As we continue into the post-legalization era of marijuana, it is imperative that educational efforts keep pace with changing norms, yet instead of consistent and reality-based messaging, youth today are receiving a lot of mixed messages from community, media, family and schools. The messages that youth are receiving range from “it’s natural, therefore ‘it’s safe’ to “it’s medicine,” and still, the antiquated “Just Say No” campaign. This nonuniform and confusing messaging coupled with rapid changes in marijuana policy across America has created a shift in adolescent perception of harm as it relates to youth marijuana use.
Today’s youth is coming of age in an era of legalized marijuana, but they have not been properly informed about the differences between adolescent marijuana use and adult marijuana use, nor do they fully grasp the differences between recreational and medicinal use of the product. The still-developing adolescent brain differs significantly from the fully developed brain of an adult; therefore the effects of marijuana on the adolescent brain differ greatly as well.
Shifts in perception and the mixed messaging have contributed to a breakdown in communication between adolescents and their parents and their educators. Youth are eager for information but parents and teachers, most of whom were raised in the “Just Say No” era, don’t know how or where to get the facts. Adding to the breakdown in communication, parents who use marijuana recreationally fear looking like hypocrites in front of their teens, so they often avoid the conversation.
The Marijuana Education Initiative (MEI) was formed by two Colorado educators who saw the need for a progressive approach the marijuana prevention and intervention. MEI fills the void that has been created and provides parents, educators and legislators with the youth specific, fact-based information that revives the conversation. The Marijuana Education Initiative was created with one sole purpose: to Inform and Empower. A shift in perception demands a shift in education. Our comprehensive curriculum was created to put the most current, research-based information in the hands of parents, mentors, and educators and open the door to helping adolescents make informed decisions about marijuana. An informed youth is an empowered youth.
A Colorado native, Molly has a passion for providing educational opportunities for the youth in this state. During her seven-year tenure as the counselor at a small alternative school in Steamboat Springs, her students began asking for support in their attempts to become less dependent on marijuana. Putting her education and social work background to work, she decided to create a curriculum that could help the youth in states with legalized marijuana do just that.
She has a BA in English, with a secondary teaching certificate from Colorado State University, and a master’s in social work from the University of Washington, with an emphasis in school social work. She has worked in schools her entire professional career. Her most recent position is as counselor at Yampa Valley High School.
In early spring 2015, she and her team created the Marijuana Education Initiative out of a passion for providing unbiased information to youth who want to know and understand the effects marijuana has on their lives.
After working as a criminal and family law paralegal for many years, Sarah decided to follow her passion and pursue a career in education. She returned to college and earned a BA in education with an endorsement in K–12 special education. Sarah later earned additional endorsements in language arts and health. She has worked with special education students in middle school and high school and worked as a general education language arts and health teacher at an alternative high school. Her work at the alternative education campus led Sarah to co-found the Marijuana Education Initiative with Molly Lotz. Together, she and Molly work with specialists and professionals in diverse fields to create unbiased, reality-based marijuana prevention and intervention curricula as well as alternative-to-suspension programming, parent information guides, and online learning modules. Sarah couples her experience in the classroom with her knowledge in youth-specific marijuana prevention efforts to successfully work with educators, communities, legislators, state agencies, and industry leaders across the country to ensure educational practices keep pace with changing norms.