Please take this moment and picture this scenario: A 15-year-old teen, who feels isolated for whatever reason wakes up daily feeling anxious, depressed, and does not feel ready to tackle the challenges that await him. He can’t stand feeling this way. He is offered marijuana.
With “medical” marijuana available to anyone who wants it, new sellers are eager to make a profit. The teen has heard messages from parents, teachers, doctors, who have repeatedly and emphatically told him that marijuana is dangerous. Well-validated, long-term studies clearly show a long-term reduction in IQ in teens that use marijuana habitually.
But, the media and popular messages say that it is perfectly acceptable and safe to use. It is a medicine, he is told, and it is now legal in Illinois. You can get it in edible forms. So, of course, he tries it.
He temporarily relieves his feelings of anxiety and depression. So, he tries more. And pretty soon, his use becomes regular. Marijuana has interfered with his developing brain, reducing its ability to feel pleasure without drugs.
This gateway drug leads him to other dangerous substances. We try to offer him services. We pray he does not become another statistic. Our opioid epidemic has taken enough young lives. One in six youth who use marijuana will become addicted in their lifetime. A teen marijuana user is three times as likely to become addicted to opioids.
Unfortunately, the scenario just described is all too familiar to those who work with youth. They are seeing an epidemic of drug addiction in our youth use that starts with marijuana use. We see it in kids from all walks of life. No race, no religion, no socioeconomic class is immune.
This issue should have nothing to do with revenue or if an adjacent communities getting the money then we should have a piece of the pie. This issue is about protecting our youth and citizens.
Studies are now showing increasing rates of marijuana and other drug use among teens in Colorado. The states with no medical or recreational marijuana have the lowest teen marijuana use. In fact, Colorado has one of the largest rate of teen marijuana use in the nation.
We are in the midst of an epidemic of abuse of prescription and recreational drugs, as well as an increase in adolescent psychosis and suicides. We cannot send the message to our youth that this drug is safe and cannot afford to have it more readily available.
The Coalition for a Drug free Lyons Township will tirelessly educate and will continue to educate on the harmful effects of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. We will work on increasing mental health services and addiction treatment for our youth.
And to accomplish this, the last thing teens or the parents of teens in our communities need is a marijuana dispensary selling a gateway drug with a high risk of addiction potential that has detrimental long-term physical, cognitive, psychological effects.
By opting in now, jumping ahead of the daily research and data being released on the harm of marijuana, without taking the time to study it properly, you, local government officials, are acknowledging that every additional death on the roads, every additional case of psychosis, matters less than barging ahead for license and tax revenue, no matter the consequences.
Will the small amount of revenue you bring in do more harm than good for the citizens of Brookfield and surrounding communities?
I think we all know the answer. Yes, it will harm many. So, the clear response is to opt out and do so with a clear conscience.
Cynthia Frymark is president of the Coalition for a Drug Free Lyons Township.