Pubdate: Sun, 23 Aug 2015
Source: Columbian, The (WA)
Copyright: 2015 The Columbian Publishing Co.
Author: Patty Hastings


It's Relatively Stable, From County Juvenile Court's Standpoint

Misdemeanor marijuana-related crimes have plummeted for adults 
following legalization, but for minors, marijuana is still very much 
illegal. Marijuana use among children is relatively flat, though 
children referred to court on suspicion of possessing marijuana went 
up slightly from 2013 to 2014.

"I wouldn't put a cause and effect there," said Eric Gilman, program 
manager at Clark County Juvenile Court.

The numbers are small to begin with - a couple hundred offenses - 
making it difficult to discern a trend. Over the past decade, there's 
been a decline in crimes such as minor in possession of marijuana or 
alcohol. Then again, referrals to juvenile court have been going down 
across the nation since 1999, Gilman said. In 2009, Clark County 
Juvenile Court received 3,089 referrals. Over the next five years, 
the number of referrals went down about 37 percent.

"No one has the magic answers as to why that has happened," he said.

In the juvenile justice system, there's been a lot of research and 
use of evidence-based programming that may be helping drive the 
decline in youth-involved crimes, Gilman said. Research recognizes 
that youths who commit crimes have often experienced trauma and might 
self medicate through drugs. Clark County has intensive programs such 
as Juvenile Recovery Court, where youths struggling with substance 
abuse go to court weekly to talk about their progress.

 From the local court's standpoint, marijuana use among youths is stable.

"It hasn't gone way down. It hasn't gone way up," said Tim Oberheide, 
who reviews police reports received by Juvenile Court.

Most commonly, youths are found in possession of marijuana at school, 
at home or through some other contact with law enforcement.

"With marijuana, there's no real sense that it's easily accessible," 
Oberheide said. "We're not seeing some big upswing, that there's this 
rash of kids smoking marijuana."

Marijuana stores are limited to people 21 and older, and employees 
are supposed to check IDs at the door. Oberheide compares the shops 
to the old liquor stores that required ID. When alcohol was 
privatized and began being sold in grocery stores, he noticed an 
uptick in the number of juvenile shoplifting cases involving liquor. 
After stores moved the liquor displays away from the front door, and 
some put locks on liquor, there were fewer thefts.

Healthy Youth Survey

The 2014 Healthy Youth Survey published by the state Department of 
Social and Health Services found that while alcohol and other drug 
use went down, marijuana use is unchanged. Last fall, 223,000 
students at schools around Washington, including 15,626 Clark County 
middle and high school students, were surveyed about their health behaviors.

For the most part, local students are reflective of statewide trends.

Seven percent of eighth-graders, 18 percent of 10th-graders and 27 
percent of 12th-graders reported using marijuana in the past month. 
Nearly half of Clark County high school seniors have tried marijuana 
at least once. Most students, like most marijuana users, smoke 
marijuana rather than ingest it or vaporize it, the survey said.

Unlike what Oberheide has heard, most of the surveyed 10th- and 
12th-graders think it's easy to get marijuana. The majority of users 
get it from their friends. Two percent of eighth-graders, 3 percent 
of 10th-graders and 4 percent of 12th-graders said they used 
marijuana on school property in the past month.

Fewer students think it's risky to use marijuana regularly. Last 
year, 46 percent of 12th-graders surveyed said it's not harmful to 
use marijuana, compared with 36 percent in 2012.

Most surveyed students believe their parents, peers and community 
perceive marijuana use as wrong, though older students are less 
likely to say that. A slightly smaller percentage of students 
perceived marijuana use as wrong in 2014 (after legalization) than in 
2012. Statewide, students are less likely to use marijuana if they 
believe the people around them think it's wrong for them to use, the 
survey said.

When posters with the Healthy Youth Survey data were put up around 
Washougal High School, some of Bridgette McCarthy's peers said the 
findings were inaccurate. They were saying, 'Oh, everybody drinks, 
everybody smokes,'" McCarthy said.

"When something is legal, it makes it so that the whole community 
thinks it's 'safe,' but it really isn't. It's putting that norm out 
there," she said.

The 15-year-old is a member of Strong Teens Against Substance Hazards 
and Abuse, through which she's learned about the impact marijuana can 
have on youths. The brain doesn't fully develop until people are 25, 
so young users are changing their brains, McCarthy said.

Though she doesn't have any friends who use marijuana, she's worried 
how the drug may change her peers' lives.

"We didn't get to say whether we wanted (marijuana legalization) or 
not, yet we're part of the system that's being affected," McCarthy said.

Lingering concern

When I-502 was on the table, state Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas, was 
vocally opposed to it.

"I'm still not crazy about the legalization of this drug," she said. 
"I just don't see how it's going to end well."

Pike said she didn't want the black market to thrive, but she was 
surprised by how large the legal industry was once it took root. Her 
chief concern is young folks stifling career avenues by using marijuana.

"That is what I worry about the most, that they're closing great 
income opportunities, great career opportunities because they're 
choosing to be high," Pike said.

Many careers require workers to be drug-free or be tested for drugs, 
and marijuana users may be limiting their career choices, she said. 
If today's youths struggle with securing well-paying jobs, the 
community will pay for it down the road through increased social 
service costs. She hopes parents talk with their children about marijuana.

"Children are making this choice that's going to affect the rest of 
their lives," Pike said.


Minor in possession of alcohol

2009: 519

2010: 417

2011 : 351

2012 : 422

2013: 342

2014: 317

2015: 200*

Minor in possession of marijuana

2009: 243

2010: 308

2011: 346

2012 : 63

2013: 217

2014: 245

2015: 154*

Referrals of all kinds to juvenile court

2009: 3,089

2010: 2,849

2011: 2,697

2012: 2,388

2013: 1,828

2014: 1,936

2015 : ,232*
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom