Youth Marijuana Prevention & Education Program

Youth & Parent Conference

What’s your natural high?

This is the question we asked middle and high school students, and parents across 13 Pierce County school districts on May 7th at the Safe Streets Campaign Youth & Parent Marijuana Prevention Conference. The conference was designed to teach prevention skills regarding marijuana use and abuse while promoting peer leadership and prosocial activities.

Youth advocate and motivational speaker, John “PUSH” Gaines, and former NFL player and motivational speaker, Reggie Jones, gave keynotes. Several prevention specialists facilitated breakout sessions teaching youth positive ways to fully experience their lives without drug use, and also parents about the harms of marijuana and how they can support their children to be successful without using drugs.

The youth breakout sessions were focused on building ‘natural highs’ versus self- medicating with marijuana. Together, youth and parents gained strategies to address concerns, fears and perceptions of harm regarding marijuana.

Despite adverse effects on brain and youth development linked to marijuana use, according to the Behavioral Health Barometer, recent findings reported that about 77% of adolescents told surveyors they perceived “no great risk” from smoking marijuana once a month. This is an increase from 2010 when 70.4% of adolescents said they didn’t find using marijuana once a month to be especially risky.

The diverse groups of service providers who were represented at the conference emphasized that a reduction in the perception of harm can lead to more youth taking risks and using marijuana.  One of the main goals of the conference was to create a youth voice across Pierce County about the real facts about marijuana use.

Participants left the conference more able to spread awareness about risks associated with use and were emboldened with healthy ways to have fun and enjoy life.  Involving youth was particularly crucial to the success of this conference, because they can be a positive influence with their peers, and can also be positive role models for all community members to prevent marijuana use.

We are excited to be collaborating with so many great organizations that serve our community.  They include the Tacoma Pierce County Health Department, the Tacoma Urban League, El Camino, Safe Homes, and Northwest Leadership Foundation.  It is through collaborations like this that we can reach the diverse populations of youth across Pierce County in order to encourage positive youth development.

*Note: The legalization of pot has not led to a significant increase in teen use according to federal data. However, perception of harm related to marijuana use has decreased, which means that youth do not perceive it as particularly harmful.

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