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Report looks at marijuana use

 

Christopher Andersson

Director of the Snohomish Health District Gary Goldbaum, left, and Snohomish County Director of Human Services Mary Jane Brell-Vujovic at a press conference on Sept. 1 discussing the marijuana report released by their agencies.

The public needs to better understand the effects of marijuana and the best prevention measures according to a recently released report from the Snohomish Health District and county officials.

The Snohomish County Department of Human Services and the Snohomish Health District worked on the report to look at the effects of marijuana legalization in the state.

"It's the first report, to our knowledge, from any health organization in the state and we think it points out some really important concerns," said Dr. Gary Goldbaum, director of the Snohomish Health District.

Mary Jane Brell-Vujovic, Snohomish County's director of human services, said working with the Health District helped provide a "complementary approach" of gathering information.

"This report is just showing the beginning of what's happening. We don't have a lot of answers, but we do have a good baseline from which to move," she said.

Previous data from 2014 has shown that 16 percent of 10th graders used marijuana in the last month, while 25 percent had tried it. "Education beyond 'just say no' is clearly needed," said Goldbaum.

Those numbers are holding steady from previous years.

"What we see is relatively stable rates among youth," said Goldbaum.

"We do need to know what has happened since 2014 [when marijuana was legalized], and we're looking forward to getting that data," he said.

Although the usage rates are remaining steady for youth, marijuana has become the most commonly used drug .

"In recent years we've seen cigarette use decline," said Gabrielle Fraley, epidemiologist with the Snohomish Health District.

Goldbaum said that because of the developing minds, "use of any drug by youth is problematic."

Since 2014, 41 licenses have been approved in the county for retailers and growers, which amounted to $26 million in sales in the 2015 fiscal year, said Goldbaum.

Even with increasing acceptance there is a lack of solid research into the drug though, said Goldbaum.

"There's a really deep need for us to study the biological effects of THC," he said. "We're so far along historically, as a country, with marijuana, and we have not really had an opportunity to study it."

He said that he does not personally believe that marijuana should be a Schedule I drug because, unlike some of the other drugs on that list, it does have medical uses.

"That has been a real barrier to doing effective research," he said.

One of the areas that lacks research is impairment measurements. Currently police officers may use a blood test to prove driving impairment, however that may not be an effective tool, according to Goldbaum.

"The height of intoxication does not correlate with a peak in the blood THC levels," he said, and in some cases people can have high impairment and low THC levels.

Right now the best tool officers have is their own judgment of the suspect, he said.

Goldbaum said that there may be better markers that match better with the impairment level of the marijuana user, which is one of the reasons more research is needed into the effects of marijuana.

Treatment options can now be more closely looked at as well, said Goldbaum.

"Now that marijuana is legal, those who are already using it can seek treatment if needed, or get their questions answered," he said.

"They can also access a product they know has not been laced with anything suspicious and has been tested for mold," he said.

Brell-Vujovic said that she wants to keep a close eye on the results of treatment options as the county does not want treatment to simply be a "revolving door."

"We want to know what are the prevention techniques that are effective," she said.

Marijuana is a drug that many in treatment are using, she said.

"While there has not been an increase in young people going into treatment, nearly nine out of 10 young people entering treatment are listing marijuana as a primary or secondary drug resulting in their being there," said Brell-Vujovic.

The full rep ort is available at the Snohomish Health District's website at snohd.org.

 

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