To the Editor:
As a Healthy Maine Partnership and Drug Free Communities Coalition, Healthy Acadia is dedicated to building vibrant communities and making it easier for people to make healthy choices.
The goal of these efforts is to protect the health, safety and quality of life for all, especially youth and families. A very important aspect of our work is to reduce and prevent substance use and to educate youth and parents on the science-based facts, risks and concerns regarding a variety of substances, including marijuana.
Marijuana is a drug that can be addictive and is linked to a variety of health and safety issues. Many current public health and policy concerns are associated with marijuana, especially for our youth. Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of marijuana. Its use can interfere with brain development, reduce motivation and disrupt learning. Marijuana is the number one substance for which Maine youth seek substance abuse treatment services, comprising 56 percent of all treatment admissions for youth last year.
Today’s marijuana is more potent than ever. In the 1960s, THC levels in marijuana averaged around 1 percent, increasing to around 4 percent in 1983. In 2011 levels tripled to 11 percent. In 2015, Colorado levels tested at an average of 20 percent per sample. Substance experts are concerned that the potency in the products may mean a greater risk of dependence and addiction, or the possibility of overdose while ingesting new marijuana edibles.
Since the legalization of marijuana, Colorado has already seen a 50 percent increase in poisoning calls involving children. New products and forms include much more than dried smoked herb. THC oil is now used to make edible products that include candies, cookies, lollipops, soda, popcorn, breads and more. The variety of today’s marijuana products are endless, as are the clever and highly developed marketing campaigns designed to attract teens and young adults as users.
Healthy Acadia’s Drug Free Communities Coalition is working diligently to inform the public, schools, youth and parents of the changing landscape of marijuana and other substances in our communities. We are also currently collaborating with the Bangor Area Substance Abuse Task Force and Bangor Community and Public Health to organize a statewide summit, “Marijuana in the New Millennium,” to be held at the Gracie Theater in Bangor, on Sept. 23. The keynote speaker will be Thomas J. Gorman, director of the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. The keynote will be followed by a panel presentation by local experts in the fields of law enforcement, public health, substance abuse treatment and health care.
We at Healthy Acadia encourage all community members to join us at the upcoming summit, as well as to continue to engage in these difficult questions around substance use in our communities. We welcome you to contact us anytime with any questions or ideas, if you would like educational resources or presentations in your area, or if you are interested in becoming involved. The more we all become informed and engaged, the better we will be able to work together to build healthy and safe communities for all.
Drug Free Communities project coordinator