A marijuana dispensary in Spring Valley. File photo

Last month, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted to allow legal marijuana dispensaries in the unincorporated areas of San Diego County. This comes after California voted to legalize adult recreational marijuana use in 2016, and today, we are leading the country in sales with a billion-dollar industry. 

But the question remains: Are we ensuring that this does not come at a cost to public health and safety? Our greatest concern is protecting our youth from the harmful effects of early marijuana use. 

We can achieve this by ensuring that Proposition 64, which legalized the drug, remains true to its obligation of protecting our youth, and by holding the California Bureau of Cannabis Control accountable to upholding the law.

Early marijuana use is detrimental to youth and therefore to the future of our communities.  It is associated with poor school performance, higher dropout rates, and lower life satisfaction.  

Research indicates that early marijuana use significantly decreases IQ into adulthood. Regular marijuana use in children changes brain structure and function, damaging white matter, resulting in decreased planning skills, critical thinking, and impulse control. 

Remember, our children are the future leaders of our neighborhoods, cities, state and country. I believe that Californians can unanimously agree that we want the dangers of marijuana use and the advertisements that support it as far away from our children as possible.

Although recreational marijuana use has never been legal for people under the age of 21 in California, legalizing the drug for adults could make it easier for youth to obtain it while normalizing its use.  As a community, we have opportunities to strengthen legislation to protect our communities to ensure that this growing industry does not come at the cost of destroying the future of our youth. 

In addition to legalizing adult use, Proposition 64 amended four sections of the state’s penal code in order to shield youth from marijuana. To list a few wins: it is now illegal to advertise marijuana within 1,000 feet of any youth center, school or daycare; it is illegal to smoke or use marijuana within 1,000 feet of these youth areas; and it is illegal be a licensed seller or cultivator within 600 feet of these areas.

Also, a licensed seller cannot sell both alcohol and marijuana. Additionally, $10 million is dedicated to biennial university research on the public health impacts of drug and marijuana use in the community, ensuring we have constant analysis on this issue.

While we still have a lot of work to do, we should be grateful to the citizens who have and will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that the law doesn’t negatively impact our youth, and for seeking justice if the Bureau of Cannabis Control turns a blind eye to upholding the health and safety safeguards in Prop. 64.

I have personally been frustrated with the county’s response in enforcing some of the marijuana codes, but that is only to be expected with such a massive change in legislation. I appreciate the immense group effort that the community takes to force our elected officials and law enforcement to take action. 

As we learn more, we will need to make amendments to Proposition 64 in the future. An example may be amending the tenant protection laws for unlicensed drug sellers.

I encourage all community members to engage in civil conversation and take advantage of opportunities to let their opinions be known. Participate in City Council or Board of Supervisors meetings during the public comment portions. Reach out to like-minded advocates through social media. And understand what our laws say and who is responsible for enforcing them.

But for now, thank you to those who worked hard to make thoughtful and impactful amendments to state codes, and to fellow San Diegans for supporting this endeavor.  In a time where Americans are collectively suffering from a mountain of uncertainty, division, and work before us, it is important to take a look at where we are today in our community and how far we have already come. 

Crystal L. Grobner is a resident of Lakeside.

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