Local column: Marijuana and misinformation

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The dangers of marijuana are very real and our children should be made aware of this fact early on, writes Sarah Droegemueller.

Two things happened recently that opened my eyes to the many sorts of information (or misinformation) about marijuana that our community’s youth receive every day.

First, my daughter was invited to participate in the “Trapped Sober” event hosted by the Bonneville Youth Development Council (BYDC).

BYDC’s mission, as posted on their web site, is to lower substance use among youth in Bonneville County through promoting positive involvement, prevention measures and community collaboration. They are made up of parents, educators, community members and students who seek to improve the lives of youth in Bonneville County.

When my daughter, Abby, got selected as an event participant, I had very little knowledge of what this event entailed. I called the youth program director, Becky, and what I heard was encouraging.

She said the conference involved hands-on learning, positive reinforcement and excellent education on topics like impaired driving, drug abuse and vaping. Abby heard the parts about three days excused from school, staying in a hotel with dozens of other teenagers, and being fed wonderful meals and snacks—all for free—and she said yes, she’s definitely interested!

At the end of her three days of being “trapped” in this hotel, the BYDC held a town hall meeting where the participants presented the information they’d learned. It was an informative night, with lots of new facts and reminders of dangers of drugs, alcohol, texting and bullying.

One of the most worrisome things I learned was the money behind organizations and lobbyists who are pushing for medical marijuana to be legalized everywhere. BYDC presented facts and evidence of harm from marijuana use, rather than benefits from its legalization. Abby signed up to serve on the marijuana education team for the next year.

The second thing was a conversation with some high schoolers about marijuana, discussing a school presentation a guest speaker had shared about legalizing marijuana. Surprising to me were the many teens who’d heard only positives about marijuana. Some of my daughter’s peers have heard information that can be very misleading, and I thought if I am so uninformed as to what youth believe these days, maybe there are other parents who are in the dark as well.

For example, a common belief is that marijuana is not addictive. The BYDC drug guide Abby brought home said, “Contrary to popular belief, marijuana can be addictive.” After doing my own research, I found a clinical study that showed marijuana is addictive to about 10 percent of users. However, a greater danger occurs in leading to use of other, stronger illicit drugs.

Another statement I heard: Marijuana is healthier than other drugs. How can something even be labeled as “healthy,” I thought, if it causes memory and learning problems, delusions or impairment? As a drug, it may not have the most potent effects, but it has the potential to lead to horrible results, like car accidents, overdoses, brain dysfunction and paranoia. These are not the effects of a “healthy” substance.

I’m glad that Abby will have a chance to serve with the BYDC this next year and try to influence her peers to avoid marijuana by sharing education and factual information about the drug. Hopefully more teens will be made aware that what they hear may not be true, and the dangers of this drug and others are very real.

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