Marnie M. Copeland, Certified Prevention Specialist II; Peak to Peak Prevention Coalition Director; Prevention Coordinator, TEENS, Inc. I am the Director of the Peak to Peak Prevention Coalition and the Prevention Coordinator at TEENS, Inc. Our substance use/abuse prevention coalition and community prevention initiatives are funded by the Colorado Division of Behavioral Health. Our collaborators include: Nederland Middle Senior High School, Nederland Elementary, Nederland Parent Engagement Network, NES/PTA, Nederland Police Department, Little Bear preschool, the Town of Nederland, the Presbyterian Church, United Way, as well as many dedicated parents and community stakeholders. Our mission is to: support each other to help strengthen and protect our community to make safe and healthy choices through creative prevention strategies.
Our prevention work utilizes an evidence-based community action model, based on years of research and continuous improvement that 1) takes a systematic approach to community building; 2) focuses both on promoting positive youth development and on preventing problem behaviors; and 3) collect and evaluate data to help guide our prevention strategies. Our main focus is to work to create a healthy community for our youth.
The initial proposal for the Buds, Beers, and Burgers festival proposed to have the festival in the field next to TEENS, Inc. If approved, this festival would send the wrong message to our youth— as the slated goal is to “normalize the use of marijuana.” We do not support having the festival next to our building nor do we support the town endorsing this festival anywhere in our community. Having a festival focusing solely on consuming marijuana and beer sends an unhealthy message to young people.
Marijuana consumption is legal in Colorado for adults twenty-one and over. What message are we sending our youth? It is now widely accepted that regular marijuana use by youth is damaging to the developing teen brain. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana use among teenagers declined in the 1990s; however, since the early to mid 2000s use is again on the rise.
“The percentage of high schoolers who see a great risk from being a regular marijuana user has dropped.” That perception is actually all wrong. Unlike the DARE program of the 80s and 90s telling youth that “drugs are bad” and using out-dated scare tactics, current scientific research is showing that perception is all wrong.
A teenagers brain has a lot of developing to do: It must transform from the brain of a child into a brain of an adult. Current research is showing that marijuana use among youth adversely affects this crucial brain development process and is actually a neurotoxin to their developing brains. Lisdahl, director of brain imaging and the neuropsychology lab at University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, states, “during the teen years, our brain is getting rid of those connections that weren’t really used, and it prunes back. It actually makes the brain much faster and more efficient.”
This process of streamlining ultimately makes the brain make judgments, think critically and remember what it has learned. Lisdahl says it’s a mistake for teens to use cannabis. She points to a growing number of studies that show regular marijuana use (once a week or more) actually changes the structure of the teen brain, specifically in the areas of dealing with memory and problem solving. Lisdahl states that this in turn negatively impacts cognition and academic performance. (NPR “Marijuana May Hurt the Developing Teen Brain” www.npr.org Shots- Health News 3/3/14)
Madeline Meier, now a professor at Arizona State University, states :”We found that people who began using marijuana in their teenage years and then continued to use marijuana for many years lost about eight IQ points from childhood to adulthood, whereas those who never smoked marijuana did not lose any IQ points.”
She also shared that the amount people smoked made a difference. Those who smoked the most (daily) saw the greatest drop in IQ and the younger they were when they started using cannabis, the greater the IQ decline. Unfortunately, federally funded surveys show that 60% of high school seniors say they think marijuana is safe, and 23% say they’ve used cannabis in the past month, more than those that used alcohol or smoked cigarettes.
The survey results also showed that 6% of high school seniors say they use pot every day, which is triple the rate over the past decade. Also, marijuana now is much more potent than it was in the 1970s, with far higher levels of THC.
Marijuana legalization in Colorado has happened, and as the “green rush” continues I would ask that Nederland think about the broader impact the Buds, Beers and Burgers and other future festivals focusing on consumption has on our children and growing teens. A festival focusing on consumption and normalization of marijuana sends an unhealthy, unsafe, and irresponsible message to our community youth.
If you are interested in learning more about our prevention efforts please contact me at email@example.com 303.258.3821 or attend one of our monthly Peak to Peak Prevention Coalition meetings and learn more about opportunities for involvement!