Dealing With Marijuana And Substance Use And Abuse


How law enforcement and the courts negotiate the challenges facing families
Part 1 of a two-part series examining this serious issue

Great Neck law firm Wisselman Harounian & Associates will present its 17th annual legal workshop for mental health professionals on Friday, June 7, at the Port Washington Yacht Club. The law firm is an approved provider of continuing education for licensed social workers and mental health counselors by their respective New York State Education Department’s State Boards.

One of this year’s presenters will be Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder, who will discuss the ongoing battle against opioid use, the programs that police are implementing to discourage and reduce substance abuse, and the implications of the proposed legalization of marijuana.

Also on the panel is Nassau County District Court Judge Andrea Phoenix, who will provide an overview of the Nassau County Treatment Court (substance abuse matters) and the Nassau County Mental Health Court. Law partners Jerome Wisselman and Jacqueline Harounian will discuss family law implications of substance abuse in matters including custody, orders of protection, social host law, education law and criminal law.

With the growing concern about increased drug usage on Long Island, it is critical for mental health professionals to understand its impact on our communities and families from a legal perspective.

Jerome Wisselman, Esq., shakes hands with Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder.

“The goal of our workshops has been to provide mental health professionals with a better understanding of the legal aspects of marital and domestic matters in and out of the courtroom, so that they can more effectively assist and counsel patients who are experiencing marital problems, difficult custody matters, related criminal matters, domestic or substance abuse, and who may be navigating the court system; as well as cases where court testimony from a mental health professional may be required,” explained Wisselman, managing partner of the firm. “This has also helped to promote an exchange between our respective professions, which often intersects in and out of the courtroom.”

As the acceptance of medical marijuana—and now recreational marijuana—has gained ground in our culture, courts and communities, parents of minors have a lot of catching up to do. Currently, legislators in New York and New Jersey have put the brakes on legalizing the drug in 2019, although it is decriminalized if possessed in small quantities. A lot of confusion and misinformation exists in the community about marijuana, vaping and Juuls, which are increasingly prevalent.

During the workshop, information will be provided about the Social Host Law concerning parents who host teenage parties in their home; Criminal Law regarding minors and adults who drive a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana, pills or alcohol, or who obtain substances illegally or underage; Education Law concerning vaping or using banned substances in school, which can lead to suspension; and Family Law regarding orders of protection, the “best interests of the child” in custody matters, and abuse and neglect issues.

It is more important than ever for parents to do their homework to make sure their children are safe from harm and legal jeopardy.

The Lure of Vaping

More and more teenagers younger than 18 in Great Neck and around the country are becoming addicted to e-cigarettes, also known as vapes or Juuls. According to many sources, including my 14-year-old son who attends Great Neck North, empty vape cartridges can be found all over the school bathrooms. Students go to the restrooms throughout the day to get their fix, right under the noses of teachers and school administrators.

As savvy teens know, Juuls are nearly undetectable in pants or jacket pockets. Short of frisking them or following them into the bathroom and monitoring them, what exactly can we expect the school to do about the nicotine trend? Children from our public schools and yeshivas attend high school parties in private homes.

According to my sources, children as young as 13 and 14 are smoking and drinking with almost no fallout or consequences. Vapes and Juuls seem to be irresistible to our children. But, they are also quite deadly.

Why is vaping so tempting to young teens? Vape pens, which resemble removable computer storage cartridges, are filled with nicotine. They are high tech, colorful, flavorful, smokeless, odorless and seemingly harmless. The varied candy flavors obscure the taste of nicotine.

Marketers of Juuls and vapes know exactly what they are doing to attract their market. Businesses are targeting teens who will turn into lifetime customers. Profits are huge.

Social influencers on Instagram are often extolling the coolness of Juuls and vapes at parties, concerts and other events. Our teens are sitting ducks absorbing the message, and often parents don’t have a single clue. It’s a short trip between nicotine and (soon-to-be legal) marijuana. The vape facilitates the transition like nothing else we have ever seen.

The statistics are alarming. In the past five years, use of e-cigs have jumped 160 percent. Nearly one third of students have tried them. More than half erroneously believe that e-cigs are harmless. It is tragic that all of the successful efforts to stop smoking among young people in the past few decades have gone out the window because of vaping.

In 2017, only 5 percent of children in high school smoked cigarettes. Today, because of Juuls, that number has skyrocketed to between 30 and 50 percent.

The heavy dose of nicotine in a Juul can lead to addiction, nicotine poisoning and other health risks, including seizures. Use of nicotine can lead to a lifetime of addiction, illness and death. In rare cases, marijuana can cause psychosis and schizophrenia. The message must be spread: It’s not cool to Juul.

Read Part 2 here.

Jacqueline Harounian, Esq., is a resident of Great Neck and a frequent contributor to the Great Neck Record. She is a partner at the family law firm of Wisselman, Harounian & Associates in Great Neck and a member of the Nassau County Task Force for Legal Marijuana.


  1. Vaping amongst teenager has become so popular that it’s nearly an epidemic all on its own. Many teens think that it’s harmless, and they enjoy the fun flavors. But, punishment doesn’t seem to be the answer. Education in the form of nicotine prevention courses, like the ones at, may be more effective and provide a more empathetic way to deal with the situation.

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