By Margery Gianopoulos, Courier & Press, Sept. 22, 2015 –
In 1996, the state of California became the first in the U.S. to legalize medical marijuana. Since then, 22 other states have joined California, including Michigan and Illinois. Ohio is considering several marijuana-related initiatives for voters next fall, and if any of them pass, Indiana would be surrounded on three sides by states with some form of legal marijuana use.
The legalization of marijuana is changing the landscape across the country. While surveys indicate that substance use among youths has dropped, the data also shows that more youths perceive marijuana to be less risky than in years past. In other words, a growing number of teens think the occasional use of marijuana is no big deal, and it won’t hurt them. Prevention researchers say as the perception of risk drops, substance use typically increases.
Indiana University’s School of Public Health measures risk factors through the annual Indiana Youth Survey. Most states have this same type of survey. The Indiana Youth Survey measures 30-day substance use, age of first use, perception of peer approval and parental approval, along with risk factors which may increase problem youth behaviors such as substance use, school dropout, violence, pregnancy and behavior health.
The behaviors and attitudes of Warrick County’s sixth- through 12th-grade students mirror the national data. From 2013 to 2014, the number of sixth -raders reporting low perception of risk for marijuana more than tripled.
Clearly, the legalization of marijuana is impacting thinking, and it could soon impact behavior among our youths.
The questions surrounding the issue include: Is medical marijuana a good thing, what research is being done, and what about recreational use? Can pot be addictive? What could be the impact on our children and communities, and how do we separate the truth from the myths?
Warrick County Communities That Care Coalition and Youth First, Inc. held a town hall to a discuss these questions and more during a town hall forum on Sept. 8th.
Former WIKY News Director Randy Wheeler moderated the discussion with a panel that included Dr. Daniel Rusyniak, medical director of the Indiana Poison Center and professor of emergency medicine, Indiana University School of Medicine; Marlin Weisheit, Warrick County commissioner and retired Chandler police chief; Judge Keith Meier, Warrick County Superior Court and Drug Court, retired; Brett Kruse, Warrick County sheriff; Michael Perry, Warrick County prosecutor; Tad Powless, director of special education, Warrick County School Corp.; Davi Stein-Kiley, Youth First director of social work; Kathy Baker, Youth First school social worker, Castle High School; Althea Ingram, Castle High School parent; Kaylynne Glass, Castle High School junior; Alex Hardgrave, Castle High School sophomore.