By Tammy Murga | Signal Staff Writer
While Santa Clarita officials work with multiple agencies to curb illicit drug use, a new report by the county Health Department indicates marijuana use among adults — which officially became legal Jan. 1 — has increased significantly.
County officials also shared that while they charted about a 30-percent increase in usage, that was before the passage of Proposition 64, the legalization measure — meaning officials expect that figure to rise even higher.
“I think they will increase,” said Santa Clarita City Councilman Cameron Smyth. “People will be more willing to admit to using it now that it’s legal… and more willing to try it or begin using it.”
He added that residents should acknowledge that the Santa Clarita Valley faces the same issues as other communities do, including an increase in usage among young people and students in the last 10 years.
Carrie Lujan, communications manager with the city of Santa Clarita, said reaching out to students before they reach the legal age to use marijuana is vital. One way the city has conducted outreach is by partnering with agencies like the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station and school districts, to produce a club-based program, dubbed DFY in SCV, for Drug Free Youth in SCV.
While the laws have changed and continue to change per local districts, Jennifer Thompson, Arts Schools and Volunteers administrator with the city, said the message remains the same: to encourage students to choose a drug-free lifestyle. In 2017, she added, juvenile drug arrests, including for marijuana, went down from 81 to 70 in Santa Clarita.
The report, titled “Recent Trends in Adult Use of Marijuana,” analyzed data from the Los Angeles County Health Survey.
Data found that the number of people reporting marijuana consumption increased from 9 percent to 12 percent between 2011 and 2015. More specifically, marijuana use increased by nearly 50 percent for those aged 21 through 29. In 2015, those between the ages of 18 and 29 had used marijuana more than any other age groups. Men were found twice as likely to use marijuana than women (16 percent versus 8 percent).
The report also found that use by race, ethnicity, and income was highly influenced by country of birth. For example, Latinos (10 percent) and Asians (6 percent) consumed less than whites (15 percent) and African Americans (20 percent). However, use specifically among U.S. born Latinos and Asians was comparable to African Americans and whites.
The L.A. County Public Health Department is also tackling teen marijuana use prevention through its #BiggerChoices campaign, which highlights the health effects of marijuana use on the developing brain.
Data collected for the report came just before the passing of Proposition 64, which, as of Jan. 1, allows people 21 and older to possess marijuana for personal use.
Results of the next survey will be used to assess the early impacts of the law and are anticipated in 2019, as stated in the report.