By Sue Pascoe
Two Palisades moms, Dr. Cori Cross and Jill Roberts Piscatella, appeared before the Pacific Palisades Community Council (PPCC) on Jan. 26 to urge the community to “carve out” a one-mile safe zone around schools where the sale of marijuana is outlawed.
Dr. Cross is a board-certified pediatrician at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and an American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) spokesperson. She is an active member of the California Chapter 2 AAP, through which she co-created the Fit to Play and Learn Obesity Prevention curriculum that is being taught in LAUSD schools.
Jill Roberts Piscatella, senior vice president of the Drug Enforcement Agency Educational Foundation, is an authority in after-school programs, and drug education. She won the President’s Volunteer Service Award from President Barack Obama in 2009.
Proposition 64, which was approved by voters in November, requires stores selling marijuana to be only 600 feet—or a tenth of a mile—from schools and day care centers— and that includes marijuana food trucks.
“If we agree, as a community, that it is in the best interest of our children, we should be allowed to ask for a zoning carve-out which would allow us to have a one-mile safe zone around our schools,” Cross told the community council. “In communicating with the assistant city attorney, it seems that Prop.64 does allow the city to preserve its right to impose land-use restrictions. This means the city has the right to require greater distances from sensitive sites if it so chooses.”
The two have a letter of support for a carve-out signed by multiple Palisades schools: Calvary Christian, Lycee Francais, St. Matthew’s, Montessori, Village School, Seven Arrows and Corpus Christi.
A major concern for Cross and Piscatella is the potential for children and teens to have easy access and exposure to THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive constituent in marijuana). A second issue is the minimal police presence in Pacific Palisades. At the PPCC meeting, Cross emphasized that “this is not the pot of yesteryear. THC levels of pot in the ‘70s and ‘80s was about three to four percent. Now THC levels average 13 to 14 percent and it is not uncommon for levels to reach 30 percent. This high level of THC has consequences besides the better and quicker high, and this is particularly true for children and adolescents.” Cross explained that since the young brain is still developing, it is more susceptible than the adult brain to THC.
“We see an increase in schizophrenia, bipolar [disorder] and depression among teens who start using marijuana young,” Cross said. “The high levels of THC may be chemically altering the brain and making thesekidsmoresusceptibletothesediseases.” The women presented sobering statistics: 1.) according to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), long-term marijuana use, started in the teen years, has a negative effect on intellectual function with an average drop in IQ by eight points; 2.) impairments were especially significant in the areas of executive function and processing speed; and 3.) chronic marijuana use during adolescence was associated with poorer performance on thinking tasks, including slower psychomotor speed, poorer complex attention, verbal memory and planning ability. “The teen brain also seems more prone to addiction, or dependency,” Cross said. “For adult users, about one in 10 become dependent; however, for teens it is one in six.”
According to NAS, when a teen abstains from marijuana use for three weeks there is partial recovery of verbal memory function, but complex attention skills don’t fare as well.
Those who started using marijuana later in life showed minor declines after they discontinued use. But, for those kids who started using prior to age 18, the neuro-psychological deficits are often never recovered, even after stopping use.
The two women said that in Colorado and Washington, where marijuana use has been legalized, use by minors has drasti- cally increased.
“Kids and teens tend to think if its legal it must be safe, and usage among minors goes up,” Cross said. “Having it, basically, down the block from schools normalizes it for kids.”
Another issue is that marijuana shops are prime targets for crime. Many banking and credit card institutions refuse to do business with cannabis growers and dispensaries because of the federal ban on the manufacturing and sale of cannabis. As a result, many cannabis businesses are not able to accept credit or debit cards and deal in cash.
The Pacific Palisades Community Council did not take a position or make a recommendation because it was on the agenda as a discussion item.