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Marijuana sales could affect local youth, prevention programs needed

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Monday, Jan. 22, 2018 12:37 PM

Editor's note: this is a copy of a letter submitted to the Bayfield Town Board. Culture is often described as the norms and beliefs that a group decides to live by.

Balance between market-driven and other values-driven forces is what has kept our culture healthy for athletes, families, tourists and businesses. Anne Schrier described this in her Letter to the Editor published in the Pine River Times on Dec. 29, 2017.

Don't be fooled. While combined data in the U.S. and Colorado show teen use has not increased since the advent of recreational marijuana, Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (2016 Vol 4) saw a 20-percent increase in past-month youth use since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana from 2012 to 14. La Plata County has seen an increase in youth use in sixth through twelfth grades which was at 16.7 percent on the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey in 2015. Bayfield students showed a past month use of 18.7 percent in the same survey year. Also:

Youth perception of harm from regular use has DECREASED in La Plata County. Parental disapproval of use for youth has DECREASED in the county, according to the 2015 survey.This change in attitudes took place even as current research shows young brains don't fare well later on if they are engaged in regular use of marijuana (or alcohol). One description used a Star Wars metaphor to describe how the brain is different between adults and youth. Youth brains have no protective "force field" to reduce chemical changes negatively affecting cognitive and mental health. (www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/11/10/563051543/in-the-age-of-legalization-talking-to-kids-about-marijuana-gets-tougher)

Why does it matter that we consider no dispensaries?

Research shows there is a correlation between availability, the number of licenses and youth alcohol use. (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2736854) I think we can extrapolate that availability of retail marijuana will result in the same increase in youth use that alcohol availability does.

If you decide to proceed with licensing recreational dispensaries, please consider the prevention literature, our prevention expertise and the experience of the Colorado Office of Behavioral Health, and plan for extensive education to both youth and adults, so any harm can be mitigated.

Your decision will influence the way our norms will develop and choices our children make. Again, I ask for more discussion about the wider community values Bayfield wishes to promote. More information is on our website, www.OurHealthyCommunities.org.

Pat Senecal

Celebrating Healthy Communities Coalition

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