Real Questions From Washingtonians About the Marijuana Education Campaign

Q: Why is Washington State focusing on marijuana when there are other big problems out there like methamphetamines, alcohol, heroin, bath salts, and tobacco?

A: The Washington Healthy Youth Coalition and its members, including Department of Health, are concerned about anything that causes health problems, especially among youth. When Washington voters passed Initiative 502, they specifically directed the Department of Health to focus on marijuana. Voters also dedicated some money from recreational marijuana taxes to prevent youth marijuana use. When funding allows, the Department of Health also works on other important health issues.

Above the Influence is a national campaign by the Partnership for Drug Free Kids that focuses on preventing substance use of any kind.

For information on preventing tobacco use among youth and young adults, visit the Department of Health Tobacco Prevention page.

Q: What evidence is there on the health risks of marijuana?

A: There are still many questions about the potential health risks of marijuana. However, there is clear research that shows our brains continue to develop until we are in our twenties. Like any drug, the use of marijuana can interfere with normal brain development for kids and young adults.  You can read more about this from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

A: Marijuana affects judgment and reaction time, so people under the influence can put themselves and those around them in harmful situations, especially when driving high. 

A: Research shows that those who use marijuana have higher levels of depression and depressive symptoms than those who do not use marijuana.  People who use both marijuana and alcohol may increase this risk. This research is published in the Journal of Psychological Medicine; an abstract is available without a subscription. 

A: Research from the National Institutes of Health suggests that frequent or heavy marijuana use at a young age is associated with the development of anxiety disorder in young adulthood.

A: You can find research supporting Department of Health messages at www.learnaboutmarijuanawa.org.

Q: Why are state agencies spending our tax money on this marijuana campaign?

A: Voters approved Initiative 502. It created a recreational marijuana market, and also requires the Department of Health, the Liquor and Cannabis Board and the Department of Social and Health Services to use revenue from marijuana sales to fund education campaigns.

These campaigns focus on:

  1. Preventing youth from using marijuana: Aimed at youth, parents and adults who work with teens.
  2. Reducing risks: To reduce potential car crashes and other injuries while under the influence of marijuana.

Q: Why would Washington State legalize marijuana and then tell people not to use it?

A: Voters who approved Initiative 502 legalized recreational marijuana for people over the age of 21. The new law created a recreational marijuana market and also requires the Department of Health, the Liquor and Cannabis Board and the Department of Social and Health Services to use revenue from marijuana sales to fund education campaigns.

These state agencies have two responsibilities as public servants, when it comes to Initiative 502:

  1. To respect and uphold the voters’ decision to legalize recreational marijuana.
  2. To always work for a safer and healthier Washington.

Q: Does the new marijuana law apply to people 18 and up or 21 and up?

A: Initiative 502 made it legal in Washington State for an adult 21 and older to use recreational marijuana. 

Q: Why is Washington State trying to tell us how to parent our children?

A: The Washington Healthy Youth Coalition and its members recognize that parents are the greatest influence in their children’s lives.

We want to provide resources and tools to help parents talk about marijuana and other drugs with their children.

Research shows that youth are less likely to use drugs when their parents are involved in their lives, and when they know how drugs can affect them.

Q: How can Washington State claim that high school dropout rates are because of marijuana?

A: Many factors can lead to students dropping out of school or doing poorly in school. Research shows that students who use marijuana are more likely to have problems in school. Research also shows when students quit using, they are more likely to do better.

This research is from the Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences and published in Addiction, a journal of the Society for the Study of Addiction. 

Q: What are the food safety concerns regarding food infused with marijuana?

A: When people make their own marijuana-infused foods, there are the same food safety concerns related to regular food items. These include contamination by dirty utensils or hands, food allergen ingredients, improper cooking and improper refrigeration, to name a few. Adding marijuana as an ingredient does not protect you from Salmonella, E. coli, Norovirus or other common foodborne pathogens.

A: Marijuana infused edibles sold from state-approved marijuana retailers are all packaged and determined to be safe for human consumption from a "food safety" standpoint. However, products may still include common food allergens. In addition, once opened, contamination of the product by handling, and sharing among multiple people, is a serious product safety concern.

Q: Can retail stores such as restaurants and grocery stores sell edibles infused with marijuana?

A: No. Under current state law, restaurants and grocery stores cannot sell marijuana.

Only stores approved and licensed by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board can sell recreational marijuana. The State Board of Health and Department of Health do not believe the Retail Food Code can be expanded to cover products that are not legally allowed to be sold within the retail market.