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Teachers Tackle the Mixed Messages Teens Receive About Marijuana

What happens when two educators can’t find the resources they need for their students? They create their own program. At least, that’s what happened when teacher Sarah Grippa and school counselor Molly Lotz recognized the need to better educate teens on the dangers of adolescent marijuana use.

The result: the Marijuana Education Initiative (MEI).

“We did not want to teach outdated material, nor did we want to adopt the ‘Just Say No’ approach of years past,” Grippa writes on her blog. “Instead, we decided to create our own curriculum, curriculum that was relevant to the changing times in a post legalization environment, and thus the Marijuana Education Initiative was born.”

A New Program With a New Goal

An opened pack of MarijuanaThe goal of the program is to address the confusing mixed messages and misinformation teens today are receiving about marijuana. With the push for legalization, they hear about the benefits and natural nature of this “safer” drug. What they don’t grasp is that these messages are intended for adults, and that marijuana has different effects on the developing teen brain. They also don’t understand the difference between recreational use and medicinal use.

Many parents also remain uninformed about the risks of adolescent marijuana use. Or, if they do know of them, they don’t know how to discuss this with their kids.

Grippa and Lotz dug in to create the resources needed to fill this gap. Jen Murphy, LPC and expert in adolescent and family treatment, joined their cause as they worked to develop the program. Along with help from medical field professionals, the three created a multifaceted marijuana initiative.

What the MEI Program Does

The mission of MEI is to promote “a balanced and informed understanding of the effects of marijuana use.” The focus is on correcting teen misconceptions of marijuana and promoting a healthy, accurate understanding of the physical impact of adolescent marijuana use. To do this, MEI seeks to “provide educators, schools, communities, and families with information and resources to better understand and confront the challenges associated with the changing dynamics created by legalized marijuana.”

Their initiative includes an intervention program for students who want to quit or decrease their marijuana use. The program also offers customized curriculum for elementary, middle, and high school levels. They’ve also added a program focused on student athletes, as well as an alternative to suspension program for students caught violating their school marijuana policies. Including resources for teens, school administrators, parents, and community organizations, the Marijuana Education Initiative is designed to get relevant information to those who need it.

Grippa explains, “Putting the most current research-based information in the hands of parents, mentors, and educators resuscitates the once dead conversation and opens the door to helping adolescents make informed decisions about marijuana.”