Forum addresses impact of marijuana on kids | SteamboatToday.com

Forum addresses impact of marijuana on kids

— A group of local youth advocates met last week to debunk some of the myths about youth marijuana use and offer suggestions for parents struggling to talk with their children about marijuana.

An event last Tuesday, called "The Impact of Marijuana on our Kids: What we need to know and what we need to say," was sponsored by Routt County's new drug treatment center, The Foundry, in collaboration with Sk8 Church and the new Rx Task Force, which held a series of forums in March about heroin and prescription drug abuse.

Marijuana Education Initiative co-founders Molly Lotz and Sarah Grippa first presented the audience with information about youth marijuana use and its effect on the brain, as well as their observations with students they've encountered while teaching a new reality-based marijuana curriculum in schools.

Grippa said that teens today have grown up seeing promotional material supporting legalization of marijuana and have been confused into thinking there are no harmful effects associated with marijuana use.

"With legalization and an increase in availability, the perception of harm is decreasing," Grippa said. "Our students today have come of age during the legalization of marijuana."

Grippa said students the MEI has surveyed report marijuana is easier to get than alcohol and easier to disguise from parents or at school.

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Anecdotally, Grippa said students report being able to obtain marijuana within five minutes of leaving school or without even leaving.

Although students may feel the drug is safe to use because it's legal, Grippa and Lotz stressed that marijuana is legal for adults and not for children for a reason, and there can be long-term health effects, including impacts on the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which doesn't finish developing until after the age of 25.

Many of the mental side effects of youth marijuana use, including depression, are less likely to occur if a person doesn't begin regularly using until after the age of 25, Lotz said.

The duo, along with panel members Buck Chavarria, pastor of Sk8 Church; Jen Murphy, The Foundry family services director; Eddie Konold, a private practice clincician; and Aaron Werner, director of Young Life, then answered more than a dozen questions from parents and adult community members who attended last week's discussion at Library Hall.

The group encouraged parents to educate themselves on the effects of marijuana on children, talk to their children often and continue trying, even if the discussion doesn’t seem to be doing much.

"Educate yourself, have a conversation with your kid, and treat them like the adult they're becoming," Chavarria said.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow