How social norms impact the community: Part 2

June 26, 2013 

The Lee’s Summit North High School Smart Club volunteered to create a survey. It was completed by 10 percent (830) of high school and middle school students and the survey results were compiled in May 2012.

Results show:

• Accessibility: “ How easy is it to get marijuana free or at cost (< $20 per gram)?” 86.3 percent of high school and 55 percent of middle school students strongly agreed or agreed that marijuana is easy to obtain free or at cost.

• Perception of Harm: “ Do you think it is easier to function (operate a motor vehicle) when you are high or when you are drunk?” 78 percent of high school students thought it was easier to function when high; 58.5 percent of middle school students agreed.

• Social Acceptance: 73 percent of students surveyed support legalization of marijuana in Missouri.

• Influence: “ Do you believe sibling/peer use of marijuana has an influence on a youth’s decision to use.” 79.7 percent of high school respondents strongly agreed or agreed that siblings’ use had an impact and 77.7 percent thought peers did: 69 percent and 65 percent of middle school students agreed respectively.

• Lack of Consequences: Students believe 86 percent of people who use marijuana, do so without legal ramifications.

Are these local statistics surprising? We need to understand the world in which we live. Eighteen states and Washington, D.C. have legalized medical marijuana; eleven states are pending legislation to legalize medicinal marijuana. Colorado and Washington are the first states to legalize recreational pot and eight states may legalize recreational use in 2013. The legalization of marijuana increases it’s acceptability to youth. If it is legal and it is medicinal, youth assume it is OK to use. In the states that have some form of legalized marijuana there is a corresponding increase in underage use.

Today’s youth live in a world vastly different from their parents and grandparents. Youth are constantly bombarded with pro-drug messages in print and on YouTube. They have easy access to the Internet, which is filled with sites promoting the delights of marijuana, offering kits to beat drug tests and in some cases, advertising pot for sale. Marijuana products are increasing. You can find it in candy similar to jolly ranchers and the 4 types of Cheeba Chews in which some bars have the same THC amount as four joints. Most recently bottled drinks are being introduced with THC. Meanwhile the prevalence of higher potency marijuana measured by the chemical delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol is increasing.

This helps to explain the acceptance of youth. The social norm has shifted to marijuana is harmless and everyone is using it. Is this the social norm we want for our community? The message by pro marijuana groups is one-sided and has large financial endorsement. Ask yourself … What is the truth? Lee’s Summit CARES will be presenting the accurate /factual/honest side of the marijuana debate.

As a community we must be careful to “not buy the lie.”

Roby Little is the director of Lee’s Summit CARES and a Lee’s Summit resident.

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