You must have heard the news by now. Illinois legislators passed a bill legalizing recreational marijuana for people over 21 years old. What does that mean for you as a parent? And your children? It is hard to say with certainty. The bill is over 600 pages long, and we’re still reading through all the details. We do know that starting in January, the marijuana industry will be allowed to advertise and sell recreational marijuana for profit. We also know components of the bill will impact your family, regardless of whether adults in your home choose to use marijuana. Many provisions will make it more difficult for youth to make drug-free choices.
While the details below may feel scary, be assured that CTAD coalition members are on the case. CTAD consists of caring and concerned representatives from our schools, municipalities, police, parents, faith community, and more. We’re actively working together, along with sister coalitions throughout the State, to prepare for the changes ahead and maintain a community in which our youth will thrive.
- Advertising: Be prepared; your children might be bombarded with advertising promoting marijuana. While the bill prohibits using the image of the marijuana leaf and advertising within 1,000 feet of schools, it does not restrict the amount or kind of advertising. There could be billboards, sidewalk signs, radio ads, event sponsorships, and sign spinners, not to mention social media.
- Selling for Profit: If a company can profit from selling an addictive product, they are motivated to secure life-long customers by getting people addicted. Our youth are among the most vulnerable because their developing brains are most at risk for addiction. History shows this is a likely scenario. In 2006, the tobacco industry (now heavily invested in marijuana) was found guilty of racketeering, of lying, misleading, and marketing to young people in a pattern of illegal activities. The Judge said they promoted their products “…with a single-minded focus on their financial successes, and without regard for the human tragedy…”
- Home Grow: Because some people will qualify for home grow of marijuana, parents may want to ask if marijuana is in the home before your child attends a party or play date. If it is in your home, it needs to be locked up and secure.
- Drugged Driving: Even though driving under the influence remains illegal, states with legalized marijuana saw a significant increase in marijuana-related car crashes and fatalities. We’ll all need to be more vigilant and teach our young drivers that marijuana impacts reaction time, coordination, and peripheral vision.
- Potency: Currently there is no limit set on the THC content, or potency, of marijuana products. There is a direct link between potency and increased risk for a psychotic episode. Teens are at more risk due to their stage of brain development. The Department of Agriculture is given the authority to determine a limit, if any. We’ll be in touch with them.
CTAD’s dedicated coalition members will continue to explore how we can help our teens feel protected, confident and empowered to make drug-free choices. In the meantime, here are things you can do:
- Help monitor marijuana advertising to make sure they follow regulations and do not target youth. Just this weekend, a Snapchat ad compared marijuana to nachos. Email or text a photo/screenshot of the ad, along with the location and date to info@CommunityTheAntiDrug.org or 224-713-CTAD (224-713-2823).
- Talk to your teens. A few talking tips for parents are in “A 60 Second Conversation Starter” below.
Follow CTAD. We’ll keep you updated on what we learn and actions you can take. Find us on Facebook and Twitter.
Barbara de Nekker
Executive Director, Community – The Anti-Drug