If you’re a regular visitor to Johnny’s Ambassadors blog, you no doubt know Johnny’s story, and the stimulus for my fight against marijuana use by young people. For those who may read this in other venues and don’t know me, I’m a concerned, grieving mother, who is active in the movement to discourage young people from using marijuana in any form until their brains are formed—and hopefully never.
My family and I live in Colorado, the first state in America to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. This released a flood of pot into our schools, and our government regulation failed to limit it to adult users. They simply can’t keep freshman from buying it from 18-year-old seniors who bought it with a “medical” card they got from paying $400 to a “doctor,” who agreed they need it for “chronic pain” at 18. Any high schooler can get weed in 5 minutes in Colorado. Now 10% of all middle schoolers have tried marijuana.
My brilliant son Johnny began smoking marijuana when he was 14, when he attended a high school party and “wanted to try getting high with his friends.” At 16, he moved on to dabbing high-THC products when wax and shatter entered the scene. At 18, he experienced psychosis and a suicide attempt, and by 19, delusional episodes and then full-blown schizophrenia (psychosis that doesn’t resolve when marijuana is withdrawn). Tragically, despite our repeated efforts at rehab, antipsychotic medicines, mental hospitals, treatment, and support, he died by suicide in November 2019, still convinced the mob was after him.
Shortly afterward, I founded Johnny’s Ambassadors, a non-partisan, non-profit, grass-roots organization that educates parents and teens about the dangers of today’s high-THC marijuana on adolescent brain development, mental illness, and suicide—and recruits them as ambassadors of change. Johnny’s Ambassadors are parents, coalitions, non-profits, impacted family members, healthcare professionals, teachers, and concerned adults who seek to reduce youth marijuana use through education, prevention, and awareness. We use evidence-based, scientific research and experts to teach the impacts of today’s high-THC marijuana.
My husband, John, is the chairman, and our children, Meagan and James, are directors, along with four other directors. We also have a Scientific Advisory Board with medical doctors, as well as an Advisory Council with members from our Allied Organizations, who are also concerned about the harms of youth marijuana use. We’re proud to have them on our side as Johnny’s Ambassadors, working together to save our youth from the harms of marijuana.
The Johnny’s Ambassadors Alliance includes:
The tagline of this group of moms, who have all seen marijuana severely damage or even kill their children, is “Telling Our Stories. Unmasking the Marijuana Charade.” The mission of this nationwide group is to educate Americans about the devastating health effects of modern marijuana on adolescents by sharing their true stories of heartache and loss. This resonates deeply with me, and Johnny’s own story is on their site. Moms Strong also serves as a support group for each other, while focusing on raising awareness of today’s dangerous, high-potency marijuana products.
Parent Movement 2.0 (PM2.0)
The main objective of Parent Movement 2.0 is to help parents help their kids navigate away from drugs and alcohol through education and advocacy. They provide easy-to-understand information; offer ways to connect with other parents; and define advocacy broadly to facilitate greater change. PM 2.0 is fashioned after the original Parent Movement, which is accredited with reducing illicit drug use among adolescents and young adults by two-thirds (66%) from 1979-1992. Sign the PM 2.0 Pledge to both understand what’s at stake for youth and begin receiving the PM2.0 newsletter.
Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) is an alliance of organizations and individuals dedicated to a health-first approach to marijuana policy. We are professionals working in mental health and public health. We are nonpartisan. We are medical doctors, lawmakers, treatment providers, preventionists, teachers, law enforcement officers and others who seek a middle road between incarceration and legalization. Our commonsense, third-way approach to marijuana policy is based on reputable science and sound principles of public health and safety.
POP exists to “burst the bubble of marijuana hype.” Their website helps raise awareness of all aspects of marijuana and its use, including the fact that modern marijuana has five times more THC than the pot today’s adults might have smoked in the past. They include parent stories, as well as articles (some in Spanish) on child endangerment, vaping and dabbing, driving while intoxicated, medical marijuana, mental health, drug facts and policy, and more, including links to drug testing labs. POP partners with experienced professional advisors to help members and readers better understand the dangers marijuana poses.
Robbie’s Hope is a teen-run organization founded in 2018 that describes itself as an “uprising of teens to help other teens.” They’ve made it their mission to stop the suicide epidemic that’s been taking the lives of teens. While not focused on marijuana use, their goal is to cut the teen suicide rate in half by 2028. Robbie’s Hope Ambassadors, teen volunteers, bring programs to fight teen suicide and depression to local communities all over the country. They also offer information for teens, parents, and trusted adults.
SmartColorado, a non-profit organization, fights to protect the health, safety, and well-being of Colorado adolescents, who are increasingly exposed to commercialized pot. They formed immediately after the 2012 passage of Amendment 64, which legalized marijuana’s recreational use in Colorado. Among other things, they offer a variety of services, education, and lessons learned, as well as a Smart Toolkit do help parents and communities fight teen marijuana use. They also provide action alerts to community members at a grassroots political level. They have a strong media presence that includes YouTube videos and billboard ads.
The 2xtreme Foundation exists to be the hub of support programs for young men in crisis and their families, so that they all can heal and thrive. They’re based in Littleton, Colorado, and structure the organization under the pillars of humility, service, and gratitude. Their services for male teens and young men include experiential counseling, mentoring, parent support groups, adventure therapy, public speaking, and media outreach. Trauma, addiction, loss, learning differences, divorce, and bullying are just a few of the “speed bumps” that heal with 2xtreme’s deep, connected relationships forged with the families they serve.
The “ACT” in this organization’s name stands for Adolescent and Community Training, which neatly encapsulates their goals. They’re on a mission to improve the health of American communities in the face of the devastating effects of drugs, with a vision to educate youth, community organizations, and workplaces alike to raise awareness of these effects. They focus on all drugs, not just marijuana, to demonstrate how addictive substances can destroy lifestyles and ruin physical and mental health.
The NFIA is a nationwide nonprofit, nonpolitical, nonreligious organization whose goal is to “protect children from addictive drugs with science, not spin.” Its current leaders were among the leaders of the original Parent Movement that helped created the successful drug prevention campaign (1979-1992), which reduced illicit drug use by two-thirds among adolescents and young adults. One of their prime offerings is The Marijuana Report website, which tracks both harmful marijuana effects and potential beneficial effects of some of its components, as well as the progress of the legalization movement and what families and communities are doing to fight it. You can subscribe to their newsletter here.
Marijuana Harmless? Think Again is a project of MATFORCE, a community organization dedicated to raising awareness of substance abuse and addiction, while advocating for policy change. Their mission is to build healthier communities by stopping drug use before it starts. To do so, they educate parents and families on the fact that today’s marijuana isn’t your parents’ Woodstock pot, emphasizing that it’s a powerful drug with lasting effects that “carries real risk to your health and quality of life.” Their site includes important information on all aspects of pot use, including facts and risks, with links to numerous scientific studies.
We feel blessed to have allied with these active, excellent groups that care so deeply about the youth of our nation. They don’t pull any punches about the horrendous effects of marijuana and addiction on our young people, which includes the suicidal ideation and delusional thinking that took Johnny from us. Together, we form an army providing a deep well of scientific-based knowledge about these subjects, as well as community programs, assistance, and support for families hurt by this widespread but largely ignored drug epidemic.
If you represent a similar national organization not on this list, we invite your organization to contact us about joining the alliance. Together, we’re much stronger—strong enough to beat down this plague affecting our young people if we keep working at it. We’ve done it before; let’s do it again!