Support for National Association of School Nurses' Position on the Legalization of Marijuana

The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) joins with school nurses across the country to express our support for efforts that promote wellness and good health outcomes for our Nation’s children, including the prevention of substance use disorders.  ONDCP shares the concerns of school nurses regarding the harmful effects of marijuana use among young people. Given research indications that marijuana is harmful to the developing brain,[1] we are especially concerned about the repercussions of use on the health, safety, and education of adolescents. On January 27, 2014, based on overwhelming scientific evidence, the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) Board of Directors adopted an official position statement[2] outlining the negative impact of marijuana legalization on the health of students. ONDCP supports NASN in bringing attention to this issue.

School nurses are present in 75 percent of the Nation’s schools, so many are in touch with substance use trends within the school and greater community and are able to make educated assessments when students visit their offices.  The school nursing profession has more than 100 years of experience, and school nurses know first-hand that healthy, drug-free children learn better. As more and more states consider the legalization of marijuana, school nurses are compelled to continue providing their students with the facts on the multiple physical and behavioral health consequences of marijuana use. Access to marijuana by young people and the impact of its use on the developing brain continue to be matters of concern for both ONDCP and NASN.

Together, we recognize that adult influencers, including parents, school nurses, teachers, counselors, and other support personnel in the academic setting, are key to helping adolescents understand the connection between good health practices and educational achievement.  There is grave concern that marijuana use, given its impact on cognitive development, motor skills, and attention, will be detrimental to the learning environment for our young people. We encourage professionals in all health fields, parents, educators, and communities to get involved with this issue. We all must work together to reduce marijuana use and prevent substance use disorders among our young people.

David Mineta is Deputy Director for Demand Reduction at ONDCP. Carolyn Duff,  MS, RN, NCSN, is President of the National Association for School Nurses.

[1] Meier MH, Caspi A, Ambler A, Harrington H, Houts R, Keefe RS, McDonald K, Ward A, Poulton R, Moffitt TE.  Persistent cannabis users show neuropsychological decline from childhood to midlife. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012, Aug 27.

2. It is the opinion of the NASN that marijuana is properly categorized by the DEA under Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substance Act. NASN recognizes the overwhelming evidence that “any change in the legal status of marijuana, even if limited to adults, could affect the prevalence of use among adolescents.”


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