• July 2019 •

From Juan Navarro, Executive Director
Los Angeles Centers for Alcohol and Drug Abuse

Promoting Pot

I guess it was inevitable. Huge home delivery billboards with catchy names like Ganja Runner and Speed Weed.  And promo codes to make sure that even people on a tight budget don’t miss out thanks to a “Weed Wednesday” discount.

In 2016, Californians approved Proposition 64, the legalized use of marijuana for adults 21 and older. Amidst the celebration, few gave thought to what could go wrong with access to the legalized herb.

After all, the law guaranteed that local governments could regulate marijuana-related activities and consequently, most California cities did vote to ban cannabis shops. Unfortunately, pot dispensaries are determined that everyone in the Golden State gets cannabis products delivered wherever they want. And in January, 2019, California enacted a regulation to allow it. Some 25 cities are suing the state because their local bans are now powerless. Even if the regulation is reversed, people with cars or Ubers can travel to dispensaries beyond their neighborhoods. Plus, the illegal drug market never left – there’s still money to be made from illegal cannabis farms and tax-free pot sales. In fact, the illegal trade has been strengthened by the increasing popularity of vaping, cannabis-infused candies, and other derivatives popular among youth.

The Journal of the American Medical Association warns that “products only legal for adults inevitably find their way into the hands of adolescents … to a significant degree.”  It’s not helping that teens and young adults don’t see marijuana as risky.  It is.  Cannabis seriously affects learning, memory, and attention span in the still-developing adolescent brain. Additionally, teens are inexperienced drivers and cannabis is the most common drug detected in drivers and victims who are killed in a car crash, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Find out more about marijuana and its effects on youth: Marijuana and Kids


Joseph D.

“My name is Joseph, but they called me Joey-D.  — ‘D’ for dope mostly. When I was in the 7th grade, I got arrested for possession and using marijuana.  I was automatically kicked out of school for a year. After that, I just didn’t go back.  Since I was still smokin’ and tokin’, I eventually got kicked out by my parents. Then it was four years of the hard life on the streets, hanging with my homies, getting drunk, doing dope every day. But it was like fake friendship, you know? No one really cared if I was cold at night or eating out of trash cans. I felt 100% on my own, alone. And that’s tough when you’re only 15.  I started selling drugs to make money for my own bud.  I guess I should have been buying food, but hey, I needed that money to get high.  One night, I think it was like Thanksgiving, I smoked some pot that had some bad stuff.  They say cops found me passed out and hardly breathing. In the hospital, I got a referral to treatment. Today, I have my six-month chip and I’m back at home. Sober, safe. And smarter.”

Cannabis Addiction

Many users insist that marijuana is not addictive, but science says they’re wrong. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports marijuana addiction is similar to other substance use disorders, although long-term clinical outcomes may be less severe. On average, adults seeking treatment for marijuana use disorders have used pot nearly every day for more than 10 years and have attempted to quit more than six times.  People with marijuana use disorders, especially adolescents, can suffer from co-occurring psychiatric disorders (comorbidity). They may also use or be addicted to other substances, including methamphetamine and alcohol. Specific behavioral treatments have shown promise in treating cannabis addiction:

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy: This form of psychotherapy teaches people to identify and correct problematic behaviors in order to enhance self-control, stop drug use, and address a range of other problems that often co-occur with them.
  • Contingency Management:  Using frequent monitoring, this evidenced-based practice is based on reinforcement of desired behaviors and withholding of reinforcement for undesired behaviors.
  • Motivational Enhancement Therapy: This practice works to produce rapid, internally motivated change. It’s not treatment, but rather the mobilization of internal resources for change and engagement in treatment.

Take a look at what researchers say: Treatment of Cannabis Use Disorder