On May 14, The Coalition to Prevent Alcohol-Related Harms in LA Metro (CoPALM) hosted the first Cannabis Educational Forum at Los Angeles City Hall. As part of CoPALM’s mission to empower and educate the community, the coalition hosted a free event to engage community members, service providers and legislative officials in a conversation about the impacts of cannabis post-legalization.

“Knowledge is power,” said Gennesis Jerez, Prevention Education Manager and CoPALM Co-Chair. “It is key that as a coalition we make information accessible to the community.”

California approved Proposition 64—the Adult Use of Marijuana Act—in Nov. 2016, legalizing the recreational use of up to one ounce of cannabis in dry or concentrated forms. Adults can also grow up to six live plants, or more if they procure a commercial license.

Over 100 people, including parents, students, school administrators, service providers and representatives from local organizations, attended the event. Event partners included L.A. City Council District 4; L.A. County Department of Public Health, Substance Abuse Prevention and Control Division; Rethinking Access to Marijuana (RAM); L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas; L.A. City Department of Cannabis Regulation; Los Angeles Emeralds; and Los Angeles Re-Entry Partnership.

During the two-hour evening event, attendees participated in an interactive conversation with panelists by asking questions and bringing up concerns. They learned about new cannabis laws and regulations, as well as strategies to address cannabis-related issues in their communities, such as how to report an unlicensed or illegal dispensary.

The Coalition to Prevent Alcohol­-Related Harms in LA Metro (CoPALM) was launched by a group of concerned community leaders and stakeholders, with the support of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, to address alcohol’s impact on communities and to devise strategies to protect youth from alcohol abuse. 

Several years ago, CoPALM hosted several town halls on underage drinking. The primary areas of concern were alcohol-outlet density, media messaging and cultural influences that impact youth to drink.

A recent study in The New England Journal of Medicine shows a 600 percent increase in marijuana-related poisoning between 2000 and 2013 in states that allow medical or recreational marijuana vs a 67 percent increase in states without such laws. Other concerns post-legalization are marijuana-related traffic fatalities and the higher potency of today’s marijuana and marijuana products.

“CoPALM is seeking to build stronger communities together, so that youth can thrive and live healthy lives,” Jerez added. “We are humbled by the outpouring of interest and concern people have for their community, and we are committed to continue to work together.”

CoPALM serves communities within L.A. County Department of Public Health’s Service Planning Area 4. The coalition is comprised of KYCC, Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, Behavioral Health Services, Children’s Bureau – Magnolia Community Initiative, Institute for Public Strategies, Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles, L.A. County Department of Public Health and Social Model Recovery Systems.