Coalitions in Action: Georgia Launches New Initiative to Help Citizens Learn the Science on Marijuana Use

Worth sharing! Our SJIPC is also working on ways to help inform and educate our community on marijuana, as it becomes legal for recreational use for those 21 and over. Our concern, of course, is minors will have easier access and the perceived harm is down by it just becoming legal. What message are we sending our youth?

Jul 10, 2014

Coalition resources: Coalition Effectiveness
Drug type: Marijuana

Too often the message people get about marijuana is that it’s a harmless drug that doesn’t impact public health. However, The Council on Alcohol and Drugs (The Council) hopes to change that through a new statewide initiative launched this year.

The Georgia Marijuana Abuse Prevention Initiative (GMAPI) is a multi-year, multi-faceted effort to prevent and reduce marijuana abuse in the state of Georgia by educating youth and families on the consequences related to marijuana use, and to work with businesses across the state to create safe, drug-free workplaces.  The Initiative includes training to key stakeholders, a media campaign, policy education and research. Although the Initiative’s state-wide Collaborative just began in March, it already has over 70 member agencies.

“The main impetus behind this initiative is to educate the public. We want to let the public, parents in particular, know that marijuana is not the soft drug that it’s played up to be by so many media and pro-marijuana supporters,” explained Dr. Gregg Raduka, Director of Prevention and Intervention at The Council.

The Council is working in collaboration with Dr. Sheryl Strasser and a research team from Georgia State University’s (GSU) School of Public Health. Other partners include Georgia’s Drug Free Communities coalitions such as CADCA member Genesis Prevention Coalition, prevention providers, government agencies, faith-based organizations, private businesses, the medical community, and law enforcement with the goal of creating a truly integrated statewide campaign to address these issues.
Dr. Raduka said the initiative will be based on elements of prevention science and research.

“We want to take a very scientific approach, and will be following the 5 steps of SAMHSA’s Strategic Prevention Framework: needs assessment, capacity building, strategic planning, implementation, and evaluation,” he said.

The Council’s university partner will be a vital part of this campaign.

“GSU’s School of Public Health will conduct, publish, and disseminate a statewide marijuana needs assessment and prevalence survey, and will include recommendations regarding preventing marijuana abuse in Georgia. The university will also perform the evaluation of this campaign,” Dr. Raduka noted.

What makes this initiative unique is that it also aims to reduce marijuana use among employees in Georgia by working with the business community.

Chuck Wade, Executive Director and CEO of the Council, has found employer drug education to be a vital tool to reach out and educate families.

“Certified drug free companies provide mandatory annual drug education to their employees. This is drug education delivered to a ‘captive audience’ that parents can take home and share with their children to help keep them drug and alcohol free. So we’ve been doing drug training in thousands of companies for thousands of employees. Parents rush up and have a number of questions about addiction, drug abuse, and their children,” Wade explained.

Drug-free workplaces not only serve to educate workers, but protect employers from the dangers of employees who use marijuana. Much like with alcohol, use of marijuana can have negative impacts on productivity and safety, with negative consequences for employers and other employees.

Georgia is one of 14 states that provide workers’ compensation insurance discounts to certified drug-free workplaces, currently a 7.5 percent discount. “But this pales compared to all the other benefits to being a drug-free workplace. It increases productivity, reduces medical costs, reduces turnover, increases morale, reduces theft in the workplace, reduces absenteeism and tardiness.” Wade noted.

This campaign is just beginning, and currently has funding secured for three years, but member coalitions are already excited about the chance to educate their communities about the impact of legalizing marijuana before legalization efforts take hold, and to reduce the negative impact of marijuana use across the State of Georgia.

For questions about the Initiative, contact Dr. Gregg Raduka at

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