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Marijuana Education and Treatment

Beginning February 24, 2015, it became legal (AS 17.38) for adults ages 21 years or older to use and possess marijuana for personal use in Alaska.

During the 2017-2018 legislative session, the 31st Legislature passed Senate Bill 104 (SB104) creating a Marijuana Education and Treatment Fund. This fund serves as a special account in the general fund where 25% of the excise tax collected on marijuana products will be deposited. In accordance with AS 44.29.020(a) the Department of Health and Social Services will design and implement a comprehensive marijuana use prevention, education, and treatment program.

Vision

To diminish adverse health consequences due to the use of marijuana in Alaska.

Mission

Use evidence-based strategies to develop public health interventions that will serve to minimize marijuana-related adverse health consequences in Alaska.

To achieve our mission, the Marijuana Education Program has established the following goals, strategies, and activities:

Prevent youth initiation and use of marijuana products

Alaska research has shown an individual’s social conditions and life experiences are associated with different types of behavior [2]. These social and personal influences can be described as risk and protective factors. Various risk and protective factors affect youth substance abuse, delinquency, and other risk behaviors. The more risk factors an adolescent has at the individual, family, school or community level, the more likely they are to engage in risk behaviors. The more protective factors present in an adolescent’s life, the more likely they are to engage in prosocial and developmentally-healthy behaviors.

  • Strategy: Promote protective factors and mitigate risk factors.
  • Activities: The Alaska Marijuana Use Prevention Youth Services Grant Program will fund before- and after-school care and youth program quality initiatives. Eligible applicants will include local governments, schools, nonprofit organizations, state agencies, and institutions of higher education. The goals of the Positive Youth Development Afterschool Program are the reduction of risk factors and the enhancement of protective factors among participating youth and parents.
    • The program anticipates a number of minimum outcomes:
    • Increase the availability of recreational, educational, and character-building programs for youth outside school hours;
    • Enhance individual, family, school, and community protective factors while reducing risk factors related to marijuana use; and
    • Reduce initiation and promote cessation of marijuana use by youth, reduce youth access to marijuana products, and reduce exposure of youth to impaired driving dangers related to marijuana use.

Prevent impaired driving

Driving while impaired by any substance, including marijuana, is dangerous and can lead to a DUI in Alaska ( AS 28.35.030). Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the main active ingredient in marijuana, affects areas of the brain that control your body’s movements, balance, coordination, memory, and judgment. (3-5)

  • Strategy: Public education communicating the dangers associated with driving under the influence of marijuana.

Eliminate accidental ingestion

While products purchased from retailers are required by Alaska law to use clearly labelled and child-safe packaging, always keep products in their original packaging so they are easily identified as containing THC. Keep them in a locked area. How you store marijuana should change as children get older. Safe storage around young children may not stop older children or teens.

  • Strategy 1: Safe storage public education

Reduce exposure to secondhand marijuana smoke and aerosols in public workplaces.

Although it is not yet known whether the health threats from secondhand marijuana smoke are as great as the dangers from secondhand tobacco smoke, secondhand smoke from marijuana has many of the same chemicals as smoke from tobacco. This includes some chemicals linked to lung cancer.

  • Strategy: Include marijuana in the definition of smoking and include in local and state clean indoor air laws.

Treatment with a focus on pregnant and breastfeeding women, youth, and individuals who want to quit.

Using marijuana while pregnant or breastfeeding may harm your baby. THC can pass from mother to unborn child through the placenta. Smoking marijuana has the added risk to the mother and baby of harmful smoke exposure. There is no known amount of marijuana that can be safely used during pregnancy.

  • Strategy: Provider education and awareness of substance use screening

Regulations, Enforcement and Public Policy Systems Change

Legalization and rule-making is still underway. Policy systems change are a proven method to strengthen public health and safety.

  • Strategy: Monitor rule-making and regulations projects to ensure rule-making and regulations address public health and safety.

Public Education and outreach to improve the public’s knowledge, attitudes, and awareness about marijuana and educate the public about health behavior choices in their lives.

  • Strategy 1: Continue data driven public education campaigns
  • Strategy 2: Website update and annual review
  • Strategy 3: Facilitate community outreach activities

Evaluation

  • Strategy 1: Assess knowledge, awareness, attitudes and behaviors; use of marijuana products, and; monitoring population health impact related to marijuana use and legalization,
  • Strategy 2: Program evaluation

1. Volkow ND, Baler RD, Compton WM, Weiss SRB. Adverse health effects of marijuana use. N Engl J Med. 2014;370(23):2219–2227.
2. Alaska Department of Health and Social Service’s Division of Behavioral Health. (2011). “Risk and Protective Factors for Adolescent Substance Use (and other Problem Behavior).” http://dhss.alaska.gov/dbh/Documents/Prevention/programs/spfsig/pdfs/Risk_Protective_Factors.pdf.
3. Lenné MG, Dietze PM, Triggs TJ, Walmsley S, Murphy B, Redman JR. The effects of cannabis and alcohol on simulated arterial driving: Influences of driving experience and task demand. Accid Anal Prev. 2010;42(3):859-866. doi:10.1016/j.aap.2009.04.021.
4. Hartman RL, Huestis MA. Cannabis effects on driving skills. Clin Chem. 2013;59(3):478-492. doi:10.1373/clinchem.2012.194381.
5. Hartman RL, Brown TL, Milavetz G, et al. Cannabis effects on driving lateral control with and without alcohol. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2015;154:25-37. doi:10.1016/j. drugalcdep.2015.06.015.