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Monfredo: More Discussions Taking Place About Marijuana

Saturday, December 15, 2018

 

Last week I wrote about the outstanding Youth and Drugs Conference sponsored by the Worcester Public Schools and hosted by Robert Pezzella, Director of School Safety. This week I’d like to focus on a topic that was also discussed at the meeting and one that continues to make headlines …. Marijuana.

As we know the voters of Massachusetts voted in 2016 to make the sale of this substance legal.  In accordance with the law, Worcester is required to facilitate the establishment of up to 15 regulated Marijuana Retailers.  According to John Genkos, project manager in the City Manager’s office, in response to the law Worcester has proposed the following:

  • The City has adopted a local sales tax of 3% on the sale of recreational marijuana.
  • The City will negotiate community host agreements to provide resources for the oversight of marijuana establishments.
  • The City is required to limit the number of retailers to no less than 20% of the number of “off-premises alcohol allotted to the City” which, under the current allotment of 74, would limit the number of marijuana retailers to 15.
  • The City has adopted a city ordinance imposing appropriate time, place, and manner restrictions on the operation of local marijuana establishments by requiring such establishments to obtain a license from the license commission before commencing operations in Worcester.
  • The City has adopted an amendment to the zoning ordinance to regulate adult use marijuana establishments.  Other information can be found at http://www.mass-cannablis-control.com.

 

In addition, no marijuana establishment shall be sited within a radius of 500 feet of… a public or private, primary or secondary school;  a licensed daycare center;  public library; public park or playground, or; another marijuana storefront retailer.

Only consumers 21 years of age or older with a verified and valid, government-issued photo ID will be allowed to enter the facility and conduct a transaction. Also, companies will not engage in any marketing initiatives that are designed to appeal to minors.  No product will be sold as realistic of fictional human, animal or fruit including caricature or cartoon renderings.

The City has done its due diligence in regard to the law but there is a danger that does exist. At the conference, Nikki Nixon and Cassandra Anderson of the Worcester Division of Public Health spoke about a survey conducted among the youth of the city.  The survey conducted during the past two years entitled, “The Regional Youth Health Survey” shows that marijuana has been used by students in the area.  Over 5,100 high school students and 2499 middle school students took the survey.

There was a downward trend in the use of nicotine products and alcohol products among our youth.  Also, marijuana use had gone down but it is still among the most widely used substance in this population of students.  Based on the data, the prevalence of lifetime marijuana use among Worcester youth is slightly lower than in the state and in the country.

According to the survey, youth are exploring different ways of using marijuana… in tea, vaporized tabletop devices, smoked in a blunt wrap or joint/pipe but most dangerous is ingesting it in food or drink for it poses greater risk of poisoning.

There is no doubt that marijuana could become a major problem now.  As reported last week by GoLocal, “Colorado, where marijuana is legal, leads the country when it comes to first-time pot users among kid’s ages 12 to 17 years old.”  According to research in this area, teens from 14 to 19 have a huge amount of important development going on, and what’s happening is the brain is learning how to manage social situations, stress situations, and disappointment, loss, and all kinds of things.  Youth who start to use substances short-circuit that process.

When you increase access to marijuana, even though it’s only legal for those 21 and older in states where it’s legal, youth access is going to increase as it did in Colorado.

More importantly, many believe that youth marijuana use could be a gateway drug leading into other drugs including opiods, methamphetamine, and cocaine. We are living in difficult times so parents need to have those important conversations about all drugs including marijuana with their children.

 

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