Pubdate: Wed, 22 Jul 2015
Source: Oregonian, The (Portland, OR)
Copyright: 2015 The Oregonian


The drive to make recreational pot legal culminated in the passage of 
Measure 91 with the promise Oregon's youth would be protected against 
widespread stonerhood. Even the most ardent marijuana advocates 
agreed that easy availability of the drug to the under-21 crowd would 
work against the best purposes of a free pot market: adults choosing 
wisely for adults.

The Legislature, in passing statutes making Measure 91 real, included 
a section stipulating active outreach and education to protect minors.

This summer, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission will deploy a 
rulemaking committee to ensure advertisements for weed neither target 
nor excessively appeal to young folks.

Good. But no committee and no rules - other than keeping the basic 
pot equivalent of Joe Camel out of the smoking tent - will be able to 
fully ensure the outcome. Marketing efforts saturate the ether as 
never before, whether it's online or in pre-movie snippets at the 
local theater: To open a bottle of Coke, remember, is to avail 
oneself to happiness. Meanwhile, Washington and Colorado, which curb 
advertising targeted at young people in much the same way Oregon 
narrows the audience for cigarette and alcohol ads, have not reported 
a shift in the behavior of teenagers that would suggest an inevitable 
descent to widespread stonerhood.

But this is serious business.

A limited but growing body of research centers on potential 
deleterious effects marijuana consumption has on the developing, 
adolescent brain; one study conducted in New Zealand and reported by 
the U.S.-based National Institute on Drug Abuse found that persistent 
marijuana use starting in adolescence was associated with an 8-point 
decline in IQ as measured in mid-adulthood. Separately, a few 
countries outright ban advertising of toys and other products 
targeted at the very young - under 12 years of age, mainly - because 
research shows they lack judgment-making skills, still to develop.

For Oregon to achieve its goal of adequately protecting the much 
broader under-21 crowd from unbridled pot use, it must conduct a 
layered outreach - an effort that goes beyond placing limits on 
advertising and takes into account the ambiguity surrounding 
consequences of the drug's use. To overemphasize the role of 
advertising is to externalize a first responsibility that rests with 
families, in which the best instruction for getting pot right should 
take place; and at school, where real information should be available 
in real time.

On Tuesday, Rep. Ann Lininger, D-Lake Oswego, convened a meeting of 
lawmakers and others to consider the establishment of a Student 
Advisory Council on Drug Policy and Youth, an idea she credits to her 
son, Adam, a junior at Lake Oswego High School. Good again.

The idea would be to have a dozen or so high school students from 
across Oregon keep tabs on their peers as recreational marijuana 
becomes an act of adult retail commerce as common as stopping off at 
the package store for a bottle of gin. It's certainly not difficult 
for high schoolers already to illegally obtain pot; the drug's 
legality for adults, however, should not accelerate its use among the 
young. Lininger, who co-chaired the Legislature's joint committee to 
implement Measure 91, wryly noted, in an interview with the editorial 
board of The Oregonian/OregonLive, that youth committee membership 
should not be limited to those with spotless records. "This is a 
leadership opportunity for young people to deal with cultural 
change," she said. "I mean, is (legal pot) changing the situation in school?"

An immediate complication is the rising appetite among legal pot 
sellers and would-be merchants of recreational pot to make appeals 
for new customers.

Ads and promotions will be involved.

Noelle Crombie of The Oregonian/OregonLive reported this week that 
retailers and producers both are "scrambling for a share of an 
increasingly crowded market" and "taking steps to promote their 
brands." Most striking in her report, however, is a health official's 
note of a 2014 state survey finding that showed marijuana use among 
Multnomah County adolescents as exceeding state and national averages.

Ditto for the 18-to-25-year-old crowd.

Anyone know why? No. Is it worth watching? Surely. Are advertisements 
responsible? Not possible.

It is time to have a wide-ranging discussion among regulators and 
yet-to-be-named OLCC rule-making committee members about measures 
that might really count when it comes to protecting under-age 
Oregonians. Rational limits on pot advertisements certainly will be 
necessary. But so, too, will be more open and more frequent 
conversations at home and at school that address, head-on, the role 
of marijuana in lives just taking shape.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom