Illegal Weed Shops in NYC: The Dangers for Kids
Inside a new convenience store in Dongan Hills, Staten Island, are shelves of Starburst, M&Ms and other standard candy fare. On the shelves next to the candy are envelopes of similar sweets and snacks, except that these “treats” are not what you think. They are infused with CBD, chemical found in marijuana.
Jars of colorful Gummy Bears, small envelopes of Trix and Cocoa Puffs cereals and other CBD snacks that appeal to children are for sale. We asked the clerk behind the counter if there was a pot of candies. He explained, “There’s CBD, THC, a little bit of everything.”
THC is the main compound in cannabis that gets people high.
While we were talking, many young people were looking at the store. Meanwhile, the salesman asked us if we wanted “flowers,” the smoky part of the cannabis plant.
Customers must be 21 to buy any CBD-containing candy, per cheap-looking, slapped-on-the-label products. But many of the shoppers in the store look juvenile and stare at everything vaping products of the cereal-themed “snacks.”
Shops like this are located around the city. And the cannabis products they sell pose two major health risks to children, according to experts. The first threat is that they are designed to look like candy. Children are less likely to listen to dosage instructions on a “candy” bottle and risk overconsumption.
“This increases the possibility of a toxic overdose reaction,” Catherine Schneider, a licexplained the clinical social worker in Bellport Village, NY.
The second threat is that THC is a mind-altering substance. And many products in these stores—even those that claim to have little or no THC—may contain it. This interferes with the development of the child’s brain.
“Children’s brains are in the process of changing density from gray matter to the highly connected neural networks that make up an adult brain,” Schneider explained. “The brain can be considered mature at the age of 25 years. THC and other mind-altering substances introduced into the brain before 25 increase the vulnerability of developing neurons and neurotransmitters.
Simply put, when an anxious, depressed or traumatized child’s brain is introduced to THC and finds it soothing, the child’s brain is able to pass its own mental health tests without repetition. introducing THC.
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Parents and Civic Groups: Concerns About Illegal Weed shops in NYC
Since New York State legalized recreational cannabis in March 2021, there has been a lot of confusion among consumers about what is legal and what is not about marijuana. And some local retailers seem to be taking advantage of that confusion. There are many convenience stores pretending to sell candy and Gatorade, when in fact they are selling illegal drugs.
With the exception of three licensed cannabis shops in Manhattan, none of these “weed bodegas” that sell pre-rolled joints, CBD candy or THC products are legal. Even as the city cracks down on illegal cannabis shops — including the newest one on Staten Island — more and more are popping up across the city. And people from parent groups and civic organizations are concerned.
“I tell people, they need to know,” said Bernard Lopez, a member of the Port Richmond North Shore Alliance. “When they go to a warehouse or deli, they should see what’s being sold. If it’s gummy candies and similar candy, they should report it to the authorities.
Meredith Berkman is one of the co-founders of Parents Against Vaping eCigarettes (PAVe), an organization founded in 2018 in response to the youth vaping epidemic. While Berkman and his team do not have a position on legalizing marijuana, they are against shops that sell flavored vape and similar products to children.
“What we’ve learned is that it’s really the flavors that appeal to kids,” Berkman said. “Flavors prevent children from recognizing any harm in the product. It makes nicotine—or whatever you’re vaping—easier. That’s why we advocate against selling all products that there’s flavor. Now in New York, that includes THC flavor, CBD products. And these stores that have to be regulated, it’s like the wild west.”
Mango and blue raz are among the most common CBD flavors in NYC’s illegal weed shops. Many are sold in fun, attractive candy shapes, too.
“We went into these stores and saw delicious THC treats that looked like candy, and they were in stores that were easily accessible to minors,” Berkman said. “This is very worrying. The earlier children get their hands on these products, the more easily they become addicted.
Jonathan Avery, MD, vice chair for addiction psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medicine explained that increased access to weed could lead to more children trying it and becoming addicted.
“The reality is that most people use, don’t have a problem and can moderate their use,” Avery explained. “But the concern with this increased access is that vulnerable populations will get access and that can lead to trouble. The earlier you start, the more you can start to become addicted to it.”
If a child has a family history of substance use, mental health issues, trauma, they are more likely to use and develop cannabis use disorder, which is when a person cannot stop using the drug even if it causes problems in their life. .
As legal weed shops open and the cultural change around marijuana increases, many experts feel that there is not enough information to the public about the adverse effects of the drug. Information about the dangers of CBD and THC seems to take a back seat.
Bridget Cole Williams, MD, is a board-certified family physician and CEO of Green Harvest Health. He is also a cannabis educator and life coach. He explained that sometimes there is a mentality among parents that pot is harmless. They might think, ‘I had my first relationship at age 12, and I did well,’” Williams explains.
“Sometimes people don’t know how early exposure to THC can have brain development issues. We need to have public service announcements because nobody wants stupid kids.
How Parents Can Protect Their Children
Illegal weed shops in NYC are in many neighborhoods, and more are likely to pop up. Understanding the fundamental differences between CBD and THC is important, although the lines are often blurred between the two compounds. CBD is one of the many compounds in the cannabis plant. THC is another, and it’s the main reason people get high. But even CBD products usually contain some level of THC.
According to the city’s official website, “CBD products with less than .3% THC are legal in the U.S. However, CBD is not approved for use in foods and beverages by the FDA, so it is against the law in NYC to sell food or beverages containing CBD.”
However, parents should not lose hope. There are many ways to work with your children to reduce potential substance use and addiction. Below are some important tips that parents can use to help protect their children:
- Discussions about drugs: the sooner the better: Experts recommend talking to your children at an early age about the dangers of drugs. Even age 8 or 9 is a good time to start discussions.
“We believe it’s important to educate your children and start talking to your children about these products. And it’s not a one-time conversation,” Berkman said. “Parents should always talk to their children. If you’re walking down the street with your child and you see one of these stores, talk about it. And talk about why they are so dangerous.”
- Talk about social media: Social media, movies and popular music encourage drug use, including marijuana. Talk to your children about what they see and hear.
- Become a reporter: Parents can also take action. VAPe recently launched a pilot program where parents can use an online tool to report shops selling illegal vapes and similar products in their neighborhoods. Called POISON (Parents Opposing the Illegal Sale of Nicotine), the program educates parents about these stores and gives them a chance to take action. And the online tool is easy to use.
- Set a good example: Parents make such an impression on children’s lives. Be a good role model for them. If you’re a mom or dad who drinks, do it in moderation, and don’t use illegal drugs.
In the meantime, parents still have to rely on the municipality to act.
“Recent efforts by law enforcement agencies and city officials have resulted in the closure of many stores found to be selling marijuana products to children,” said Kamillah Hanks, NYC council member. for Staten Island’s 49th district, said in a statement. “It is completely unacceptable for any retailer to engage in the illegal sale of marijuana products to children. Such actions not only violate the law but also put our youth at risk.”
Resources for Parents
Parents can learn more about illegal weed shops in NYC and teen substance abuse through several helpful websites including:
Parents Against Vaping eCigarettes
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