the 2024 Johnny's Ambassadors Youth THC Prevention Conference LIVE AND LIVESTREAM
the 2024 Johnny's Ambassadors Youth THC Prevention Conference

About 2024 Johnny's Ambassadors Youth Marijuana Prevention Conference


July 10 & 11, 2023


This hybrid conference will be held IN PERSON in Lone Tree, CO, and LIVE STREAMED to virtual attendees. All attendees, live and virtual, will receive access to the recordings for 30 days to watch on your own time. 


This event is appropriate for:

  • Educators
  • School administrators
  • School nurses
  • School Resource Officers
  • School substance abuse counselors
  • Healthcare providers
  • Lawyers
  • Policy makers
  • Medical professionals
  • Addiction counselors
  • Community-based organizations and coalitions
  • Law enforcement professionals
  • Prevention specialists
  • Parents who are concerned about their child's marijuana use
  • Anyone else who works with or in support of youth

Attend to understand the latest science on the harms of youth marijuana use. You'll participate in real-time conference presentations and interact with the speakers through Q&A sessions (via chat if you're virtual).

DATES: Monday, July 10, and Tuesday, July 11, 2023 

TIME: 8:30 registration – 9:00 start – 5:30 end (MOUNTAIN) both days

DEADLINE: The deadline to register for in-person attendance July 3, so we can order food, and the deadline for livestream is July 9.

LOCATION: The IN PERSON session will be held at the Conference Center at RidgeGate, 9878 Schwab Way Suite 401 (Summit Room), Lone Tree, CO 80124. The virtual session will be LIVE STREAMED to any internet browser (not Zoom). All attendees will receive access to the recordings for 30 days to watch or review at their convenience. In-person registration includes breakfast, lunch, materials, parking, and all-day beverages for both days.

HOTELS: Here is a link to nearby hotels.

INVESTMENT: $349 in person and $149 livestream

PDUs and CEs: 

This conference is eligible for 12.5 CE Units from the NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals. NAADAC continuing education hours (CEs) are approved by the following organizations and boards:


Colorado Association of Addiction Professionals (CAAP)
Colorado Office of Behavioral Health (DORA / OBH)

Certified Addiction Technicians (ACA), Certified Addiction Specialists (ACC), and Licensed Addiction Counselors (ACD) and Licensed Professional Counselors (LPC) - this conference meets the competency requirements as set forth by the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies for 12.5 professional development hours (PDH) of continuing professional development (CPD). A certificate will be provided. It is your responsibility to determine if each course is within your scope of practice and to file with your certifying body if required or maintain your records.

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Sessions are 75 minutes with 45 minutes for slides, 15 minutes for Q&A, and 15 minutes for discussion/chat and transition. Each presentation is a general session (no breakout sessions). ALL TIMES ARE MOUNTAIN.

Day 1 - Wednesday, July 10, 2024

8:00-8:15 Laura and John Stack, Johnny's Ambassadors Youth THC Prevention
8:15-9:30 Dr. Susan Weiss, Director, Division of Extramural Research, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
9:30-10:45 9:30-10:45 Dr. Alexandra (Alex) Chisholm, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
10:45-12:00 Dr. Erik Messamore, Psychiatric physician, pharmacologist expert in marijuana and psychosis
12:00-1:00 Lunch and action planning
1:00-2:15 Dr. Deepak D’Souza, Professor, Yale School of Medicine
2:15-3:30 Dr. Bertha Madras, Professor, Harvard Medical School
3:30-4:45 Dr. Matthew Rossheim, Associate Professor, the University of North Texas
4:45-5:00 Laura Stack, Founder & CEO, Johnny's Ambassadors Youth THC Prevention

Day 2 - Thursday, July 11, 2024

8:00-8:15 Welcome and kick off – Laura Stack
8:15-9:30 Carly Noelani Kajiwara, Director of Trainings, Stanford REACH Lab
9:30-10:45 Ciara Gregovich, Community Outreach Specialist, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
10:45-12:00 Dr. Mike Barnes, Chief Clinical Officer of Foundry Treatment Center
12:00-1:00 Lunch and action planning
1:00-2:15 Ryan Silberberg, Founder and Chief Recovery Specialist, The Sage Collaborative
2:15-3:30 Laura Stack, Founder & CEO of Johnny's Ambassadors Youth THC Prevention
3:30-4:45 Brandi Welch, recovered from Cannabis-Induced Psychosis
4:45-5:00 Closing with Laura Stack


$349: LIVE EVENT (includes breakfast, lunch, all-day beverages, parking, and materials for both days). 

$149: LIVE STREAM (includes both days - per connection)

** This investment is PER PERSON. If you want to register a group, you can send their names and emails to, and we will send you an invoice to pay online with a credit card. No need to register them one at a time! **

8:00 Laura Stack, Founder & CEO, Johnny's Ambassadors

Welcome and Kick-Off

Laura Stack was best known in the business world for her professional moniker, The Productivity ProHer 30-year career as a keynote speaker, bestselling author of eight productivity books, and corporate spokesperson came to a screeching halt on November 20, 2019, when her 19-year-old son, Johnny, died by suicide after becoming psychotic from dabbing high-THC marijuana concentrates. Laura responded by forming the nonprofit, Johnny’s Ambassadors, to educate parents and teens about the dangers of today’s high-THC marijuana on adolescent brain development, mental illness, and suicide. Her platform now brings education, awareness, and prevention curriculum to schools, parents, prevention conferences, and coalitions to prevent youth THC use.

8:00-8:15 John Stack, Chairman & COO, Johnny's Ambassadors Youth THC Prevention

John Stack is Johnny's father and is the Chairman of the Board and COO of Johnny's Ambassadors Youth THC Prevention. John will tell his story for the first time from his perspective as Johnny's father.

8:15-9:30 - Susan Weiss - Division of Extramural Research, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

State of the Science of Cannabis: Effects on Adolescents

Cannabis products available today are more diverse and more potent than they were 20 years ago. We do know that cannabis containing mostly THC is associated with specific harms, many of which are exacerbated in users who start young and use it often. Because the endocannabinoid system (where cannabis acts) plays an important role in brain development, cannabis may pose specific risks for children and adolescents.

Learning Objectives:

* Cannabis is widely used, and its use is increasing with the permissive legal environment emerging in the US.
* Cannabis products and routes of administration are also changing rapidly, with potential for greater harms in some cases.
* Science of cannabis – its mechanisms of action and what is known about its short-and long-term effects in various populations.
* Potential therapeutic uses of various cannabis components, including cannabidiol (CBD).
* Implications of changes in US State policies related to marijuana legalization for medical or adult use.


Dr. Susan Weiss is the Director, Division of Extramural Research at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which oversees NIDA’s extramural programs, operations planning, and trans-NIH initiatives, such as the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD®) and HEALthy Brain and Child Development (HBCD) studies. Dr.  Weiss is also a senior science advisor to the NIDA Director. 

9:30-10:45 Dr. Alexandra (Alex) Chisholm, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Cognitive and Affective Effects of High Dose THC During Adolescence: Implications for Psychiatric Disorders

Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) potency in cannabis is at historic highs. Despite positive perceptions towards cannabis and increases in consumption, emerging evidence shows that use of high potency products has negative impacts on mental health. These effects may be more pronounced for adolescents, as use of cannabis and potent products can disrupt teen brain development, which may increase risk for psychiatric conditions including anxiety, cannabis use disorder, and drug-induced psychosis. This talk will cover the known effects of cannabis on the adolescent brain and describe animal models that show causal effects of high dose THC on behaviors that have implications for psychiatric disorders.

Learning objectives. At the end of this talk you should have a basic understanding of:

1.    Why the adolescent brain is sensitive to the effects of cannabis

2.    Preclinical evidence describing the effects of potent THC on behavior and brain

3.    How preclinical and clinical data may be used to help inform the public/teens about potential risks of high potency cannabis use

Bio: Dr. Alexandra (Alex) Chisholm is a postdoctoral fellow at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York under the supervision of Dr. Yasmin Hurd. With a Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from Concordia University, Dr. Chisholm’s research focuses on understanding how drug of abuse impacts the brain, with a focus on cannabinoids and opioids.

10:45-12:00 Dr. Erik Messamore, psychiatric physician, pharmacologist expert in marijuana and psychosis

THIS is How THC Can Cause Psychosis

The potential for cannabis to cause psychosis has been described in Western medical literature for more than 150 years. Modern study methods such as consumer side effect surveys, human clinical laboratory experiments, and placebo-controlled clinical trials have repeatedly shown that cannabis can produce psychosis among a portion of consumers. This should come as no surprise, considering that the biochemistry of psychosis shares several features with the pharmacology of cannabis. This talk will cover the relationship between cannabis, psychosis, and schizophrenia, including who may be at risk and how big the risk may be.

At the conclusion of this webinar, you will understand the following:

  • What psychosis and schizophrenia are
  • How the pharmacological effects of cannabis overlap with the biochemistry of psychosis
  • The evidence that proves that cannabis can cause psychosis
  • How big is the risk and who is most vulnerable to cannabis-induced psychosis

 Erik Messamore is the medical director for the Best Practices in Schizophrenia Treatment Center at Northeast Ohio Medical University, where he is an associate professor of psychiatry. He is a medical doctor with board certification in psychiatry and holds a PhD in neuropharmacology. Dr. Messamore specializes in the fields of psychopharmacology, complex mood disorders, psychosis, and schizophrenia. He has been quoted by the Associated Press, Malcolm Gladwell, and the U.S. Surgeon General. He is on the Scientific Advisory Board of Johnny’s Ambassadors, Inc.

1:00-2:15 Dr. Deepak D’Souza, Professor, Yale School of Medicine

Marijuana and Madness: How THC Exposure During Adolescence Impacts Mental Illness

Marijuana and Madness incorporates new research findings on the potential use of cannabinoids, and synthetic cannabinoids, in an array of mental illnesses, balanced against the potential adverse effects. The associations between cannabis and psychosis, developing putative models of cannabis-induced psychosis and pathways to schizophrenia are all covered.


  • Discuss the impact of exposure to cannabis at various stages of neurodevelopment (in utero, in childhood, and during adolescence).
  • Review the treatments for cannabis dependence.
  • Understand health policy implications of the availability of increasingly high potency cannabis.

Bio: Deepak Cyril D’Souza, MD is a Professor of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, and a staff psychiatrist at VA Connecticut Healthcare System (VACHS). He received his medical degree from John’s National Academy of Health Sciences, Bangalore, India, in 1986. He completed his psychiatric residency at State University of New York Downstate in 1992, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship in Psychopharmacology and Neurosciences at Yale University School of Medicine. He then joined the faculty in the Dept. of Psychiatry at Yale and VA Connecticut Healthcare System. He is an active clinician, teacher and researcher with 30 years of experience. His work has been published in the highest impact Psychiatry journals including Molecular Psychiatry, Lancet Psychiatry, Biological Psychiatry, and the American Journal of Psychiatry and Neuropsychopharmacology.

2:15-3:30 Dr. Bertha Madras, Professor, Harvard Medical School

“Emerging Challenges for THC Policy and Prevention”

This session will cover the rationale for re-scheduling marijuana, psychedelic substances, stigma and de-stigmatization, and emerging challenges to prevention.

* Understand the reasons behind the push to re-schedule marijuana at the federal level, including the arguments from advocates and opponents.
* Learn what psychedelic substances are, how they affect the brain, and examine the evidence for and against their medical and recreational use.
* Explore the concept of stigma and its impact on drug use, as well as how destigmatization efforts can have both positive and negative consequences.
* Gain insights into the evolving challenges faced by prevention efforts in the context of changing drug policies and societal attitudes towards drug use.

Bio: Bertha K Madras, PhD, is a Professor of Psychobiology at Harvard Medical School (35 years of service) based at McLean Hospital and cross-appointed at the Massachusetts General Hospital. Her research focuses on neurobiology, imaging, and drug discovery for neuropsychiatric disorders. She also engages in research relevant to public policy. She is author of more than 200 scientific manuscripts, articles, book chapters and co-editor of books, and she is the recipient of 19 U.S. and 27 international issued patents, with collaborators. In public policy, she served as Deputy Director for Demand Reduction in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), Executive Office of the President, a presidential appointment confirmed unanimously (99-0) by U.S. Senate. Her experiences in neuroscience research, drug discovery, education, government and public service, offer a unique perspective at the intersection of science, public policy, education and leadership.

3:30-4:45 Dr. Matthew Rossheim, Associate Professor, The University of North Texas

Derived Psychoactive Cannabis Products: the Harms of Delta-8 and Synthetic Cannabinoids

The 2018 Farm Bill led to the introduction of several new types of derived psychoactive cannabis products in the U.S. This presentation explores the diverse range of products that have recently become available and discusses the accompanying public health concerns. We will delve into a series of interconnected studies that investigate the marketing of Delta-8 THC and similar products, because marketing elements (including products, prices, promotions, and placement) greatly influence usage, especially among young people. Finally, we will explore potential policy solutions that could help mitigate related risks. 

1. Explain terminology related to derived psychoactive cannabis products.
2. Identify common types of derived psychoactive cannabis products.
3. Describe the known and unknown risks related to the use of derived psychoactive cannabis products.
4. Summarize the problematic marketing practices used for derived psychoactive cannabis products.

Dr. Rossheim completed a PhD program in Public Health Sciences at the University of North Texas Health Science Center, as well as a BA in Economics and MPH with a concentration in Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Florida. Prior to joining the UNTHSC School of Public Health as a faculty in 2021, he was a faculty member at George Mason University. His research focuses on the marketing of substances frequently used by young people including supersized alcopops, electronic cigarettes, and derived psychoactive cannabis products such as delta-8 THC. His research has been cited in reports by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and World Health Organization, as well as in city and county ordinances. 

4:45-5:00 Close and Action Planning

DAY 2 - 8:15-9:30 AM Carly Noelani Kajiwara, BA, Director of Training, Stanford REACH Lab

Smart Talk: Cannabis Prevention & Awareness 

This workshop will give you tools to help you talk to teens about key factors associated with youth cannabis use. Increase their knowledge about cannabis and the harms they can cause. Gain awareness of strategies manufacturers and sellers of cannabis products employ to increase use among adolescents, such as deceptive and creative marketing strategies. Ultimately, cannabis use of any type.


* Changing adolescents’ attitudes towards and misperceptions about cannabis
* Increasing their refusal skills to pulls of marketing and social media
* Reducing stress and depression which have been linked to cannabis initiation and use
* Improving coping skills
* Decreasing intentions and actual use of all cannabis products

Carly Noelani Kajiwara was born and raised in Moanalua, Oʻahu. She graduated from Kamehameha Schools and went on to UC Berkeley where she majored in Psychology and Creative Writing. She has experience in the education, healthcare, and legal fields. As the Director of Educational Trainings in the Halpern-Felsher REACH Lab, Carly develops various educational curriculums and directs trainings on the curriculum. Carly also co-directs project management within the curriculum team, works with community partners, assists with lab research, and mentors the REACH Youth Action Board students. She is also passionate about diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. In her free time, Carly enjoys surfing, traveling, working on new crafts, and going on adventures with her dogs Nala and Lady.

9:30-10:45 Ciara Gregovich, Community Outreach Specialist, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)

How to Better Protect Youth from Marijuana Commercialization

THC content in marijuana has increased over the past two decades. Advertisements using similar branding to daily products have been incorporating to marijuana company brandings. Come learn about the effects of commercialization of marijuana and how to protect and empower your children on how to prevent marijuana use.


* Learn why the entire marijuana plant is a schedule drug 1 under federal law
* Discover how commercialization has impacted Colorado and the entire nation
* Educate, empower, and prevent the harms of marijuana in your family
* Practice anti-stigma language through the power of a real talk

Bio: Ciara Gregovich is a Utah native who recently moved to Colorado. She has worked in the prevention of substance misuse since 2018, first as a contractor for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, then as the Director of the Utah Opioid Task Force at the Attorney General of Utah. She is now back with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration facilitating the outreach for Colorado, Utah, Montana and Wyoming. Ciara is also pursuing her master’s in public health at Johns Hopkins University and is a Bloomberg Fellow for the Addiction and Overdose cohort.

10:45-12:00 Mike Barnes, Chief Clinical Officer of Foundry Treatment Center Steamboat

Treating Cannabis Use Disorder in Young Adults: Habilitation vs. Rehabilitation

Mental health professionals are gradually acknowledging the significance of Cannabis Use Disorder, and this presentation aims to cover essential aspects of its treatment. The focus will be on understanding the signs and symptoms of Cannabis Use Disorder, along with addressing cannabis withdrawal and cannabis psychosis symptoms and treatments. Additionally, the session will delve into developmentally appropriate and trauma-integrated treatment techniques.

* Identify the signs and symptoms of Cannabis Use Disorder, Cannabis Withdrawal, and Cannabis Psychosis.
* Discuss treatment of young adults with Cannabis Use Disorders and the unique needs for treatment focused on emotional development within a trauma-integrated protocol.
* Learn tools for implementing habilitation focused and trauma-integrated treatment interventions for young adult clients.

Dr. Barnes will explore treatment methods that promote emotional development and underscore the importance of appropriate and continued planning for effective recovery. Prior to coming to the Foundry, Mike worked at CeDAR at the University of Colorado Health. 

1:00-2:15 Ryan Silberberg, Founder and Chief Recovery Specialist, The Sage Collaborative

Staging an Intervention to Get Your Child to Treatment

Your child might be afflicted with a mental health or substance use disorder and needs help, but he/she doesn't think help is needed.  Perhaps your child is over the age of 18 and won't agree to treatment. A professional intervention might be required. 


* Understanding Intervention and the different modalities
* The when, how, and why to do an intervention
* The importance of boundaries and how to implement them
* Understanding the family system and the individual roles each play in the intervention and treatment process
* What continuing support looks like for both the family and their struggling loved one

Bio: Since finding and working in long term recovery, Ryan has made helping others struggling with addiction and mental health challenges his personal and professional passion. He has worked at every level of the addiction continuum including intervention and care management, helping people in the acute detoxification stage, supporting clients in finding appropriate primary care treatment, and working as a recovery coach. He has held positions as Residential Manager in extended care and transitional living settings, as well as the Director of Admissions and Marketing for a nationally recognized treatment facility.

2:15-3:30 Laura Stack: The Dangerous Link Between Youth THC Use and Suicidality

The Dangerous Connection Between Youth THC Use and Suicidal Thinking, Attempts, and Suicide 

Eleven years after marijuana was legalized in Colorado, suicide is now the #1 cause of death in our youth ages 15-18, and the #1 substance found in their toxicology reports is THC (not alcohol or illicit drugs). Many people are unaware of the connection between youth THC use and suicidality. This session will present the latest THC/suicide data locally, nationally, and globally.


* How today's high potency products lead to greater addiction and changes in brain development
* How brain changes are connected to mental illnesses and suicidality
* New research demonstrating the correlation between youth THC use and suicide

Laura Stack is the Founder & CEO of Johnny's Ambassadors Youth THC Prevention, which she started after her 19-year-old son, Johnny, died by suicide after becoming psychotic from dabbing high-potency THC concentrates. She educates parents, teens, and communities about the dangers of today's potent THC products (marijuana, dabs, vapes, edibles) on adolescent brain development, psychosis, and suicide. She speaks at middle and high schools across the U.S. with her THC prevention message.

3:30-4:45 PM Brandi Welch, Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) Abuse Prevention Coordinator, Tulare County NCADD

Marijuana, Gen Z, and Me: My Recovery from Cannabis-Induced Psychosis

As a part of generation Z, Brandi will be providing insight of her first-hand experience with marijuana, with an emphasis on the importance of educating our youth on the effects of THC use. She will be sharing her experience with cannabis use, beginning with the time that led up to her first initial use of marijuana/THC, the time and state she was in while using, when symptoms of CIP began to occur, and ending with her testimony of recovery. She will then discuss the dangers of marijuana commercialization targeting youth and how to better support Gen Z in a time where teen marijuana usage is higher than ever. 


Understand what draws Gen Z to start using or continue using THC
* Learn marijuana trends and how the industry is marketing to Gen Z
* Find out how to recognize signs and symptoms of CIP
* Understand how to support Gen Z by educating and informing them about Marijuana/THC

Bio: Brandi Welch is 22 years old and a 2019 graduate of both Tulare Union High School and the Arts, Media, and Entertainment (AME) Academy. Since January 2023, she has been the Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) Abuse Prevention Coordinator with Tulare County NCADD (National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence), located in the Central Valley of California. Brandi is a recovered Marijuana/THC user with a personal testimony of her own, who is willing to share her story with anyone who will listen. Brandi is passionate about informing both parents and her generation, “Gen Z,” about the dangers of Marijuana/THC use. Brandi is an active member of her home church, serving on both the Praise & Worship Team and the Children’s Ministry. Loyal to her Alma Mater, she also serves as the alumnus Secretary of the AME Advisory Board.

4:45-5:00 Close and Action Planning


“Laura, I am so glad I attended the conference – as a mother and a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. I am trying to spread the word about the toxic and dangerous impact of THC on kids one family at a time. This conference armed me with more facts, stories, and data to help this cause. It is disturbing how uninformed the public and parents are.  I only wish the schools would allow and support much, much more education. The school districts and social media public service announcements for kids are the main ways to get the information out.  I would be happy to help with any campaigns or in any other way that I can. All parents, educators, and politicians should be attending your conferences yearly and participating much more in the making necessary and critical changes in this area. Thank you for all you do. Your loss is with me every time I participate in anything we do to move the dial forward on destroying the THC industry’s power and hold on our kids.” - Lisa Hall, Counselor, L.M.F.T.

“Laura, Michele and I really appreciated and enjoyed attending the conference. You and your husband did an amazing job coordinating every detail and the conference was beyond our expectations. The venue was beautiful, the food was great, and the speakers were exceptional. As a 40 year career law enforcement professional, the information exchange was incredible. Thank you again for your dedication and conviction to helping others. We look forward to the conference next year.” - Dan Zsido, Seminole, Florida

“I’m sure your email is flooded with nothing but praises. The conference was absolutely fantastic. Next year I want to attend the 2 day in person. All the presentations were great. I felt like I was drinking from a firehose at times. I like how you broke it down by speaker and focus. The data and studies cited were really helpful. The Marijuana Conference was jam packed with the most current, all encompassing information on youth and THC.  When I want the most up to date, impactful information or data, I go to Johnny’s Ambassadors website, or scan the FB posts. Laura Stack is passionate about protecting our kids from the dangers of THC. The best in the field respect her and know she gets the message out. They were all at the conference and delivered a punch to motivate us to join the offensive taking back our youth’s wellness.” - Nancy Henderson, Project Coordinator, Prevention Council of Roanoke

“Where do I even start... Amazing!! From start to finish, I was all in!! You have taken your unimaginable loss and turned it into something so meaningful to so many people! I am brand new to my local coalition to help prevent substance abuse in our youth, and this was such a great conference for my first experience! The information you all presented was very meaningful, real world experiences and such great knowledge by all of your presenters. I was part of the live stream, and it was flawless. I cannot wait to take back all I learned to the coalition that I am a part of. I appreciate you making the recording available to us, some of the information I would like to hear again. I loved the fact that your presenters didn’t present just the statistics but also gave some really helpful information on how to connect with the kids, and to help get the information to the kids so they may actually listen to the message. This is beyond important information,  you have a great team surrounding you to help deliver the message. Keep up the great work that you all are doing and I look forward to seeing you all again next year!! Thank you. - Brenda Ready RN, Med/Surg Charge Nurse, Genesis Medical Center

“The conference was incredible Laura. I was very impressed by the breadth of what was covered and the quality of the speakers. I will be able to use a lot of what I learned in my coalition work here in New Jersey. Thank you for organizing this conference!” - Michael Regenelli, SCRATCH Project Coordinator, The Southwest Council, Inc.