Category Archive: Substance Abuse

AN HONEST DIALOGUE ABOUT MARIJUANA USE BY MINOR(S) PART 2 of 4

Marijuana use is on the rise, this is an honest dialogue about its use among young adults.

Michael: There seems to be people that do alright even though they smoke marijuana but couldn’t you argue that these people would be just fine without marijuana in their lives. Maybe they would reach even greater heights and achieve even more impressive feats if they did not engage in something that seems to derail ambition and blunt motivation. Maybe we should acknowledge some of the costs associated with marijuana use. After all I think that successful, well-adjusted people tend to function well when they embrace the reality of their situation instead of trying to escape it.

Andrew: That’s a valid point. Marijuana use is definitely not without cost, which is, I suppose, my main point: that people need to be aware of the costs and acknowledge the fact that marijuana use is not without consequence and not necessarily the consequences that you might think of as a young person. First and foremost, is the problem of perspective that might influence a young person’s decision to use marijuana: most young people have not had to experience such things as poor health, responsibility, or struggling in life and do not appreciate the fact that their actions right now, in this moment, will carry consequences that impact their ability to lead the kind of lives that they aspire to lead tomorrow. Looking back at my own life I see that marijuana was a thief of time. It is very easy to succumb to the pleasure of marijuana use and lose yourself in a cloud of smoke and not wake up to reality and responsibility without considerable time passing by the wayside- time that cannot be recovered. Marijuana use and the marijuana “high” bring with it a sense of satisfaction and this can lead to complacency because if you can experience the sensation of happiness and contentment simply by smoking marijuana, then it begs the all-important question: what is driving you to seek out in life those challenges and take those risks that lead to personal growth and that really bring happiness and satisfaction. Most of the rewarding things in life require sacrifice, discipline, hard work, and sacrifice in the near term for delay of gratification- marijuana does not facilitate this mindset.

Michael: Delay of gratification is an interesting concept and something many young people don’t seem to appreciate, especially those that use marijuana.

Andrew: I think that the reason that this is the case is that we live in an instant gratification society and marijuana use in one more means that circumvents the development of the discipline and the ability to delay instant gratification in order to work towards a much bigger payoff down the road. If you read about successful people in our society, whether they succeeded in sports, business, or entertainment, these people invariably worked their tails off when other people were, by comparison, out taking it easy and enjoying to the good life. It’s rare to read about wildly successful people that will talk about formative experiences that lead to their success that involved using marijuana. That’s not to say that no successful person ever smoked a joint, but one can’t help noticing patterns. One particular pattern among successful people is that they tend to find pleasure in their passion, whether it be work, sport, or area of study. This tended to be their outlet for immersion and escape, not recreational drug use. I think that anyone who finds themselves in a position where marijuana use has become a habit needs to ask honestly why this is the case and take inventory of this pattern because unchecked it can have a profound influence on the direction of their life.

AN HONEST DIALOGUE ABOUT MARIJUANA USE BY MINOR(S) PART 1 OF 4

An honest dialogue about marijuana use by minors

Michael: An attorney for 47 years, who regularly represents minors before the juvenile courts and also represents parents accused of child endangerment, neglect and abuse in the juvenile courts. Michael is opposed to minors using marijuana.

Andrew: an attorney, and former user and adherent of marijuana. Andrew acknowledges some benefits of marijuana use and generally believes that people, including minors, should have the freedom to choose whether or not to use marijuana.

Michael: Right off the bat, I want to say that I am opposed to the use of marijuana by minors, regardless of whether it is now legal under California law and regardless of what the minor might argue about the benefits of use. Marijuana is a central nervous system depressant. I have seen to many minors in my line of work who have made a mess of their lives by using marijuana. So to ignore the obvious implications of even “experimenting: or “recreational use” would be irresponsible and reckless, in my opinion. I have worked with many minors in an effort to turn around their lives and curb self-destructive patterns of behavior. When we have succeeded in breaking a minor’s habitual marijuana use this almost always causes their grades to significantly improve, among other positive benefits. Not only that their behavior at home and at school also improves considerably. I think people would have to be foolish or irresponsible to condone marijuana use by a minor child.

Andrew: You make some very strong points that would be hard to knock down in argument. From my own experience I can say that while marijuana use has its genuine appeal, and there is certainly a pleasurable aspect to it that attracts and retains users, if one is honest they have to also acknowledge that marijuana use is not simply innocent, consequence-free fun. I am arguing for individual choice, that people be allowed the freedom to decide for themselves whether or not marijuana use is something that they want to experience and if so to what extent they want marijuana to be a part of their life. I think that it needs to be informed use, acknowledging both the costs and the benefits that come with marijuana use- basically I am a proponent of informed decision-making and personal responsibility.

Michael: That’s perhaps a reasonable position to take for mature and responsible adults but it doesn’t sit well with me in the context of minors. I don’t think that a minor has the life experience or the judgment to understand ways in which even something so seemingly “innocent” as marijuana use can dramatically impact the course of their life. Decisions made and actions taken in teenage years can really have a profound impact on the course of a young person’s life trajectory that are impossible to see at the time but will become apparent in hindsight when it is unfortunately too late to undo the damage done and opportunities lost, etc. I have seen too many examples of young people completely going off the rails in the pursuit of what they believe to be their right to indulge in marijuana use, which can be very seductive in what it promises but very cruel in the reality that it delivers. Maybe this would be a good opportunity to discuss some of the costs and benefits of marijuana use.

Andrew: Starting with the benefits, for the majority of people, marijuana use is a pleasurable and euphoric experience. I think that is what attracts many people, not to mention the image of carefree, relaxed fun. But that is not to suggest that all people enjoy marijuana, as there are certainly a number of people that are not attracted to the image of marijuana use and others that have tried it and do not enjoy the effects. I know from my experience that marijuana smoking was a big part of our culture growing up: maybe to some extent because of its slightly subversive reputation, being illegal at that time, and the fact that it was more difficult to obtain than alcohol and also because it carried a mild stigma associated with use- making it sort of forbidden fruit. As I mentioned there are obviously people who find marijuana extremely pleasurable: perhaps someone with anxiety or other unpleasant emotional state finds solace or comfort in use and the temporary escape that the marijuana “high” offers.

There are other examples of someone who uses marijuana as a means of connecting with peers, similar to how adults might get together socially and partake in a bottle of wine or a bottle of beer. I think that there is always the thought that it is a sort of bonding experience that lower inhibitions and offers a heightened, shared experience in which people let down their guard and expose their “real selves.” Whether or not this is true is debatable but is definitely a suggested in the experience. There are others who feel that marijuana heightens the experience associated with activities like listening to music, surfing, going for a hike, or even engaging in routine activities.

I had friends in college who regularly smoked marijuana before swimming or water polo practices and you wouldn’t know from looking at them or watching them perform that they were under the influence of marijuana, but for them it was extremely pleasurable, such that not having it available beforehand drained the routine activity of its expected pleasure. There are other people for whom use of marijuana enhances creativity and makes them feel more in touch with their creative side when they are making art, music, writing, etc. I know of at least one Hollywood screenwriter who uses marijuana before sitting down to write and he insists that it gets him into the right mindset to create great work that he sells for top dollar. There are very successful, well-adjusted, balanced people for whom marijuana use is a part of their life and they seem not to evidence any of the negative effects that one typically associates with regular use.

Other people that I know describe the emotional experience that marijuana provides: that it can induce intense nostalgia and transport them to places emotionally that they have not experienced in many years and they thought were lost to them. Something like this can be profoundly important to someone who is an artist and who creates, as it lends new vision and perspective to the world. Sometimes great ideas can be born of this sort of altering of perspective.

KICKING ADDICTION-FIRST PERSON ACCOUNT

Drug addiction, a personal story. Juvenile Law Center.com When I was 9 years of age, I tried pot for the first time. By the age of 12, I had a paper route and my own checking account. I would use my money to buy drugs, beer and play pinball. I quit high school half way through my freshman year. By now I was using coke, meth and different kinds of drugs in addition to marijuana. I started an alternate school program. When I was 17, I moved out from home. I got odd jobs at construction sites and continued to use and sell hard drugs. At the age of 18, I was involved in a major car accident while riding in the back of a truck. I was thrown from the truck. My right tibia was crushed and I was in the hospital for four weeks. I was given morphine for the pain. I became hooked on crystal meth.

I moved in with my girlfriend. I was collecting social security disability. I was continuing to use different kinds of drugs while selling drugs to support my drug use. My girlfriend was also using drugs. She eventually left when she got a job with a municipality and wanted to get clean. I helped my father take care of his elderly parents.

I had hit bottom. Nearly everyday I was loaded on coke. My brother was arrested for selling drugs. He entered the Salvation Army residential drug program. He stayed as a resident for close to 9 months. He became an employee of the Salvation Army. My youngest brother who also was into drugs decided to seek help. He also entered the Salvation Army residential program. I was so messed up I recall being in my father’s home. He had birds he would let out of their cages and fly inside the house. At times they would poop on the carpet and furniture. I can recall picking up the white substance, thinking it was coke, putting it in my pipe and smoking it. I was in my thirties living with my father. A close friend of mine from high school permitted me to move into a converted toolshed in his backyard. I was to pay $200 a month for rent. This became my home. I became suicidal. I called my mother and told her I was ready to check out. My mom convinced me to go to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. My friend demanded his rent one day and I did not have it. He told me to either get it or get out. I was not welcome at my brothers’ homes because I was still using drugs. I could only go to my mother’s home if I was not loaded.

I decided to call the Salvation Army and seek admission to one of their residential drug programs. I had to first get totally clean. I was then told to go to another city and enter one of the Salvation Army programs there. I did enter one of their residential programs, began my twelve AA steps and got a sponsor. After being there for five months, I was kicked out. I had not relapsed but another resident claimed I had harassed him. I had nowhere to go. I called my AA sponsor and asked him for help. He told me he would put me up for a couple of days. He told me would be there in 2 hours and to wait outside the residential program for him. He did not come so I continued to wait. I called him again and he told me to wait for another two hours. Eventually, after waiting for 6 hours, he came. He told me he wanted me to prove to him I was serious about getting help and working with him. I entered a sober living home in another city several hours away from where I grew up. I stayed in the sober living home for about six months. My sponsor told me I had to do everything he told me to do. If I did not, he would drop me. He took control of my life. I finished the twelve AA steps. I erased every friends phone number from my phone. My father died during this time so I moved back to live in his home. I went to AA almost everyday. I was working construction type jobs, repairing homes and doing what I could to earn a living. I surrounded myself only with people in recovery. I stayed completely away from the people, places and things I was doing when I was heavily into drugs. I worked the AA steps. I learned you cannot cheat on them. You have to be honest. You have to reveal any secrets you may have no matter how painful it may be.

I am now 52. I married a great woman and we had a son who is now 15 years old. He knows about my background. He would not even think of doing marijuana or any other type of drug. Sadly, my lovely wife died. She was not into drugs and was very supportive of my recovery. This is my advice to those with addiction issues:

1. Join AA. Find someone you trust to be your sponsor. Do everything your sponsor tells you to do. You want your sponsor to become your leader. Work the 12 steps;

2. Don’t go back to the same people, places and things. This includes the job you had. If your spouse or significant other also had addiction issues, you must separate. Each of you must do your own programs and work your steps separately. You can only be around each other if you are absolutely clean and committed to recovery;

3. Make new friends that are in recovery or just good people who do not use drugs or alcohol. You cannot be with someone who dabbles in drugs/alcohol; and

4. No more lying, cheating, and stealing. You have to try to live a spiritual, ethical and moral life.

I have now 18 years of sobriety. I have employees working for me that are in recovery. I only socialize with people in recovery. I know because of my genetic make up, one dabble in drugs/alcohol will cause me to use again and destroy my happy life.

WHAT GETS MIDDLE SCHOOLERS RECOMMENDED FOR SUSPENSION AND EXPULSION

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1. Sexual misbehavior – Sexual harassment will be sure to warrant a suspension and possible recommendation for expulsion. Seventh and Eigth grade boys and girls are into sex talk. They generally start their conversations on Facebook, Instant Messaging, Instagram, texting and other social media sites. Girls want to encourage the attention from boys so they tease, sext or do other things to get the boy’s interest. Boys can’t wait to talk with the girls and admire what they send them in their photos, texts, and messages. Generally these are boys and girls that attend the same school.

Sexual misbehavior at school is a big “No.” A boy passing a sexual note to a girl will be assessed as “sexual harassment.” The boy will be suspended. Depending on the gravity of what occurred that could turn into a recommendation for expulsion. A boy and girl making out at school behind one of the classrooms is bound to lead to a suspension for sexual harassment for the boy even if the conduct was consented to by the girl. When both the boy and girl are questioned by the vice principal for their conduct, in most cases the girl will say the boy went too far and she did not consent to his sexual touching. This sort of conduct will likely also lead to school police involvement and possible juvenile court charges.  It is not uncommon for seventh and eighth graders to engage in more intimate sexual acts in one of the bathrooms. Most boys and girls of this age view certain sexual acts as not sexual intercourse. The girls can be as equally aggressive as the boys in consenting to and participating in the conduct. Should they be discovered or questioned about their actions, the girl will generally deny consent and the boy will be recommended for expulsion. The law says consent is not a defense to sexual acts with minors under the age of 18. See my prior blog on “Sex Between Minors“.  The police will definitely be called and the minor arrested and either put in custody or referred for prosecution.

2. Threats to kill or cause serious bodily injury. Another way to get a minor suspended and recommended for expulsion is to make a threat on Facebook, by text, Instant Messaging or on a social media site to kill or cause serious bodily injury to another student or an administrator at school. The threat can be made from home and sent to another student by way of the internet. These type of threats are taken very seriously by the school and the authorities. I can guarantee you there will be an immediate suspension pending expulsion. The police will be at your home very soon after they are first notified. They will thoroughly search your home for weapons. Your son or daughter will be arrested. It is not a defense that your son or daughter is being bullied at school, is being threatened, is depressed, has a mental disability, or is just impulsively acting out and does not intend to actually hurt anyone.

3. Drugs/Providing Prescription Medication. I talk about this in my prior blog dealing with high school suspensions and expulsions. The same information applies to middle schoolers. Do not send your minor to school with his or her prescription medication. If your minor ends up providing it to another student, even though no money is exchanged or just to be friendly that is the same as sales of an illegal drug. Under no circumstances have any illegal drugs, seeds, spice or anything else which is not allowed by the school for students to possess. Your minor needs to make sure none of these things are in their backpack, pockets, and clothing. They are not to temporarily hold illegal drugs while another student is being investigated to help out their friend. These types of offenses will lead to suspensions and a possible recommendation for expulsion.

4. Weapons. Boys will often go to school and have a knife or other weapon in their backpack or in their clothing. Quite often the weapon has been mistakenly left in their belongings and they did not intend to take it to school. This is not a defense. Under no circumstance allow your minor to go to school with a gun, a look-alike gun or a BB gun, sling shot, brass knuckles, martial arts weapons, pepper spray, lighter, matches, or anything else which could be used as a weapon. Your minor needs to be responsible to not take these items to school and not be given these items at school to hold for another student or to take home. I can guarantee you another student will tell on them. If substantiated, your minor will be suspended and possibly be recommended for expulsion.

5. Bullying/Fighting. Bullying is being taken more seriously by the schools than in the past. Administrators are under a lot of pressure to get rid of the students who are bullying other students. Impress on your minor not to bully, discriminate racially or taunt with sexual orientation slurs. Your student will end up being suspended and referred for possible expulsion.

We recommend parents frequently supervise their minor’s Facebook, Instant Messaging, texting, and other social media sites.

Be observant as to what is in your minor’s room at home. Do they have a lot of cash that you don’t know where it came from? Are they using drugs?

Little problems become big problems very quickly.

Please read all our blogs to assist you with avoiding behaviors which could lead to suspension and/or expulsion.

SHOULD I BE CONCERNED IF MY KID SMOKES MARIJUANA?

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We know our teenager smokes pot, but we don’t believe they are using hard drugs. Should we be concerned? Yes, you should be very concerned. Following are some of the consequences we regularly see from marijuana use by minors:

1. School. All schools prohibit students from selling, furnishing to others, possessing or being under the influence of marijuana or any other drug. If a student sells or furnishes marijuana to others at school, they will likely be referred for expulsion. Possession alone, if a first offense, will usually not result in a suspension if the student takes a mandatory drug awareness class. It is likely the school will call and involve the school police. Depending on what occurred, Juvenile Court prosecution will also likely follow.

2. Grades. It has been our experience that a minor’s grades will significantly improve if they stop using marijuana. If your minor has a precipitous drop in grades and behavior at school, the first thought should be drug use.

3. Juvenile Court. Furnishing marijuana is legally the same as selling marijuana. Possession of not more than 28.5 grams of marijuana at school in grades 1-12 during school hours or at school-related programs is a misdemeanor. Health & Safety Code 11357(e).
Depending on how the case is handled in Juvenile Court, if a conviction is entered against the minor and an abstract of the conviction is sent to the Department of Motor Vehicles, the minor will have their drivers license suspended for a year or their ability to obtain a drivers license delayed for a year.

4. Child Protective Services. If for some reason Child Protective Services (CPS) visits a home and discovers marijuana is accessible to the minor children in the home, it is likely they will take the children into protective custody and initiate juvenile dependency proceedings. A medical marijuana card does not give an adult a license to have marijuana in their home that is reasonably accessible to their children.

5. Department of Motor Vehicles. Just like alcohol, if a minor under the age of 18 is found to be in possession of marijuana, they will have their drivers license suspended for a year or a have to wait an extra year to obtain their license. We have represented minors who were under the influence of marijuana and nearly killed themselves and others because of their dangerous driving.

Minors who use marijuana and associate with other drug users are likely to start experimenting with other hard drugs.

Condoning marijuana use can only lead to further legal and social issues when the minor reaches adulthood. If your minor is regularly using marijuana, it is likely that as an adult that behavior will continue. If your son or daughter has children, it is likely your grandchildren will be raised in a home with open marijuana use. Marijuana use affects a students grades; it can have the same effect on a persons job performance.
There have been a couple of cases where we have recommended to the Juvenile Court that our client be permitted to continue to use marijuana as a condition of their probation. In both cases, the Court did approve the minors continued use. Both minors had profound issues and had taken psychotropic medication for many years. They refused to take those medications any more. They found that marijuana use enabled them to go to school and be able to function in their daily lives. In both cases, they had medical marijuana cards and their psychiatrists wrote letters to the Court explaining that marijuana use was beneficial for them to attend school and stay out of trouble. Except for these two very special cases, we strongly advise parents to not permit the use of or the possession of marijuana by their minor/s.

Regularly administer surprise drug tests to your minor if marijuana or other drug use is suspected. Marijuana stays in the system for as long as 30 days. If drug use is suspected, don’t stop testing after a few clean tests. Repeat surprise tests until your minor leaves home. A watered down or diluted test should be considered a dirty test. Let your minor know it is not acceptable to use any illegal drugs. Be a good example to your child. If you use, it is likely your children will do the same.