As a licensed alcohol and drug counselor and a certified clinical supervisor for other licensed counselors in Maine, I have some concerns about the legalization of marijuana.

Although legalization may be inevitable and even in some ways a good thing (making use a medical rather than criminal issue), we should not take this step without adequate safeguards for our young people.

Already 20 percent of Maine teenagers report monthly use of cannabis. This likely would increase with legalization as cannabis becomes more available for diversion. The highest rate of cannabis use is by people younger than 25, and the research is beginning to suggest teens are at greatest risk for developing cognitive problems, for developing mental illnesses (including anxiety, depression and schizophrenia), for doing poorly in school and for becoming involved with other drugs.

Nationally, almost 4 percent of teens meet the criteria for cannabis use disorder. This percentage likely would increase with increased availability and use.

I propose that any legislation legalizing use also contain provisions for taxing use and for devoting a substantial portion of that tax for teen prevention and treatment. There also should be substantial penalties for adults who provide marijuana to teens.

Currently, prevention and treatment for teens is underfunded, and it is difficult to find any higher level of care than outpatient. The primary influence on teen use of any substance is family modeling and rules, and yet there are few resources to educate and assist parents with teen prevention.

If we are going to try the experiment of legalization, we must protect our most vulnerable citizens and our most valuable asset: our young people.

David Doreau

Waterville


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