An open discussion on medical marijuana | AspenTimes.com

An open discussion on medical marijuana

Dear Editor:

Your recent article about Re-1 school board member Myles Rovig’s anti-medical marijuana views addresses several interesting and important issues.

As the director of a local nonprofit (Valley Partnership for Drug Prevention) that provides health and wellness classes and programming at Aspen Middle School and Aspen High School, the issue of medical marijuana has been a hot topic in recent months. Valley Partnership does not lobby local government or school officials. We are not a temperance organization and do not condemn the responsible use of alcohol among adults or the physician-supervised use of medication. Our goal is to provide community members, particularly children and their parents, with facts about the effects of drugs and alcohol.

Towards that goal, we work with experts in the field who advise us on the most reliable and up-to-date studies, facts and means of prevention. We believe that providing unbiased information to the community is the best use of our resources.

I’ve spent time with students who believe marijuana dispensaries are a sham. Others see their existence as a de facto endorsement of marijuana use. One young student wondered if her aunt who used marijuana while going through chemotherapy was a “bad person.” The fact that kids are talking about the issue provides an excellent opportunity for parents to have conversations with their children.

Another conversation has been taking place among prevention experts. It involves “first-time use” as a predictor. A child’s mind continues to develop into his or her early 20s. The effects of drugs and alcohol on still developing minds has distinctly different ramifications for a teenager than for an adult. Studies show that the age of first-time use is critical in the long-term development of addiction and dependence.

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Fifteen-year-olds who drink to the point of drunkenness or use drugs to the point where mood is altered have a five times greater likelihood of eventually becoming addicted or dependent. This doesn’t mean that we have hundreds of 18-year-old addicts in our valley. Most won’t develop problems until later in life – sometimes in five years, sometimes in 20 and, of course, sometimes never.

By contrast, a young adult who does not abuse alcohol or other substances before the age of 21 has almost no danger of developing an addiction in his or her lifetime.

Should medical marijuana laws be changed or modified? I don’t know. But I do believe the issues involved are a great catalyst for rational and civil discussions in our community.

Michael Connolly

Aspen