Teens & Marijuana forum discusses impact of cannabis on Nevada County youth | TheUnion.com

Teens & Marijuana forum discusses impact of cannabis on Nevada County youth

The general consensus of KVMR's Teens & Marijuana Town Hall forum Tuesday was that education and parental involvement are increasingly important as cannabis becomes legal for recreational use.

The panel, a group ranging from public health servants to cannabis advocates, were in agreement not only on the need for further research and education, but that the stresses of modern life are negatively impacting teens and causing them to seek alternative coping mechanisms.

"I would like to see our education program evolve to teach the difference between use and abuse," said Forrest Hurd, medical cannabis advocate and founder of Caladrius Network.

Annie Keeling, a parent educator and NEO Youth Center board member acknowledged that with advancement in technology and communications, kids are being overwhelmed with information and expectations. Stress, she suggested, can lead to the use of mood enhancements such as cannabis and alcohol.

"It's not just our children," Keeling said. "So that's the pressing issue. How do we deal with some of these stressors?"

Marlene Mahurin, coordinator of Tobacco Use Prevention Education, echoed the sentiment.

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"As a society we are just really stressed out in general," Mahurin said.

North Point Academy student and lone teen on the panel Glory Rain suggested social media is contributing to the level of stress teens are under.

"I think the social media aspect of this generation is increasing their stress levels exponentially," Rain said. "Every time there's a mass shooting or any kind of event, it's on everyone's cell phone. It's all over social media. It instills fear."

Rain spoke of classmates who had dropped out of playing sports because they didn't want to be subjected to drug testing, and others who dabbled in marijuana only to graduate to use of drugs like methamphetamines.

"In the eyes of a teenager, it's hard to find other options because we don't have the tools to handle the stress, anxiety and depression," she said.

The panel was in consensus that after school activities help in curbing drug use in kids and teens, as are practices that encourage mindfulness such as meditation and teaching coping skills.

Asked what kind of research is still needed — from their perspective — the panel members had varying ideas.

Hurd maintained much research has already been conducted, but the challenge is sifting through the data. He also mentioned many studies are typically only allowed to report the harmful effects.

"We need neutral, unbiased research," said Hurd.

Nevada County's Public Health Officer, Dr. Ken Cutler, said the studies provide enough reason for caution in regards to teen use, but there needs to be better long term studies on mental health and the cognitive effects of cannabis.

"We need to know more about the role of potency, and we need to know more about what the risks are at different levels of cannabis use," said Cutler.

Many on the panel noted that the strength of modern cannabis products presents a special challenge to both parents and teens.

"We're seeing things they haven't seen before," said Monica Senter of the Nevada County Cannabis Alliance. "And people are developing new products all the time. Different products present different dangers that our parents never saw."Moderator Paul Emery pointed out that the forum was in no way a debate, and it was for informational purposes only.

Jennifer Nobles is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at jnobles@theunion.com or 530-477-4231.

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