An official with Colorado’s Child Protection Ombudsman’s office spoke today at the Iowa Drug Endangered Children conference. Colorado recently passed a law making recreational marijuana use legal, and Stacee Read has this message for Iowa lawmakers who might consider the same thing here.
“Have them really take a look at the pros and cons, the problems and the things that have happened in Colorado..,” Read says. “I would definitely want lawmakers to sit down and look at the consequences, look at the societal costs.” The Colorado law allows residents to grow and use small amounts of marijuana in their homes.
Read says that creates a lot of dangers for kids. “We know that marijuana is a mind-altering substance, so we know that it has some problems in regards to caretaking abilities. People who are using marijuana have more difficulty taking care of their children,” according to Read.
“But we also know that there is a correlation between substance use –whether that’s marijuana or other substances — and child abuse and neglect. So, children that come from substance abuse families are four times more likely of being neglected and three times more likely of being abuse.”
She also cites a study by the National Jewish Hospital in Denver that shows the air quality in homes where marijuana is grown is diminished. “It’s very hazardous to the lungs of little kids who are developing as well as adults. We also know that houses that have grows in them…even small grows, we know from that study that there is T-H-C residue on surfaces,” Read says.
“So if you think about kid’s toys and those sorts of things, kids put those toys in their mouth, so they are ingesting the residue, they have it on their hands, their mouths their eyes.” Iowa officials estimate one-third of the marijuana recovered in traffic stops in the state is coming from Colorado.
Read says the borders states around Colorado must not be too happy with them for the open policy on marijuana. Another issue is trying to tell young people that marijuana is bad for them when it is legal in some states. Read says parents must continue being the guiding message to kids on the issue.
“It’s just really talking to your kids all the time about it and providing them with information and having them talk to professionals, and having them attending training, and those kinds of things. The more we can do to provide them with education, the better. Because, I can tell you, when the risk perception is low, use goes up. In Colorado the risk perception is low, so our use is going to skyrocketed and that’s going to affect our children,” Read says.
Read believes Colorado made a big error with the wide-open approach it took to legalizing marijuana use. “I wouldn’t do it the way we did it,” Read says.
She says she doesn’t necessarily think that legalizing any of the controlled substances without strict supervision is a good idea, and she’s not sure if she could make a case for marijuana with increased supervision. “The problem is that we are not monitoring it at all, we can’t monitor it. It’s different from alcohol because alcohol is out of your system very quickly, marijuana is not. Marijuana, you smoke a joint and you get high. Alcohol you take a drink and you’re not drunk, or you’re not necessarily drunk,” Read says.
The Iowa conference in Altoona included law enforcement officers, prosecutors, human service workers, health care professionals, substance abuse and mental health providers, child development specialists and educators. Bills legalizing medical marijuana have died in the Iowa Legislature for this session.