According to the National Institute of Health, "Marijuana refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the hemp plant,Cannabis sativa. The plant contains the mind-altering chemical delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other related compounds. Extracts with high amounts of THC can also be made from the cannabis plant. Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States.1 Its use is widespread among young people. According to a yearly survey of middle and high school students, rates of marijuana use have steadied in the past few years after several years of increase. However, the number of young people who believe marijuana use is risky is decreasing."
Locally The Hernando Community Coalition has recently begun to increase the prevention efforts of marijuana use. Starting in July 2014, the coalition began working on marijuana issues through the Community Coalition Alliance and then in October 2014 began a new Drug Free Communities grant 5-year award that includes marijuana as a key targeted substance. Coalition partners have been educating the community on the dangers of marijuana use and the facts surrounding legalized medical marijuana, but an increased effort to combat the drug is recent. With legislation to legalize medical marijuana once again pending in Florida, coalition members believe increased efforts to prevent marijuana use is a necessity for the County. Marijuana use rates peaked in 2010, but 2014 saw an increase again in youth among high school students. Beyond increased use rates, the amount of high school students reporting driving under the influence of marijuana or riding with someone who has used marijuana is concerning. In 2009, 28% of all fatally-injured drivers tested positive for marijuana use, (National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration FARS Data).
A major concern of marijuana use that has come to light is the potency of the drug. The THC content of marijuana has been increasing since the 1970s, with the potency more than tripling. While drug use disrupts brain function of users regardless of age, NIDA research demonstrates that these effects are much more detrimental and long lasting among youth. Teen brains are still developing. Studies show that marijuana use negatively affects the developing brain including impacting brain structure volume, the quality of white matter, and the ability to perform cognitive function, (A study published in the Journal Clinical EEG and Neuroscience). What this means is that Marijuana use in teens effects memory, judgment, and perceptions. Research shows that youth using marijuana are more likely to engage in delinquent and dangerous behavior, (Drug Enforcement Agency) and are more likely to have multiple sexual partners and engage in unsafe sex, (Bovassco, G., American Journal of Psychiatry, 2001). The coalition partners hope that with increased prevention efforts we will see a decline in youth marijuana use by results in upcoming Florida Youth Substance Abuse Surveys.
Percentage of Hernando County Middle and High School Students Past 30 Day Marijuana Use, 2012-2014