Maine’s legalization of marijuana for recreational use already appears to have had a negative impact on marijuana use and attitudes about marijuana among local youth.
A recent assessment of local middle school and high school students shows marijuana use outpacing alcohol use for the first time in the years of the assessment. Perhaps most alarmingly, the assessment shows that only one in three local students believes marijuana can be harmful.
We expected the biggest challenge to come out of legalization would be how to police drivers under the influence of marijuana without a reliable, universal standard for what constitutes “driving high.”
It may still be, but these numbers from local schools show another area of significant concern.
Now, we do not believe we should portray marijuana as the cause of “Reefer Madness” that transforms upstanding young men and women into slavering monsters, nor should we foolishly lump it in with much more dangerous drugs.
However, marijuana is by no means safe for teenagers.
In addition to the drug’s immediate effects, the limited science available on marijuana shows it can have long-term negative impacts on developing brains.
What can we do to combat local students’ perception of marijuana as harmless?
Are schools giving students realistic, up-to-date information about drugs and their effects? Are parents?
Are parents and other adults ignoring – or encouraging – marijuana use?
The assessment shows other concerning trends: about violence in the home and a disturbing sense of isolation from the community – almost half of local students feel they don’t matter to people in the community.
The statistics offer valuable insight into the attitudes and behaviors of local youth. To address troubling attitudes and behaviors, we first need to know they exist. Thanks to Healthy Lincoln County, now we know a little more.