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A Grieving Mom’s Argument Against Retail Cannabis Storefronts

I’m a 20-year Marin resident, mom and business owner. My beautiful boy died a year ago in his dorm room at Sonoma State, after ingesting a street pill that was a lethal dose of 3 types of fentanyl. His unformed brain caused the neurons to search out a higher high after being introduced to cannabis at age 14.

I ask in my grief, what revenue the cities and towns of Marin stands to gain, to balance out the cost of future lives lost to drug addiction? Sadly, I’m sure that my son became addicted to cannabis as a freshman at Redwood, and died from his addiction a year ago. We all know that, long before Prop 64 was passed, Marin has not been shy about its culture of marijuana access and use. Now, however, the stakes are much higher.

When I discovered that my 14 year old son was using cannabis regularly, I learned all I could about the new marijuana. I learned that the pot my friends smoked in college was maybe 2-4% THC, and 6% if you were lucky to score Maui Waui. THC amounts in today’s medical marijuana strains average around 25%, with some award-winning strains up to 35% THC, and Dabs up to 99% THC. This is not hippie grass. Marijuana affects brain plasticity and proper neural function in youth.

Our family did all we could to stop our son’s addiction (a 14 year old brain gets hooked quickly). We sent him to rehab, where he was diagnosed with Cannabis Use Disorder. He came home, only to experience even greater addiction a year later, including finding multiple very fake IDs and cannabis club memberships, and having our home, vehicles, and even myself a punching bag for his drug-fueled rages when coming down from his high. He ended up attending six high schools including three rehabs before graduating from Tam in 2019. And yes, the day after his 18th birthday, his first legal medical marijuana card appeared in the mailbox, despite his long-standing issues with drugs.

Since his death last year, I have been an outspoken advocate against youth use of marijuana – particularly the facts which led to Trevor’s addiction and ultimate death.

  • Potency. I encouraging people to learn about the strength of today’s marijuana – it is not “just pot”.

  • Biology. How the brain is not fully formed until age 25 in most young adults, and the likelihood for addiction increases to 1 in 6 for youth using marijuana when starting before the brain has reached adulthood.

  • Gateway. Today’s marijuana leads many young people in search of a higher high.

  • Suicide. How marijuana use in young adults increases suicide ideation seven-fold.

I have nothing against medical marijuana use, and was made fully aware of its benefits as a breast cancer patient in 2019. I have nothing against responsible adults’ use of marijuana.

I am appalled, however, with local policymakers who equate support of Prop 64 with opening cannabis retail storefronts. Just because someone voted on the state proposition, does not mean they want a dispensary in their neighborhood.

Sausalito is the latest jurisdiction to consider breaking ranks with the rest of the county and allowing a portal for the highly commercialized recreational cannabis industry in their community. I have to point out Sausalito's proximity to the Golden Gate Bridge and note that adolescents who use cannabis have a seven-fold increase in making suicide attempts. I have first-hand experience of the tie between cannabis use and suicidal ideation from sitting in 12-step and grief groups with parents whose children have been lured to Sausalito’s International Orange icon. Another one of Trevor’s cannabis-addicted friends was dialing Uber to order a call to take him to the Golden Gate Bridge, when Trevor intervened and “talked him off the ledge”. In the first four years since legalization, Colorado coroners have seen a 10.5% increase in the prevalence of positive marijuana tests in toxicology reports, increasing from 11.8% at the onset of legalization in 2012 to 22.3% in 2016.

The latest marijuana statistics also include:

  • 30% of marijuana users have a use disorder.

  • 9-17% of people who try marijuana will become addicted.

  • And yes, marijuana is a gateway drug, especially for those with unformed brains, under age 25.

My son is more than a statistic. What revenue will be gained to make up for the price of my son, who now lies in Fernwood Cemetery in Mill Valley? And that revenue increase will be at the cost of more people addicted to cannabis in Marin County. How do I know that? Because we have seen the same practices with the tobacco, alcohol and pharmaceutical industries. Profiting off the suffering of others.

Personally, I have nothing to lose in this game except time. I already lost my oldest son to fentanyl poisoning caused by his addiction. I advocate against commercial retail cannabis because I know increased normalization and access will further hurt the youth of our county. Students themselves tell us how easy it is to get a fake ID or have someone go in a store to buy for them. Marin already has skyrocketing youth cannabis use numbers - and with a dispensary nearby, Marin teen cannabis use rates will just get worse.

For the record: this isn’t a “parenting problem” as some people would like to suggest to abdicate responsibility for our community’s youth. I was the perennial room mom in my sons’ classes. We had family dinners regularly. They had an allowance and had to earn money to buy any earthly goods they desired. Our family is not divorced, nor are our boys adopted. I spent a month recently writing thank-you cards for the literally hundreds of condolence cards and memorial donations we received, so many of them sharing how our family is such a cornerstone of our Greenbrae-Kentfield community. The thing is, parents can’t fight this alone. We need policy that shows youth that we value their health and safety. We need local leaders that recognize the crisis we have in our county and take responsibility for their part. We need community members that don’t point fingers and parent-shame, but instead ask – what can we all do to make sure we don’t lose more kids?

As we begin 2021 and the Sausalito City Council considers allowing cannabis businesses, I implore the city to consider the good of our entire community’s health over money. We need to decide what is best for all of our Marin community. There are no gates to wall in Sausalito, so whatever is decided will affect all of Marin County. Our kids (and many adults) are growing up with marijuana use being marketed, normalized, and pushed by the cannabis industry. Our minds naturally and powerfully say “illegal is bad, legal is good”, and marijuana is no exception.

I will continue to share my strong belief that bringing storefront cannabis businesses into our communities is a very bad idea for our youth and our families. There are no barriers to access for adult use. No town in Marin has opened retail cannabis because of the overwhelming facts and science against the propaganda of Big Cannabis. I wish I could have protected Trevor more. Please protect other Marin kids like Trevor by stopping the marijuana storefronts from infiltrating our communities. We can do better.


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