Rhode Island must reduce access to marijuana by children and focus on spreading the word that it is harmful as supported by medical evidence.
Kathy Sullivan and Kristen Westmoreland, program managers for The BAY Team in Barrington, said this is the primary message to be delivered to Rhode Island legislators today at a special State House briefing.
The briefing will be led by representatives of the newly formed Ocean State Prevention Alliance, of which The BAY Team is a founding member, said Sullivan.
Two guest speakers also will brief the legislators on addiction and marijuana and how laws have an impact on taxing and regulating marijuana.
More and more kids use marijuana as the perception that it is harmful decreases, said Sullivan, and as legislation to legalize marijuana as a recreational drug increases.
Marijuana use affects learning, is addictive and it impairs driving, said Westmoreland, and there is plenty of evidence to support those findings.
The briefing, they said, will challenge RI legislators to play a proactive role to ensure that changing attitudes and legislation around marijuana do not have a negative impact on the state’s youth.
“The politically charged atmosphere around marijuana in Rhode Island and across the nation must not distract us from one of society’s most basic values: protecting our young people from harm,” said Nancy Devaney, chair of OSPA, in a press release sent out in advance of the briefing.
“OSPA’s mission is to be a voice for youth and families by building a broad coalition of Rhode Islanders who will work together to reduce or prevent the negative impact that current and new marijuana legislation, regulations and policies will have on kids throughout the Ocean State,” Devaney said. “Legislators and all Rhode Islanders must make youth health and safety a key benchmark in evaluating marijuana-related laws and policies.”
The state must follow an evidenced-based prevention strategy that can reduce or prevent the physical and neuropsychological harm, established by scientific studies, that result when adolescents use marijuana, she said.
Rhode Island is already in a “precarious situation,” Devaney said. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2010 and 2011, among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, Rhode Island ranked third for past-year marijuana use among 12+ year olds, second for 18 to 25 year olds, and fifth for 12 to 17 year olds.
Devaney also said that in annual surveys of RI communities that receive Drug Free Community grants, many report that more than 50 percent of RI youth surveyed do not think daily marijuana use poses any serious risk of harm.
Today’s briefing will take place in the State Room of the State House at 3:15 pm.