June 23, 2024
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June 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Let’s consider marijuana. Maybe you know what it is and maybe you have even tried it (or currently use it, as it is legal for recreational use for people over the age of 21 in New York and New Jersey, among other states). Perhaps you even know that it contains Delta-9 THC (the psychoactive element that is intoxicating), which is the compound found in legalized marijuana.

Did you know that Delta-8, Delta-10, THC-0, and other THC compounds fell into a legal loophole unintentionally created by the 2018 Farm Bill (which legalized hemp)? Did you also know that these non-Delta-9 forms of THC are not regulated and are being sold as look-alike products that are almost identical to other candies and snacks in gas stations, smoke shops and other easily accessible locations? These products are referred to as “edibles” and contain highly concentrated levels of THC, sometimes upwards of 85-95%. The higher the THC content, the greater the risk of marijuana overdose and developing an addiction.

The proliferation of THC products and its legal status, both federally and on the State level, creates a challenging and ever-changing landscape. New products are hitting the market at alarming rates and the perception of harm is declining rapidly amongst our teens.

This is particularly scary because teenagers are especially at risk for the adverse effects of THC including it acting asb a catalyst for mental health disorders such as psychosis, suicidality and anxiety. THC can also cause permanent cognitive impairment and memory loss to a teen’s developing brain, and teens who start using marijuana before the age of 18 are much more likely to develop a substance use disorder.

 

Some Good News

On May 23, 2024, the House Agriculture Committee voted in favor of an amendment to the 2024 Farm Bill that changes the definition of “hemp” to specifically exclude semi-synthetic cannabinoids that have the same effect as Delta-9 (as described above) which could put an end to the gray market and close the loophole created by the 2018 Farm Bill.

There is a long legislative process that must still happen for the Farm Bill to be signed into law, but the inclusion of this amendment in the markup is a monumental first step in changing the landscape of this billion-dollar gray industry. The Bill is still in its early stages and the Senate still has to release its own full version, but this hopefully helps to create some awareness around this issue.

 

Some Not So Good News

On April 30, 2024, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced that it will propose reclassifying marijuana as a Schedule III drug. Marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule I controlled substance (which includes other drugs such as heroin and LSD). The plan would still not legalize marijuana at the federal level, but it gives hope to those who would like to see the drug fully legalized and makes it easier for the billion-dollar cannabis industry to operate.

Numerous studies indicate the negative impact that marijuana has on the body and brain, and rescheduling puts the drug on par with substances such as Tylenol with codeine or steroids. While rescheduling allows the drug to be used for medicinal purposes, evidence is very mixed on the medical efficacy of marijuana. Currently the FDA has approved synthetic THC to treat the effects of chemotherapy and HIV, and there is research underway to use it to treat multiple sclerosis and other conditions.

Critics say the decision to reclassify will only further the declining perception of harm, sending the message to our youth that marijuana is less dangerous and somehow safer to use. Today’s highly potent marijuana is more addictive and linked with mental health issues and other physical and mental problems, thereby increasing the risk of use.

 

Our Work

Prevention education has to be comprehensive, adaptable and focused on equipping children and their parents and educators to understand this rapidly changing landscape and to create safe spaces for discussion so that children can ask questions and receive accurate information and support.

This is a dynamic landscape that we need to stay on top of, especially as it impacts our children. Understanding the various forms of THC as well as their potency and potential dangers is crucial. By bringing in young people who have themselves struggled with dependency and addiction and teaching about the risks of using substances, particularly at young ages, we can reduce the likelihood of developing substance use disorders later in life.

We are incredibly grateful to our schools — over 85 schools since the inception of our prevention education programming in 2019 –—who have partnered with us in this effort,and extremely proud of our team of presenters and staff who have helped educate and impact, cumulatively, almost 24,000 students.


Lianne Forman, director of CCSA Substance Use Prevention Education at Ohel, founded Communities Confronting Substance Use & Addiction (CCSA) in 2018 with her husband, Etiel, due to their own family’s struggles and journey with addiction. CCSA joined Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services in 2023 to further its mission to provide comprehensive mental health services to the broader Jewish community. CCSA, as a division of Ohel, continues to work to eliminate stigma around addiction and create greater awareness in the Jewish community through educational events, support for families, and evidence-based prevention programming in schools for students, parents and faculty.

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