Survey shows shift in student attitudes toward pot, alcohol

SEATTLE -- Voters have spoken in Washington State, leading to the unprecedented legalization of marijuana for adults, as well as the privatization of liquor.

However, a new survey for Seattle students shows these history-making moves may not be in the best interests of our kids.

"It definitely sends a message to kids that, hey it's out there, you can go and do it. Adults are doing it, they are doing it legally, so why shouldn't you," said Charlie Schnelz, a freshman at Garfield High School.

The Central Seattle Drug Free Communities Coalition commissioned a survey to assess parent attitudes regarding underage substance abuse. Combined with other studies such as the Healthy Youth Survey, they reveal a disturbing shift.

Currently, 63 percent of parents believe alcohol and marijuana use among youth is a "moderate or serious problem" in the community. That's in-line with students interviewed for this article.

"I don't condone either for youth," said high school senior Reynaldo Chase.

Despite that, more and more high school seniors don't see it that way. For example, in 2010, 65 percent thought pot was risky or harmful. In 2012, only half thought it was dangerous.

"If parents say that it's ok then the kids don't think it's that big of a deal to smoke pot," said Maya Kneip, a freshman.

Alcohol use saw a similar drop. In 2010, 75 percent of seniors thought it was risky or harmful. In 2012, that fell to 66 percent.

"I don't really agree with that," Kneip said. "I've never done either of those but I know friends that have and bad things have happened to them."

Surveys also show that while student alcohol use remains level, more high school seniors are now experimenting with marijuana. The question is: Do we blame our votes at the ballot box?

"It definitely worries me because it's just more and more people in our community will be doing these bad things," Schnelz said.

The school district is now exploring what to do with this information. Because pot use appears to be on the rise among high school seniors, some believe teachers need more training to recognize the signs of impairment. Others say adults also need to take a hard look at the example we set for the next generation.