Local organizations host virtual conference on marijuana

By: Alex Szwarc | C&G Newspapers | Published February 23, 2021

 On Feb. 5, the “Legalized Marijuana-Our Communities and Our Youth” conference was virtually held, sponsored by Chippewa Valley Coalition for Youth and Families and Macomb Intermediate School District. One of the speakers was Dale Quigley, deputy coordinator of the National Marijuana Initiative.

On Feb. 5, the “Legalized Marijuana-Our Communities and Our Youth” conference was virtually held, sponsored by Chippewa Valley Coalition for Youth and Families and Macomb Intermediate School District. One of the speakers was Dale Quigley, deputy coordinator of the National Marijuana Initiative.

Photo provided by Dale Quigley

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MACOMB COUNTY — Over 600 education and business professionals from around the state virtually gathered to “clear the smoke” about legalized marijuana.

On Feb. 5, a “Legalized Marijuana-Our Communities and Our Youth” conference was held, sponsored locally by Chippewa Valley Coalition for Youth and Families and Macomb Intermediate School District.

The conference included three sessions. The first was an update on the impact of legalized marijuana on Colorado communities and youth. All the speakers were from Colorado.

“Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in 2012 and quickly moved toward commercial sales,” a flyer for the conference stated.

Dale Quigley, deputy coordinator of the National Marijuana Initiative, has over 40 years in law enforcement and said the initiative’s goal is to have more prevention and information, in an attempt to combat misinformation.

Quigley, who is also the deputy director of HIDTA, or high-intensity drug trafficking area, said laws and policies are formed in a vacuum, which is where science and data needs to go.

“We want to make people a better consumer of data,” he said. “We need to try to understand where the information comes from. This isn’t a simple issue. At the state level, marijuana is legal; at the federal level, it still remains illegal.”

He said that marijuana use early, frequent and often, especially of high potency, causes substantial issues for children.

Quigley said after marijuana became legal in Colorado, the number of marijuana card holders increased almost ten-fold.

He cited that since 2014, medical marijuana center licenses have decreased by more than 11%, while recreational marijuana store licenses increased by over 98%.

“Potency levels back in the day were maybe up to 7%. Now, we see THC potency levels between 15 and 30%,” he said. “People are more willing to pay for more potency.”

Quigley said people perceive recreational marijuana use as being fun and, therefore, having less risk.

The second session dealt with the effects of marijuana use on youth. Elizabeth Stuyt, an addiction psychiatrist, spoke about the research on the developmental and mental health effects of marijuana use.

When it was legalized, she wasn’t too worried about it.

“In the last five years, I’ve seen significant problems, mostly with high-potency THC,” she said.

Stuyt noted there is some benefit from cannabis in medical treatment.

“The major studies done for the National Academy of Science, which people use to justify medicinal cannabis, smoked cannabis studies were done with THC less than 10%. We don’t have any valid science on THC higher than that in the smoked plant.”

She believes the only reason to increase the THC level in marijuana is to increase the high.

“When you increase the potency of a drug, you increase the addictive potential,” Stuyt said.

Her thinking is that, because society has allowed marijuana to be marketed as medicine, people think it is safe.

Charlene McGunn, executive director of the Chippewa Valley Coalition for Youth and Families, said the coalition is launching a “call to action” with data and facts to educate the community about the effects of marijuana on kids.

“We have the powerful potential of moving forward because there is so much misinformation about marijuana,” she said. “The fact it’s been legalized does not mean that we can’t educate about the potential damage to kids in communities.”

In the final session, information was shared about commercialized marijuana and social justice.

Ben Cort — owner of Cort Consulting and the CEO of The Foundry Treatment Center, a drug rehab center — spoke about cannabis and corporate irresponsibility.

He said vice industries, those with the potential for addiction, have always had the same approach with preying on the least fortunate in society.

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