Pubdate: Tue, 01 Mar 2016
Source: Day, The (New London,CT)
Copyright: 2016 The Day Publishing Co.
Author: Judy Benson


Surveys Show Marijuana Among Youths on the Rise in Connecticut

Hartford - With surveys showing marijuana use among youth in 
Connecticut on the rise, substance abuse prevention groups gathered 
at the Legislative Office Building on Monday to launch a pre-emptive 
strike against any move to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

"We should not consider marijuana innocent until proving guilty given 
what we already know," said Dr. Sandra Carbonari, a Waterbury 
pediatrician and immediate past president of the state's chapter of 
the American Academy of Pediatrics. "Increased access for adults will 
increase access for youths, regardless of age restrictions."

She cited research showing diminished memory, judgment and academic 
ability among youths who regularly use marijuana, along with a 
fivefold increase in the likelihood of using more dangerous drugs 
including heroin compared to their peers who don't smoke pot.

Carbonari was among speakers at an event sponsored by the Connecticut 
Association of Prevention Professionals to call attention to the 
risks to the state's youth they believe would ensue if the state were 
to follow in the footsteps of Colorado and legalize recreational 
marijuana. The group argues marijuana use is increasing among 
Connecticut youth since the state passed laws in 2011 decriminalizing 
possession of small amounts, and legalizing it for medical use for 
adults in 2012.

At the start of the legislative session, two "concept bills" were 
proposed to legalize recreational marijuana, but neither made it out 
of committee, said state Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford. 
Nevertheless, he said, there is pressure from some groups promoting 
it as an economic and tax revenue opportunity for the state that he 
expects will push to have a bill introduced in the 2017 session.

"With Connecticut's tough economic challenges," he said, "we don't 
want to see the need for more revenue driving bad policy. We need to 
start educating our legislators now about the effects it's having in Colorado."

That state legalized marijuana for recreational use by adults just 
over two years ago.

John Daviau, executive director of the prevention professionals 
group, noted state Department of Public Health surveys showing that 
about 26 percent of teens reported using marijuana in the past month 
in 2013 compared to about 20 percent in 2009, a 20 percent increase.

"We can't clearly link that to loosening of marijuana laws in 
Connecticut, but what else is there?" he asked. "Yes, I do believe 
they're related."

He also cited statistics showing that Colorado has gone from having 
the 14th highest rate of teen marijuana use 10 years ago to having 
the highest rate in 2015.

Carolyn Wilson, coordinator of the Groton Adolescent Substance 
Prevention Coalition, and Kerensa Mansfield, who leads a similar 
group in Ledyard, were among about 75 people at the event. Both are 
program coordinators at Ledge Light Health District.

"We want to make sure we stay on top of this issue," Mansfield said.

Wilson said both groups want to "start the conversation" in the local 
community so that parents, youth and decision makers are educated 
about the health risks of marijuana use by youth and the problems 
that would be created by legalization for adults.

"Youth are so confused now about the laws about medical marijuana," she said.

Mansfield and Wilson also said the Groton and Ledyard groups are 
interested in proposing their towns enact zoning laws that would 
prohibit cultivation facilities and dispensaries, as Guilford and 
Clinton have done.

"We want to be proactive," Wilson said.

Also attending the event were about 20 students from Lyme-Old Lyme 
High School who are members of a group called  which stands 
for Responsible Educated Adolescents Can Help.

"It would hurt a lot of kids" if marijuana were legalized for 
recreational use, said David Brown, a senior at Lyme-Old Lyme High. 
After seeing family members struggle with addiction, he said, he has 
personal knowledge of the damage done by marijuana use.

"I don't want to see anyone get addicted to marijuana," he said. "It 
does destroy families."

Other students in the group said they've seen the negative effects of 
marijuana use on their peers in school, and wouldn't want it to 
become more easily available.

"I have a close friend who's in rehabilitation from drug addiction, 
and marijuana is what got him started on other drugs," said Liz 
Richard, a sophomore.

Af ter the prevention group's event, the students met for about 45 
minutes with state Rep. Devin Carney, R- Old Saybrook, and state Sen. 
Paul Formica, R- East Lyme. Four students shared personal stories 
about the effects of drug abuse in their families, said Karen 
Fischer, prevention coordinator at Community Action for Substance 
Free Youth, a program at the Lymes' Youth Service Bureau.

"It was very powerful," she said in an email message.

Three bills are under consideration pertaining to medical marijuana, 
Candelora said. Two pertain to expanding the legal use of medical 
marijuana for children, and the third deals with the palliative use 
of medical marijuana for hospice care patients, he said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom