After Yarly Raygoza attended a drug prevention program at the Boys & Girls Club in Westminster, Calif., last year, she used what she learned to talk a few friends out of using marijuana.
The 14-year-old took the class again this year but worries that counseling her friends will become more difficult.
Recreational marijuana is now legal for adults in California, which could bring a massive boom in drug sales and advertising when stores can begin selling the drug without a prescription in January.
But it’s bringing a new challenge, too. Yarly believes that as more people 21 and older use marijuana legally, teenagers will have trouble understanding that they shouldn’t use it. Teens may also have easier access to the drug as recreational pot shops start to open, on top of the already plentiful medical marijuana shops sprinkled throughout the state, she says.
“Now that there are so many shops … kids have a better chance of getting their hands on it,” she says. “And having a discussion with them like this could be a little harder.”
Last November, voters approved Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, making California one of eight states — plus the District of Columbia — to legalize the drug for recreational use. The measure immediately made it legal for those 21 and older to possess up to 1 ounce, or about 28.5 grams, of cannabis. It delayed legal pot sales by licensed stores until January 2018.
The legalization of recreational marijuana for adults in California and other states makes things harder for youth-oriented drug education and prevention programs. Teachers are trying to explain the risks of marijuana just as stores are preparing to open and marketers are planning campaigns.
Medical marijuana has been legal in California for more than 20 years, but experts