April 10, 2015
VIA ELECTRONIC MAIL
Re: Dedicated Marijuana Fund
Dear Governor Inslee and Honorable Members of the Washington State Legislature:
On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Science and Management of Addictions Foundation ("SAMA''), a Washington State 501(c)(3) dedicated to education, advocacy and access to treatment for the brain disease of addiction in youth, I urge you to retain the Dedicated Marijuana Fund established by Initiative 502 (“I-502'') for the express purpose of funding its original earmarks for substance abuse prevention policies and programs, research, and health care.
All the available evidence to date indicates marijuana is particularly toxic to the developing adolescent brain. Individuals who use marijuana regularly during teenage years lose an average of 5 IQ points by the time they reach their mid-30's. Neuroimaging studies show distinct differences between brain activity of adolescents who regularly use marijuana and those who do not. There is a great need to use the l-502 funds for their intended purposes, which must include crafting a compelling public health message to inform Washington State citizens of the serious risks that marijuana use poses to their children, and to inform our youth of the need to postpone experimentation with marijuana until at least age 21.
The Washington State Department of Health recently released the 2014 Healthy Youth Survey ("HYS") results which, when coupled with the scientific findings noted above, demonstrate the pressing need for appropriating the dedicated marijuana funds as outlined in I-502. Please consider these facts during your budget deliberations and decisions.
Decreased Perception of Risk in Regular Marijuana Use
Between 2012 and 2014, the perception of risk in regular use of marijuana declined among all grades surveyed with 10th graders experiencing the greatest decrease in perception of risk, reporting 46 percent in 2012 and 36 percent in 2014. The perception of risk in regular marijuana use for 12th graders dropped from 34 percent in 2012 to 26 percent in 2014.
Smoking, Eating and "Vaping"
The common ways 8th, 10th and 12th graders use marijuana is smoking, eating and vaporizing it. Eighth and 10th graders report 66 percent smoke and 15 percent eat marijuana, and 12th graders report 74 percent smoke and 12 percent eat it. Student use of odorless e-cigarettes to "vape" marijuana is reported to be 5 to 7 percent among all three grades.
Driving Under the Influence
New questions on the 2014 survey identified 9 percent of 10th graders, and 17 percent of 12th graders drove in the past month within three hours of using marijuana. In addition, 20 percent of 10th graders, and, 25 percent of 12th graders rode with a driver in the past month who had used marijuana.
Availability of Marijuana
The perception of ease to obtain marijuana decreased in 8th graders from 25 percent in 2012 to 21 percent in 2014. In contrast, 53 percent of 10th graders believed it was easier to obtain marijuana in 2014, up from 51 percent in 2012. For 12th graders, the results remained constant for 2012 and 2014 with 66 percent believing it was easy to obtain marijuana.
It is imperative the Dedicated Marijuana Fund be kept intact. As proven with tobacco and alcohol, the model of appropriating dedicated tax revenue for investment in substance-specific public health programs, research and policies works. Since 2002, HYS results document the steady progress the State of Washington has made in reducing use of tobacco and alcohol among adolescents. In appropriating the revenues from the Dedicated Marijuana Fund as originally set forth in I-502, you have the opportunity to achieve similar, necessary and meaningful public health results for marijuana.
Andrew J. Saxon, MD
SAMA Board Chair
Professor, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences
Director, Addiction Psychiatry Residency Program
University of Washington
Director, Center of Excellence in Substance Abuse Treatment and Education (CESATE)
VA Puget Sound Health Care System