Our view: Marijuana education matters | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: Marijuana education matters

Editor’s note: Since the publication of this editorial, Steamboat Today has learned that the Steamboat Springs School District has purchased the Marijuana Education Initiative curriculum for the middle school and high school to be implemented next year and the following year.

Colorado's legalization of recreational marijuana is often referred to as the state's great experiment. And now, almost two years into it, we're still reporting on how local leaders are navigating the law and how the shifting societal norms regarding legalized pot are affecting various segments of our community — most notably, our youth.

Our view:

Young people deserve to know the facts about how marijuana will affect them, and it's up to the adults in their lives to educate them.

Adult voters are the ones who approved the legalization of marijuana, and with that decision comes a responsibility to make sure our youth understand the realities of marijuana use. Just like programs that educate kids about alcohol and tobacco, we think it's now imperative we include factual information about marijuana in our drug abuse prevention efforts.

Last week, a panel of youth advocates hosted a forum that focused on the realities of youth marijuana use and offered advice to parents on ways they could talk to their kids about the drug. The forum demonstrated to us that segments of the community care enough about our youth to host events like this, and we were encouraged by the constructive conversation that took place.

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It's open and honest discussions like these that we think have the most potential to reach our youth and impact our communities.

In March of last year, Steamboat Pilot & Today published a series of articles looking back on the first year of legalized recreational marijuana. The final article focused on how the legalization of pot had affected youth in Routt County.

Reporter Teresa Ristow interviewed members of the Steamboat Springs Teen Council who shared their opinions that underage marijuana use had increased with the legalization of recreational pot. They also shared it was much easier to buy pot than alcohol, and the group of young leaders unanimously agreed that teens were more likely to try pot now that it is legal for adults.

It's that kind of anecdotal information that concerns us and reinforces the call for more marijuana education. Here in Routt County, we have access to cutting-edge marijuana education curriculum, which was developed last year by teachers working at Yampa Valley High School in Steamboat Springs.

In July 2015, the editorial board endorsed the Marijuana Education Initiative as visionary and groundbreaking. Its curriculum focuses on providing students with solid, fact-based information so they can make informed decisions about marijuana use, and we're glad to see founders Molly Lotz and Sarah Grippa now marketing the curriculum nationwide.

South Routt School District recently announced it will be using the Marijuana Education Initiative curriculum in its health classes, and we encourage Steamboat Springs and Hayden school districts to follow suit.

The MEI curriculum does not demonize marijuana but rather presents facts about the drug's effect on the teen brain. It acknowledges that marijuana is a legal recreational and medicinal substance many adults choose to use but it also sends a strong message that it's not OK for kids to use marijuana. The curriculum also offers intervention strategies for teens who self-identify as habitual marijuana users. It's a straightforward and reality-based approach we think needs to be adopted by our local schools.

We also think it's important to note that educating our youth about the affects of marijuana use should not be left to the schools alone. Fact-based discussions about the realities of legal pot should be taking place around our dinner tables, in our homes and churches and among community groups.

Our kids deserve to know the unfiltered facts about marijuana. They need to understand that, even though pot is now legal, it's still illegal for them to partake. They also need to know how the drug could affect them cognitively over time and the consequences they could face if they are caught using the drug as an underage teenager.

Navigating this new reality of legalized marijuana will take some time, and while society figures it out, the responsibility to educate and inform our children about the issue falls on the shoulders the adults in their lives. It's important our community make every effort to minimize the unintended impact legalized marijuana could have on our youth, and in our opinion, education is the best place to start.

At issue:

Children and teens are now growing up in a time when recreational marijuana is legal and societal norms are changing.

Our view:

Young people deserve to know the facts about how marijuana will affect them, and it’s up to the adults in their lives to educate them.