Smoking marijuana could negatively affect teenagers' brain development, among other hazards, the Marijuana Prevention Initiative (MPI) for San Diego County warned at a forum Wednesday.
With the legalization of recreational marijuana in California just around the corner, Lemon Grove Academy hosted a forum to discuss the dangerous consequences of teenage marijuana use.
School officials aimed to dispel myths and provide helpful information to the public about how the drug impacts youth.
"I came for my kids," said Reuben Saldana, a parent with children attending the academy. "We should let our kids more awareness, give them more awareness and hopefully keep them off of it."
MPI officials shared the following statistics about the impact of marijuana use among teenagers:
- Teenagers addicted to marijuana take the drug about 10 to 20 times per day.
- They usually have a regular schedule of use and will openly admit to relying on marijuana, especially when they are nervous, anxious or cannot sleep.
- Marijuana use can cause problems with school, work, family and other relationships for adolescents.
According to the initiative, marijuana use appears to damage brain development in teenagers. There are several critical growth phases of the brain. In the fetus, between ages zero to five, and the adolescence years.
The pre-frontal Cortex is still developing during adolescence from age 12 to 25. This area of the brain is responsible for reason, logic, problem-solving, planning and memory. MRI officials said it plays an important role in your attention span, planning abilities, and impulse control.
There is plenty of psychiatry research, neuroimaging and data to support this theory, said MRI officials. More teenagers are also using marijuana than alcohol between ages 12 to 17 in county-funded drug treatment. The majority of teens get their marijuana from a friend, relative or family member.
Between 2012 and 2015, the number of marijuana exposure cases gradually increased, according to the California Poison Control Center.
Currently, illegal marijuana dispensaries can be found in several areas of Lemon Grove, according to school officials. Some are even located along the routes many students use to walk to school.
"I really think, just like alcohol, our kids shouldn’t have access to it," added Saldana. "I learned a lot. It was very informative."
Local marijuana dispensaries will be able to sell the drug to anyone over age 18, even without a medical prescription, starting on Jan. 1. This has left some school officials and parents alarmed that students could be more easily exposed to the drug.
One student at the academy, Manuel Saldana, said it was positive for him to learn about stopping the abuse of the drug.
"They’re teaching us about marijuana," said Saldana. "I think that it’s good that they’re doing this because some people actually abuse the drug and we shouldn’t be."
Lemon Grove Councilmember Jennifer Mendoza was a Keynote Speaker at the forum. MPI officials, Lemon Grove Academy staff and East County Youth also attended and helped organize the event.