Frequently asked questions

I just received a fact card about marijuana from a law enforcement officer. Why?


In February 2021, Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation regarding recreational marijuana use for adults in the state of New Jersey. Under the law, police officers are required to follow specific steps when interacting with someone who is under the age of 21 and using marijuana. 1st Violation – Police officers may provide a written warning and are allowed to notify the parents/guardians of a child under 18 who is caught with marijuana or alcohol. 2nd Violation – Police officers may provide a written warning notifying parents/guardians of a child under 18, and provide information and materials on social services. 3rd or Subsequent Violation – Police officers may provide a written warning, notify parents/guardians of a child under 18, provide information and materials on social services, and a referral to these social service organizations. Pursuant to interim guidance from the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office for local police departments, the officer shall provide notice of the written warning and referral to the community treatment services program regardless of the age of the individual. In response to this legislation, the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, the Youth Service Commission, Ocean’s Harbor House, the DART Prevention Coalition, and other key stakeholders developed a standardized card with resources, facts, and information to provide you with the supports you need. The SURE Program is here to help you navigate any questions you may have and connect you and your family to appropriate resources. For more information on New Jersey’s legislation regarding marijuana, please visit: nj.gov/oag/dcj/agguide/AG-Interim-Guidance-Marijuana-Decrim-2020-0326.pdf




What is the big deal about youth marijuana use anyway?


The human brain does not fully develop until the age of 25. When you start using a chemical substance like marijuana, it negatively impacts your brain development. Teens who regularly use marijuana may experience difficulty thinking, problems with memory, and a lower IQ. Some people perceive that one can use marijuana to alleviate anxiety but it can actually increase depression, paranoia, and induce psychosis. Teen marijuana use may lower your inhibitions, problem solving abilities, and harm your decision making. This can lead to risky situations such as reckless driving, sexual encounters, and exposure to other harmful substances. In Ocean County, the most common reason youth enter substance use treatment is for alcohol and marijuana use. For more information, please visit: drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/what-are-marijuanas-long-term-effects-brain and https://www.cdc.gov/marijuana/health-effects.html




What is a marijuana concentrate?


A marijuana concentrate is a highly concentrated and potent THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) mass, the psychoactive component of marijuana. Marijuana concentrates are often consumed through vaping (in the form of a liquid), dabbing, or ingesting edibles (e.g. brownies, cookies, gummy products that contain THC). Using marijuana concentrates may cause serious and intense effects that put the user at risk. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Marijuana potency, as detected in confiscated samples, has steadily increased over the past few decades. In the early 1990s, the average THC content in confiscated marijuana samples was less than 4%. In 2018, it was more than 15%. Marijuana concentrates can have much higher levels of THC. The increasing potency of marijuana, combined with the use of high-THC concentrates, raises concerns that the consequences of marijuana use today could be worse than in the past, particularly among those who are new to marijuana use and in young people, whose brains are still developing.” For more information, please visit: drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/marijuana-addictive and drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana-concentrates




What are marijuana edibles?


Edibles are food products that contain marijuana. They are an increasingly common way to consume the drug. The amount of THC in an edible varies from product to product and labeling is not always reliable; there is often a specified “dose” per serving, meaning you should not necessarily consume the entire package of the product. Edibles have a delayed onset and can last for extended periods of time. Marijuana edibles also pose a risk for accidental ingestion by young children. The New Jersey Poison Control Center released a statement in January 2021 reporting that, “Poison Control Centers around the country have seen a significant increase in calls regarding children who accidently eaten/swallowed products containing THC. Further complicating matters are candy look-alike products, such as gummy bears or the products mentioned above, which are very enticing to kids. In 2020, the New Jersey Poison Control Center assisted in the medical treatment of more than 55 children under the age of 5, and more than 30 children between the ages of 6 and 12 who consumed edible products containing THC – more than double those assisted in the previous year (2019) and 6 times as much as in 2018.” When looking at calls to poison control centers across the country in 2020, reports find that there were 554 calls related to children accidentally ingesting THC edibles, a number more than 29 times higher than the number of calls it received a decade ago. Marijuana exposure in children can lead to dangerous side effects including trouble breathing, loss of coordination, drowsiness, and seizures. In severe cases, children may need to be admitted to an intensive care unit and even need a ventilator. If you suspect a poisoning involving a marijuana product, call your local poison control center immediately at 1-800-222-1222 for medical treatment advice. Poison Control Centers are staffed by healthcare professionals 24/7. If someone is unconscious, not breathing, hard to wake up, or having a seizure, immediately call 9-1-1. Please call NJ Poison Control at (800) 222-1222 for support or dial 911 if this is a medical emergency. For more information, please visit: drugabuse.gov/news-events/science-highlight/marijuana-vaping-edible-use-increasing-among-high-school-seniors, cdc.gov/marijuana/faqs/edibles.html, and insider.com/children-accidentally-ingest-thc-edibles-rise-2021-4




What about driving high? My friends have said they drive better when they are.


An impairment is an impairment. You should never get behind the wheel of a vehicle after consuming a substance like marijuana, alcohol, narcotics, etc. Marijuana is the second most common drug involved in auto fatalities, only after alcohol. You are putting your life and the lives of many others at risk when doing so, and there are enormous consequences associated.




Can you become addicted?


Some folks would say you can become addicted to just about anything – food, shopping, substances, gambling, etc. When an action becomes a major component of your daily life and failure to engage in the behavior would disrupt your routine, you may want to think about how it is impacting your life. If you cannot stop using a drug, like marijuana, even though it interferes with many aspects of your life, it may be considered an addiction. Regular marijuana use can lead to the development of problem use. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Recent data suggest that 30% of those who use marijuana may have some degree of marijuana use disorder (addiction). People who begin using marijuana before the age of 18 are four to seven times more likely to develop a marijuana use disorder than adults. Marijuana use disorders are often associated with dependence.” For more information, please visit: drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/marijuana-addictive.




Can you overdose on marijuana?


To overdose means different things for different drugs. A fatal overdose from marijuana is unlikely but you still can overdose. Individuals frequently consume a greater “dose” of edibles than intended. According to the CDC, “The signs of using too much marijuana are similar to the typical effects of using marijuana but more severe. These signs may include extreme confusion, anxiety, paranoia, panic, fast heart rate, delusions or hallucinations, increased blood pressure, and severe nausea or vomiting. In some cases, these reactions can lead to unintentional injury such as a motor vehicle crash, fall, or poisoning.” Remember, THC impacts each person uniquely; it may be absorbed differently if the user is on other medications which can cause great harm. For more information, please visit: cdc.gov/marijuana/faqs/overdose-bad-reaction.html





Service linkages for marijuana and alcohol use/abuse
Individual, sibling, and family counseling
Case management
Referrals to psychoeducational group services

Substance Use Referral and Education (S.U.R.E)

The Substance Use Referral and Education Program was developed by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, the Youth Service Commission, Ocean’s Harbor House, the DART Prevention Coalition, and other key stakeholders in our county in order to help young adults and families find support around underage marijuana and alcohol use.  The staff members at Ocean’s Harbor House who run the SURE program will help you identify individual needs and connect you with appropriate, local supports.

All services are free, voluntary, and confidential. All staff are vetted and professionally trained to work with youth at risk.

iStock-1166368002.jpg

Not an Ocean County resident? Refer to the state to find counseling resources