Our view: Grassroots initiative shows vision | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: Grassroots initiative shows vision

Now that recreational marijuana is legal in Colorado, social norms are shifting, young people's exposure to the drug is greater and our youth are being raised in a new reality where smoking pot, from a legal perspective, is not much different than consuming alcohol.

We've watched as state and local leaders have grappled with the challenge of regulating a brand new industry, and we've noticed the creation of research-based programs or materials aimed at educating our youth about marijuana have lagged behind policy-making priorities.

It is said necessity is the mother of all invention, and necessity seems to be the driving force behind a new health curriculum designed by educators at Steamboat Springs' Yampa Valley High School.

The Marijuana Education Initiative was created by three local educators who were having trouble finding any comprehensive resources to address their students' questions about marijuana. YVHS counselor Molly Lotz and teachers Sarah Peed and Chuck Rosemond joined forces to develop their own science-based education curriculum, which will be now shared with other schools across Colorado.

Lotz said the impetus for creating the curriculum came from conversations she was having with some of her students who were asking for help in assessing their own marijuana use. When she began researching answers, she found information on tobacco and alcohol use, but not much for marijuana.

The Marijuana Education Initiative takes the position that students are naturally curious and will probably try marijuana at some point, especially now that its recreational use has been legalized for at-home use for those over the age of 21. The curriculum focuses on providing students with solid, unbiased information so they can make informed decisions.

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"We want our youth to understand the risks associated with adolescent [marijuana] use, particularly where brain development is concerned," Peed said.

In addition, the curriculum will be expanded to include a parent outreach program aimed at fostering community conversations outside of the classroom.

Though still in the pilot stage, the Marijuana Education Initiative helps fill an existing educational gap, and we remain convinced education must be an integral part of Colorado's marijuana policy plan.

A number of youth-focused education programs on a variety of topics, including teen pregnancy, seat belt usage and prescription drug abuse, have been successful at reducing risky behavior. And we think an innovative approach to marijuana education will help Colorado set the standard for other states when it comes to legalizing marijuana in a responsible way that minimizes impact and risks to our children.

To be clear, we do not condone under-age, illegal consumption of marijuana. However, we are mindful of the fact that many of our youth are curious and oftentimes experiment as a result of their curiosity or peer pressure. Because of this acknowledgement, we applaud the educational leaders at Yampa Valley High School for their vision in arming our students with the facts about this increasingly ubiquitous part of society. YVHS has identified a need and devised an education-based solution grounded in science and their own experience with students.

The Marijuana Education Initiative is a program created by community leaders who work in the trenches and interact with students, teachers and parents on a daily basis. Their knowledge and experience translates into what we think can be a valuable resource, with the potential to spark true dialogue, conversation and change among students and adults.

It's also exciting to know a curriculum created by a small alternative high school in Steamboat Springs could be used to educate students across Northwest Colorado and the Front Range. This is a program we hope educators will subscribe to and embrace, and it's an achievement this community should take pride in.

AT ISSUE

Yampa Valley High School educators have designed innovative health curriculum for marijuana

OUR VIEW

The new curriculum is visionary and has the potential to fill an existing education gap statewide and nationally

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