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Smoke Signals 8/5-8/12 

The Pot Talk


Just Say No. DARE to Keep Kids Off Drugs. If these black-and-white, fear-based programs had been successful, we would have seen more of a shift in illicit drug use by teens. Rather, in the past 20 years, the percentage of 12th graders who say they've used an illicit drug in the last month has continued to hover between 20 and 25 percent.

One thing that has changed is the perceived risk associated with marijuana. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, close to two-thirds (64 percent) of high school seniors don't see any harm in regular marijuana use. Twenty years ago, just 35 percent held that view.

While moderate cannabis consumption is generally safe for adults, many studies show it's not great for still-developing young brains. But how can teachers and parents convey the risks associated with youth marijuana use even as its use by adults becomes legal, and therefore more commonplace?

One Mountain View High alumna is embracing that challenge head on. Caitlin Sinatra, a recent graduate of University of Oregon, wants to write simple, straightforward books aimed at guiding people through difficult conversations. In "Let's Talk About Marijuana," she uses conversations between a teen named Mary Jane and her mother to walk families through an open-ended conversation about avoiding and responding to marijuana-related risks.

In every scenario—from differentiating medical use from recreational use and abuse to finding a way home when your ride is too intoxicated to drive—the book models open, non-judgmental dialogue.

For Sinatra, it's a conversation rooted in reality. Though she was first exposed to marijuana while home alone with friends at age 15, her father used marijuana medically while fighting cancer. Her goal, she says, is to promote the message that marijuana is for adults to use in a safe, responsible way.

"This children's book is designed to help adults and youth initiate 'the talk' about marijuana in an open-ended and honest manner to ultimately prevent adolescent substance abuse and use," Sinatra explains.

Learn more about the book at


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