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Navigating through the cannabis craze

(Emily Thurlow) Marc Arnoff holds his new book, ‘The Cannabis Craze,’ offers parents and teens options for being smart about a controversial subject in short vignettes that touches on several issues that are associated with teen-use of marijuana

Medical marijuana is legal in more than 30 states. Adult-use recreational marijuana is legal in 10 states. In the Commonwealth, a number of new marijuana enterprises are opening their doors each month.

With the proliferation of marijuana enterprises in Massachusetts, one licensed mental health counselor has assessed that more and more teenagers perceive marijuana to be harmless.

With that in mind, Lenox-based counselor Marc Aronoff has authored a harm-reduction guide for teenagers — and their parents — to address teen marijuana use in a straightforward manner.

The book, “The Cannabis Craze: A Practical Guide for Parents and Teens,” offers parents and teens options for being smart about a controversial subject in short vignettes, said Aronoff.

“My book neither promotes nor dismisses teen marijuana use. Rather, it examines ways to navigate the potential dangers and traps of smoking marijuana,” he said. “The book was written for teens who are either considering smoking pot or already smoking and parents who are wondering what to do and how to cope. ‘The Cannabis Craze’ is a no-nonsense resource guide focusing on harm-reduction and minimizing risks.”

The book seeks to touch on several issues that are associated with teen-use of marijuana. Early on, the Detroit, Michigan native outlines a number of reasons why teens may start smoking pot.

Among the more important reasons are: relaxing and escaping the pressures of life; wanting to belong to a community and making friendships; developing a personal identity; and peer pressure.

Defining and having a discussion about the reasons teens are smoking, despite how controversial a topic it may be, may provide some insight and an opportunity to outline more smart options, said Aronoff. Still, parents and teens might find it too challenging of a topic to discuss.

“For the most part, teens are on their own when it comes to smoking pot.

Many parents won’t say anything unless there’s a problem,” he said.

But that’s not always the best course of action. In fact, Aronoff encourages parents and teens to have more communication for several reasons.

For one, the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which helps individuals process and understand consequences and making smart choices, is not fully developed until an individual reaches the age of 24, he said.

“During adolescence, as the brain develops, the average young person does not think much about consequences, because that part of the brain is developing,” he said. “Adolescents are prone to say and do things in a more reactive way, without much thought.”

Because of that nature, the addition of drugs or alcohol to a teen brain has an increased risk of senseless, harmful behavior, he added.

“The Cannabis Craze” also addresses the matter of health.

“Just because pot is a natural plant, does not mean it is harmless,” Aronoff writes. “In fact, science knows pot is dangerous under certain conditions.

For example, if you have a preexisting mental illness, an addictive personality, or you drink and use harder drugs, marijuana can make matters much worse.”

At the end of each vignette, Aronoff also provides a reflection question, so that readers can discuss the section further.

In researching the topic, he cites a 2012 survey conducted by the Partnership at Drugfree.org that states that one in 10 American teens smoke marijuana at least 20 or more times per month. This means, he says, more than 2 million teens smoke pot regularly, every day. Though marijuana remains illegal for anyone under the age of 21, the reality is that millions of teenagers in the U.S. will try marijuana this year.

And although marijuana has been decriminalized for adults in several states, it remains illegal for teens in every state in the U.S.

“If we cannot stop our teens from smoking pot, we can at least offer options for being smart: practicing making good choices, communicating honestly, and exploring self-knowledge,” he said.

For more information about “The Cannabis Craze” or to learn how to purchase the book, visit thecannabiscraze.com.

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