May 10, 2019

Two organizations with alternate missions find common ground on educating youth about marijuana use

Be The Influence Coalition and the Retail Adult Use and
Medical Marijuana Task Force
 discuss common concerns of youth drug use and abuse
By Lorraine Glowczak

It was a late afternoon of respectful discussion in the Windham Town Hall Council Chambers on Monday, May 6 as the Retail Adult-Use and Medical Marijuana Task Force* invited Be The Influence Coalition (BTI)* members to their meeting.  The organization was invited to present information regarding youth marijuana use and the effects it has on the developing brain.

“We recognize there is a problem,” began the Task Force Chair, Maggie Terry who is also co-owner
of Legal Leaf, LLC. “We want to make a difference on both sides of the table, and it is the reason why we’ve invited Be The Influence here today. We are looking for ways in which both sides can collaborate to help protect our youth.”

BTI Director, Laura Morris and other members of the coalition shared with the Task Force not only their concerns and statistics regarding youth marijuana use on the developing brain but also suggested ways in which the two groups could collaborate to reduce youth marijuana use.

“We have seen an increase in use since legalization,” began Morris. “One of our greatest concerns is that there is the perception that marijuana is harmless with no side effects. But there are scientific studies indicating that there are negative side effects in the developing brain from both short and long-term marijuana use.”
Using a PowerPoint Presentation, Morris shared statistics and data from various sources including
The New England Journal of Medicine. Some effects of marijuana use on the developing brain include but are not limited to: impaired short term memory, impaired motor coordination, altered judgment, paranoia and psychosis and addiction.

Windham High School Assistant Principal, Phil Rosetti, also shared a few of his own experiences with student drug use. Concerns include vaping with dabs (highly concentrated marijuana extract) among other forms of drug ingestion. “I have had students come to my office, telling me that they are addicted and are asking for help,” explained Rosetti. “Since cannabis has become legalized, there has been increased availability and access – in a larger variety of forms.”

DARE Officer, Matt Cyr, stated there is some confusion among some students regarding the perception about marijuana safety. “Recently, a student told me that marijuana was completely safe - and that the information was provided by their parents,” he said, reiterating that drugs of all varieties have an impact on the developing brain.

In response to the Task Force members concern regarding driving safety, Windham Police Chief Schofield stated that there has been an increase in drug driving. “We are unable to determine at this point what drug the drivers are using at all circumstance, but there has been an increase in impaired driving in the past couple of years,” Schofield began. “Not only in Windham but throughout the state and this includes alcohol, opioids, prescription medications, THC and other drugs. There have been two fatalities in Windham in the past 1 ½ years where both alcohol and THC were detected.”

Discussion between the Task Force and BTI members included ways to work together and educate the public about youth substance abuse/use. The consensus among all present regarding possible collaborative efforts included: Education materials located at all medical-cannabis storefronts/caregiver providers, the encouragement of safe storage (i.e. placing cannabis in a locked cabinet) and ways to lessen youth access to products. It was also discussed that caregivers take an active part on educating the adults who visit their stores/businesses regarding youth cannabis use and the developing brain.

David Whitten, Task Force member and owner of Sticky Bud Farms, offered another possibility. “I would be very interested in learning how to look for and identify fake I.D.s. as another way to prevent underage use.” He plans to take a workshop offered by the Windham Police Department.

Chair Terry, concurred.  “We as a Task Force are looking for ways for the adult use and medical cannabis industry to exist in Windham the same way that other legal businesses are conducted. We don’t want to keep the black market alive. We are very concerned about protecting youth and want to work in collaboration with the community.”

Charles Hawkins, Tasks Force member and owner of MAC who also strives at being socially responsible stated that whether an individual is pro or anti-marijuana, everyone wants to protect their children and help them make wise choices. “We are all concerned about this issue,” he said. “We are all on the same page and it’s important to find common ground without tarnishing the image of the cannabis industry.”

Although both sides have their own philosophical and fundamental perspectives, they all agree that youth safety and health is of the greatest importance – and it’s in this vain they have found middle ground and will work together.

“Windham could be leaders in this new arena, demonstrating ways to work together for the common good,” Terry said.

*According to the Town of Windham website, the purpose of the Task Force is to review state laws as well as Windham zoning and regulations regarding retail adult-use and medical marijuana establishments. The Task Force is assigned by the Windham Town Council to make recommendation to the them about changes to the town’s zoning map, land use ordinance and other regulations regarding the various types of retail adult-use and medical marijuana establishments and operations and how they may be conducted and under what conditions and standards.

*The BTI coalition is a collaborative community effort between leaders in Windham and Raymond with the mission of educating youth and adults regarding the dangers of youth substance use and abuse.

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