot Party -Treatment Professionals Say Celebration at Space Needle Is Bad for Children.
There is evidence that favorable community opinion about a drug such as alcohol or marijuana correlates with not only increased use by teens but also an impression among them that the dangers are less than they might be. Allowing for marijuana use as long as the public cannot see its use—such as throwing a party to celebrate the legalization of a drug by using that drug in a large group, in a public place where families gather—is definitely sending a clear message about our community’s opinion on the use of marijuana.
I’m a high school health teacher and I do not try to scare my kids from using drugs. I tell them what I know to be the truth based on studies and what I hear from professionals in the field of addiction and recovery. If the study had a small sample or wasn’t repeated with the same results then I tell them that also.
The THC levels in the marijuana being sold today are physically addictive to 20 percent of teen users. Teens who are dabbing—burning and inhaling the hash oil which has even higher THC levels—for those whose brains are not used to THC have experienced hallucinations, paranoia, psychosis, and have lost consciousness after just one hit. This comes directly from an intake counselor at Children's Hospital who has gotten the information directly from teens being admitted.
Additionally from the juvenile justice system we are hearing that teens who dab are coming in with UA counts of 900 and more when an average count for a regular user is around 250. As for hard data there isn't any yet because it is so new—does that mean we just don't tell teens about some possible side effects since a new use of a drug hasn't been around long enough? To me it would be irresponsible and morally wrong to not share what the professionals are seeing in teens that regularly use marijuana and teens new to dabbing.
Sending a positive message to youth on using this drug is irresponsible. To shrug your shoulders about public pot use and say things like “Oh well, this party is only for adults and won’t influence or effect kids at all and it isn’t my job to keep kids off drugs anyway, that is the job of their parents” is saying that you don’t care about the effects of this drug on the community overall so long as it benefits you and your friends.
When kids see adults using something and having fun while using it there is a message being received by them that this is a good thing to engage in. Kids who regularly use marijuana are twice as likely to do poorly in school—is it because of the marijuana or are they smoking the marijuana to avoid the fact that they are not being successful in school? We don’t know but we do know that a-motivational syndrome exists and that teens are susceptible to it as well as adults.
Sure you can argue that adults with full knowledge of the pros and cons of smoking pot whether it is just once or more than once should be able to do so but why exactly should they be able to do so in public? Our teen smoking rates have dropped dramatically in this state partly because kids don’t see it like they used to. People aren’t smoking in restaurants, at work or in theatres, and the people they do see smoking cigarettes are usually standing outside bars looking really cold—not fun—so kids aren’t as tempted.
Did Friday’s celebration lead a kid to use marijuana therefore leading them to a lifetime of addiction and legal problems? Highly unlikely. Could it add more “evidence” to that kid’s decision-making that pot must be okay for you if adults are using it so publicly? Yes, I think it could and as responsible adults the message needs to be loud and clear that making decisions about drug use is for an adult brain and that kids need to wait.
“Just say no” didn’t work in the '80s and it won’t work now, but sending a unanimous message from users and non users alike to kids of “wait” has a chance of working. This is not the message the pro-marijuana faction in Seattle is sending and the party on Friday night was an example of that.
Thanks you for your time and consideration.
Nathan Hale High School Health Teacher