Welcome from the PAN Director 



As the Director of the Parent Action Network (PAN), I am excited to introduce the first PAN Monthly Newsletter, right upon the one-year anniversary of our launch as an initiative of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM). PAN was founded with the belief that families have a lot to lose if decision-makers are not held accountable for making sensible, science-based actions regarding marijuana. 


Like the parent movement of the past, PAN hopes to strengthen connections, educate communities on the harms of marijuana, and provide training opportunities to build your advocacy skills. We aim to make you aware of advocacy opportunities and provide guidance so you can successfully advocate for good drug policies that will protect your communities. 


Each month, our newsletter will feature information that centers around a particular theme. April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, host to the self-proclaimed 420 Holiday, and host to SAM’s annual SAM Summit and Good Drug Policy Conference! This issue provides background information on the origin of the 420 holiday. We feature an article written by Sue Rusche, one of the founders of the original Parent Movement of the 80’s, which was the first successful parent movement to advocate for better policies regarding marijuana use. We will introduce you to our featured PANtastic Shout-out of the month, Corinne LaMarca, Director of Jennifer’s Messengers, our partner and renowned advocate for creating awareness on the harms of marijuana-impaired drivers. Lastly, we will celebrate lawmakers who are doing it right, who have opposed legalization efforts in their states and, against all odds, won the battle for yet another year! 


We have also created a survey so that we can better serve your needs. 


We appreciate you taking the time to enjoy our first newsletter. Please feel free to reach out to us with any feedback or suggestions at [email protected].

Thank you for supporting the Parent Action Network! 

Crissy Groenewegen 

Director of PAN 

PAN Survey

As the Parent Action Network continues to build our network, we want to hear from YOU! We want to hear your stories, learn more about what you already know, and learn what you want to know about marijuana legalization and the effects it is having on you, your families, your neighborhoods, and our society.  


Please take a few minutes to complete the Parent Action Network Interest Survey so that you can help better the work of the Parent Action Network!  

Noteworthy Resources: D.A.R.E.

SAM/PAN Has Formed a Partnership With D.A.R.E.!  


For nearly forty years, D.A.R.E. has been devoted to student safety, health, and well-being. D.A.R.E. is the most comprehensive and widely taught prevention education program in the world. More than 3 million K-12 students throughout America and 29 other countries receive D.A.R.E.’s evidence-based curricula each year. PAN has partnered with D.A.R.E. to provide parent education and resources about marijuana and, other illicit substances, in addition to access to our parent education webinar series. D.A.R.E. will host its annual conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, in July, and PAN and Jennifer’s Messengers are excited to present at it. 


Monthly Feature

Sue Rusche is one of the founders of the original Parent Movement and former President and CEO of National Families in Action. We are honored that she agreed to write this article for the first addition of our newsletter. She is currently writing Biological Capture: How Companies that Make Addictive Drugs Get Us to Keep Buying Them, which contains an expanded version of this chapter. She hopes to complete it by summer’s end.

The Original Parent Movement

By Sue Rusche, former President, and CEO of National Families in Action 

In 1961, less than two percent of Americans had ever used any illicit drug. By 1979, 66% of young adults (ages 18-25) and 27% of adolescents (ages 12-17) used marijuana at least once in their lifetimes; 44% and 21%, respectively, used it in the past year; 36% and 14%, used it in the past month; and 1 in 11 high school seniors used pot daily.  


What drove that explosion over 18 years? Throughout the 1970s, 11 states decriminalized marijuana, reducing penalties for simple possession to that of a traffic ticket. Children wrongly perceived that the decriminalization of marijuana meant that it was not harmful.  


With the decriminalization movement came “head shops” that sold drug paraphernalia in communities across the country. One expert called head shops “little learning centers for young drug abusers.” They sold such items as:  

  • Coca-Cola stash cans to hide drugs from parents and police 
  • Cocaine concert kits with tools to prepare and snort a line, and 
  • “Frisbees” embedded with a pipe to inhale marijuana yourself, then toss a toke to a friend. 


The DeKalb County, Georgia, neighborhood where I have resided for years, surrounds Emory University. Children as young as 12 and 13 had begun using marijuana. Stores suddenly started selling drug paraphernalia, and a head shop opened half a mile from our high school. A steering committee of concerned parents met in November 1977 and formed DeKalb Families in Action, which later became National Families in Action (NFIA). We had three goals: 

  • Prevent children from using any illicit drug, 
  • Stop decriminalization, and 
  • Ban head shops. 

We formed several committees to help us reach each goal: research, paraphernalia, trademark, newsletter, and education committees. 


Research Committee—Parents collected scientific and medical information about the harmful effects of marijuana and prepared fact sheets to distribute at PTA meetings. 


Paraphernalia Committee—Parents listed all head shops in our county by zip code, buying samples and assembling “bong shows” for NFIA speakers. They subscribed to High Times Magazine, studying ads and content to learn how paraphernalia was marketed to children. 


Trademark Committee—Parents sent letters with pictures to manufacturers showing how others were violating their trademarks by turning their containers into stash cans. Our letter to Coca-Cola’s president resulted in the company suing just one stash can maker. Coca-Cola stash cans disappeared from the market nationwide. 


Newsletter Committee—Parents wrote articles for our newsletter, Drug Abuse Update, which we published quarterly.  


Education Committee—Parents became speakers to educate other parents at PTA meetings. After demonstrating the “bong show,” they explained how marijuana could hurt kids. A key strategy was to collect contact information from parents who wanted to receive our newsletter. 


We outfitted two members of the Georgia Legislature who served on the Steering Committee with “bong shows” so they could educate fellow law makers. They sponsored the nation’s first bills that banned drug paraphernalia. That made national news, and suddenly parents across the nation began calling us, asking for help. We wrote How to Form a Families in Action Group in Your Community to help parents organize. State after state passed similar laws, and head shops disappeared as swiftly as Coca-Cola stash cans. 


Another of our Steering Committee members, Keith Schuchard, joined Professor Buddy Gleaton to form the Parents Resource Institute for Drug Education (PRIDE) at Georgia State University. Keith and her husband held a birthday party for their oldest daughter turning 13 and discovered the children were using drugs. They formed the nation’s first parent peer group centered around their child and their child’s best friends. Keith wrote Parents, Peers, and Pot for the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). NIDA received more than one million requests for her book. PRIDE formed the National Federation of Parents for Drug-Free Youth (NFP) in Washington, D.C., to represent the 3,000 parent groups NFIA and PRIDE helped form. NFP drew First Lady Nancy Reagan into the effort. It helps to have a First Lady champion your cause!  


Results? When the parent movement ended in 1992, adolescents’ lifetime and past-year marijuana use fell from 27% to 9% and 21% to 7%, respectively. Their past-month use fell from 14% to 3%. High school seniors’ daily use fell from 1 in 11 seniors to 1 in 50. Similar reductions were achieved among young adults. No one has achieved such results since then, and, sadly, use has risen again. NFIA’s Drug Information Collection is now at the University of California, San Francisco, where the story of the original parent movement will be preserved forever. 


I am so happy to see SAM’s Parent Action Network and Parent Movement 2.0 emerge. Their challenge is much more difficult, given all the threats today’s parents must steer their children away from. But I have no doubt that a second parent movement will triumph, and today’s children will be able to thrive because of it. 

National Update: Distracted Driving Awareness Month 

In 2021, distracted driving killed 3,522 people. April, which is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, is a good time to regroup and take responsibility for the choices we make when we’re on the road. According to the National Traffic and Highway Safety Association distracted driving is defined as “anything that takes your eyes off the road, or your attention away from the task of driving for even a split second.”- There are three kinds of distractions: visual, manual, and cognitive.  


When we think of distracted driving, we often think of texting and driving. While this is the most common of all distractions, smoking and consuming marijuana is not only a distraction, but marijuana has an impact on each of these three main distractions. Marijuana can cause blurred vision and impairment to one’s peripheral vision, presenting itself as a visual distraction. When an individual reaches for a pipe or, edibles, or takes a sip of a marijuana-infused beverage, the marijuana becomes a manual distraction. And perhaps worst of all, marijuana impairs the user, illustrating how it is certainly a cognitive distraction.  


Despite misconceptions about marijuana and actual driving performance (bts.gov)., including claims that marijuana use can actually make you a safer driver, scientific studies indicate that this is false. Research shows that marijuana impairs motor skills, lane tracking and cognitive functions. A 2015 study on driving after smoking cannabisstated that THC in marijuana also hurts a driver’s ability to multitask, a critical skill needed behind the wheel. 

Cannabis has measurable effects that impair reaction time in critical situations. Studies show cannabis impairs critical abilities that lead to impaired driving, including slowed reaction time, decreased and divided attention.  c

Upcoming Events

SAM Summit: 2023 SAM Summit & Good Drug Policy Conference is this week and tickets are still available!

The 2023 conference will be held on April 20th in Washington, DC, at the historic Miracle Theatre. SAM will bring together powerful voices in drug policy from across the field, such as prevention, treatment, recovery, and law enforcement experts to amplify their collective work to scale up the work of scientists and practitioners. They’ve invited current and former staff who served Presidential administrations as well as Members of Congress. 

PAN Education and Training Series: PAN plans to launch our Education and Training Webinar Series next month! Please look out for alerts about the upcoming series.  

Doing it Right! State and Local Victories 

We want to congratulate the states that again fought against all odds to oppose legalization in their states and WON the battle for yet another year! 


Hawaii: For at least the tenth consecutive year, the effort to legalize marijuana has failed in Democratic-controlled Hawaii yet again. A coalition of public health and safety, and faith leaders led the effort, including SAM Hawaii partners.  


Oklahoma: Oklahoma defeated State Question 820, the ballot measure that would have legalized recreational marijuana. Not only was legalization rejected by more than 23 points statewide, but all 77 counties in the state also rejected it. This was a major victory for public health and a resounding loss for supporters of legalization. 


Kansas: Senate Bill 135, the bill that would have legalized medical marijuana, was defeated in March. The Kansas Senate Committee on Federal and State Affairs voted 6-3 in favor of a non-debatable substitute motion to table the bill. This procedural move effectively killed SB 135 for the remainder of the biennial legislative session

Arkansas: Coming off a huge win against legalization in November, Arkansas passed SB 358, which bans the sale of marijuana-related products known as Delta-8 and other similar products.   

PANtastic Shout-Out! 

This month, our PANtastic Shout-out goes to Corinne LaMarca, our renowned partner and founder and Director of Jennifer’s Messengers. Jennifer’s Messenger’s was created in memory of Corinne’s daughter, Jennifer, who was killed at the hands of a driver impaired by medical marijuana. Corinne is an impactful speaker who warns the public on the dangers of driving under the influence of marijuana. She is nationally and internationally known and has been featured on “The Ingraham Angle” and many other popular media sites.  Corinne was instrumental in forming the Safe Teen Driving Delaware Ohio Task Force. Currently, Jennifer’s Messengers’ message is on full display at the DEA Museum

National Alerts: Urge Your Federal Representatives to Close the Delta-8 Loophole 

Every five years, Congress passes a comprehensive agriculture policy package known as the Farm Bill. In the 2018 Farm Bill, Congress inadvertently legalized hemp and hemp-derived products. This legislation federally legalized the sale of hemp-derived compounds like CBD but also authorized Delta-8 and other synthetically-derived compounds––just like traditional marijuana, these derivatives are addictive, intoxicating, and psychoactive. Now, these dangerous products are being marketed to kids and sold in accessible locations like gas stations across the country.  


Congress can close the Delta-8 loophole this year by clarifying the hemp legalization provisions to ban the manufacturing and sale of hemp-derived compounds. 


Please urge your elected officials to support closing the loophole! 

State Alerts

This month, following the passage of a bill to legalize and commercialize recreational marijuana in Delaware, we have been urging Delaware parents to call the Governor's office and tell him to veto the marijuana bill, as he did last legislative session.

We are also urging Pennsylvania parents to call their state senator and urge them to oppose the legalization of marijuana.  

Monthly Commentary

Decoding 420: The "Marijuana Holiday"

By Corinne LaMarca

Arm yourself with information to protect your family:

Knowledge is power and early intervention is essential 

4/20 and April 20th are recognized and revered by many, especially members of the expanding marijuana culture as the marijuana holiday. But how did this number come to be associated with marijuana use? Some say “420” is code among police officers for “marijuana smoking in progress”, some say it is to cite Bob Dylan’s song, “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” because 12 multiplied by 35 equals 420."


The most credible story traces 4/20 to 1971, Marin County, California, where five students at San Rafael High School would meet at 4:20 p.m. by the campus’ statue of chemist Louis Pasteur to partake. They chose that specific time because classes had usually ended by then. This group would say “420” to each other as code that it was time to meet to smoke marijuana. (Waxman, 2016) 


Despite a lackluster origin story and the myths surrounding it, this symbol has become so pervasive and normalized that “people who love weed will spot 420 in a street address, phone number, or license plate and be happy for that magical combination” (A New Standard, 2021). 


Big Marijuana has used this holiday as an opportunity to further their agenda of normalizing and commercializing marijuana use regardless of its legal status. This is a great marketing strategy on their part, sure to impact both youth use, youth perceptions of harm, and sales profits. 


A lack of understanding only benefits the multi-billion-dollar marijuana industry spreading across our beautiful county. Parents need to understand and look out for this benign looking number and other symbols that promote 420, because the implications can be great. Recognizing these symbols and “codes” can make you aware of possible marijuana use among your own family members. 


One of PAN’s goals is to prompt parents to become informed and aware of today’s movement towards merchandising and marketing that promulgates the marijuana culture that has become pervasive in our nation. With this goal in mind, we have found a few 420 emojis for you to be aware of: 


A face with squinty eyes: 😆 or contentedly smiling 😌 

A blazed smiley: 🥴 How you hold a joint: 👌 

Substitute for a cannabis leaf: 🌿 or 🍃 or 🍁 or 🥦 

This tree also works for a cannabis bud: 🌳 

An edible: 🍫 A joint: 🚬 A Bong or bubbler: ⚗️ 


Join Parent Action Network and become an informed parent armed with the knowledge needed to navigate a quickly changing world that includes this addictive and hallucinogenic drug, marijuana. 


It is time to take a stand and protect our nation’s youth. 

1. Waxman, Olivia B., “Here’s the Real Reason we Associate 420 with Weed”, Time Magazine, Published: April 19 2016; 420 History: How April 20 Became Known as 'Weed Day' | Time 

 2. A New Standard Website: Decoding Cannabis – Starting with 420 (anewstandard.com) 

Your copy should address 3 key questions: Who am I writing for? (Audience) Why should they care? (Benefit) What do I want them to do here? (Call-to-Action)

About PAN

The Parent Action Network (PAN) is an initiative of SAM, Smart Approaches to Marijuana, founded by Congressman Patrick Kennedy in 2013. PAN’s goal is to share the voices of experience regarding marijuana risks and mobilize parents and other family members to share and warn about marijuana issues in our communities. PAN regularly engages with families, lawmakers, government decision makers, and the media to ensure that your family’s voice is heard. We are staffed by families with lived experiences of marijuana use detrimentally affecting their own family, and other concerned loved ones who want to make a difference.

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