Understanding the Marijuana Landscape
The first installment of a three-part series on ALL Together Coalition's Prevention Efforts
In her role as community partnership coordinator for the ALL Together coalition and for the Dartmouth Hitchcock Community Health Substance Misuse Team, Angie Leduc sees a range of issues. Opioid and other prescription drug misuse is something her group has approached from a prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery lens. And since alcohol is the number one drug used by all people, the coalition focuses on that area, too, through education initiatives and awareness campaigns. In addition, the issue of vaping and e-cigarettes is a threat to youth. “Our schools are grappling to understand what vaping is, and which substances students are vaping,” Leduc says. “Is it tobacco? Marijuana? And how to implement policies around it.”
The issue of marijuana is especially challenging in New Hampshire. The drug is still illegal in New Hampshire, but the state is surrounded by other states where marijuana is legal for people 21 years and older.
“The states that are legalized are just getting started with legalization, so we’ve yet to see the consequences of legalization in full force” Leduc says. “I’d love to say we’re ahead of this issue, but we feel very much behind. Right now, we’re just helping people understand the marijuana landscape, what it looks like, and how they can make educated decisions around it.”
Last November, All Together organized a community talk by Alan Budney, PhD, a professor at the Geisel School of Medicine who specializes in the effects of marijuana.
The Upper Valley has many shared resources: employers, hospitals—and schools. “We have Vermont and New Hampshire students in three of our schools,” Leduc says. “Having uniformity around substance use policies in schools and the workplace is challenged by legalization.”
One unintended consequence of marijuana legalization is normalization of its use. “Young people see marijuana as a normal thing to do,” Leduc says. “In prevention, we want them to see it’s not what everyone is doing.” In fact, Leduc says, “The majority of our young people in the Upper Valley are not using any substances at all. According to our 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 79 percent of our New Hampshire students are not using marijuana and 84 percent of our Vermont students are not using marijuana. We still need to be concerned of the small percentage who are because it is illegal and can harm their brains and bodies.”
Interested in learning more? Visit uvalltogether.org
Next week: Part 2: PREVENTION: PART OF EVERYDAY LIFE