snow baubles. christmas ornaments and snow (Shallow DOF)It’s the holiday season, a time where families are out taking pictures with Santa and going to events like the Nutcracker. In Washington state, this is also the one year anniversary of the passing of Initiative 502 which legalized marijuana in this state. Tonight there will be a merging of holiday family celebration and using marijuana when Winterfest and an outdoor celebration of the passing of I-502 occur at the same time and location.

Winterfest takes place at the Seattle Center. If you’ve never been to Seattle, the Seattle Center is the area around the space needle. There’s an arcade, the Children’s Museum, the Pacific Science Center, and multiple stages where theater, music, and other performances occur. Basically it’s the town center for family events. Winterfest is an event that occurs each year that caters to children so the Seattle Center will be particularly busy with families this afternoon. At the same time as Winterfest, there will be a celebration of I-502. In the Seattle Center people will gather to publicly smoke marijuana. This is expected to be a large gathering of about 500 people.

I-502 was passed to legalize marijuana, but the law clearly states that it must be consumed in private and is illegal to consume in public. A person must be 21 years of age to legally consume marijuana. There is also a provision that marijuana businesses cannot be located within 1000 feet of a school or other places where children congregate in order to reduce exposure. This celebration is in direct violation of the law, yet there is no word of any action being taken to prevent it. In fact, there is word that elected officials may be in attendance.

Every thing we consume has risks and benefits. If there weren’t any benefits to marijuana people wouldn’t consume it! But there are risks as well (including impaired judgement while under the influence, decreased motivation, sleep disruption, altered ability to focus on tasks, not to mention the medical implications of smoking on your lungs). By having this celebration at the exact same time and place as Winterfest (4:20pm today, December 6th) we should consider the message we are sending to our children and teens.

I think of marijuana as similar to alcohol. As a society, each individual over 21 makes the choice of whether or not they are going to use and if we choose to use, we consume it at home or in restaurants in small quantities; we avoid open containers in public because we don’t want children using it, and if we consume so much that our judgement is impaired we pay legal consequences in order to protect people around us (such as DUI laws to prevent drunk driving). To me, the marijuana celebration in the heart of the Seattle Center today, in front of children and teens, sends the message that drug use is normal and acceptable. Is this really the message we want to send?

Check out our previous posts on marijuana:

Drug use among teens: part 3 marijuana

Teen marijuana use

Talking to your teen about your own alcohol and drug history