Johnny’s Ambassadors –
A mom’s mission to educate about marijuana
It’s been two and a half years since Johnny died; he was just 19 years old. The pain and grief are still raw and palpable for his mom, Laura Stack. Stack’s son was a typical kid growing up in Highlands Ranch. He ran cross country and track, played the piano and guitar, was happy and charming, held a 4.0 GPA, was a math genius and loved teaching Sunday school to little ones at church. “He was a great kid. He could have been any of our kids,” she shared tearfully.
After Johnny’s passing, Stack stayed in bed for six months. Then, her mission to turn tragedy into meaning and impact began. She created the nonprofit, Johnny’s Ambassadors, dedicated to educating parents, teens and communities about the dangers of today’s high potency THC products on adolescent brains. She travels the country to share her message and has created an army of ambassadors who help spread the word.
In 2014, when Johnny was a freshman in high school, he was first introduced to marijuana at a party. By all accounts, Stack was grateful her son spoke to her about the usage and was relieved it wasn’t something more serious. She thought, “Thank God it’s just weed.”
Stack believed, like many people, that marijuana is the harmless plant many users have smoked for decades. However, she has learned that plants today are being cultivated with significantly higher levels of THC. Beyond the traditional weed flower, THC is also turned into other ultra-concentrated products like dabs, vapes, and oils through chemical processes. “These are not plants,” said Stack. “They are chemicals with very high potency levels.”
Stack can name volumes of statistics about marijuana types, potencies, usage and addictive qualities, as well as correlations to brain damage, depression, psychosis and suicidal ideations in teens – but her message is simple: There is no safe level of THC in the development of the mind of a teen, and it is critical to delay (or avoid altogether) usage until brains are fully formed.
In January, Johnny’s Ambassadors applauded a new bill in Colorado. House Bill 21-1317 was passed requiring dispensaries to share product potency levels, limit product size amounts, limit the number of grams available for daily purchase, track sales across dispensaries, and require two doctors to independently certify the need for a medical marijuana card for the 18- to 20-year-old population. (This age group can only purchase with a medical card, and these individuals are usually the source for younger teens obtaining access). According to Stack, since the bill went into effect, sales across the board have dropped by 11%, which she feels is a huge win to protect youth.
Three days before Johnny died by suicide, he said to her, “You were right, Mom. Marijuana has ruined my mind and my life.” And, with that, Stack shared, “I will never stop trying to tell people. It’s my life’s work.”
On Wednesday, July 6, Johnny’s Ambassadors, together with medical experts, will host an all-day event at the Conference Center at RidgeGate aimed at sharing information and educating about marijuana. Parents, teachers, counselors – anyone with a connection to teens – is encouraged to take part in person or virtually. Learn more about Johnny’s Ambassadors and register for the event at johnnysambassadors.org.
If you or someone you know is in need of help, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at SuicidePreventionLifeline.org or call 1-800-273-8255.
Johnny’s Ambassadors maintains a host of resources for children and families struggling with marijuana usage. Visit johnnysambassadors.org, click “Partners” and then “Find Help For Your Child” to learn more. In an emergency situation, always call 911.
By Elean Gersack; photo courtesy of Laura Stack