One local youth organization is breaking down Vermont’s marijuana legalization law prior to next week’s launch.
Essex CHIPS has created a four-page fact sheet detailing what you need to know about Act 86, the law going into effect July 1 that legalizes the use, cultivation and possession of marijuana.
The outreach campaign goes beyond the youth organization’s typical scope, sharing info for landlords, municipalities, parents and schools. CHIPS’ director of prevention services Justin Hoy says that’s because kids already get a breadth of messaging about drug use.
“It’s important that everybody be on the same page about the health of the kids in our community, access and perception of harm,” Hoy said.
Starting next month, people 21 and older can grow two mature or four immature marijuana plants and possess up to an ounce at a time, though there’s still no legal avenue to buy recreational marijuana in Vermont.
CHIPS, in partnership with other youth coalitions around Chittenden County, is hosting trainings and communicating with the Vt. Department of Health to ensure their messaging is aligned.
Hoy said his goal isn’t to “vilify” people who choose to use marijuana, explaining he doesn’t believe in “finger wagging” of-age adults. Rather, he wants to ensure adults who do choose to use are responsible, not using around children nor allowing access to the drug.
The Vermont Youth Risk Behavior Surveys, given to students in grades six to 12 every other year since 1993, show while adolescent rates of cigarette use have greatly decreased, regular marijuana use is on the rise.
Hoy didn’t know whether the new law would increase the use of marijuana among youth, noting those who use now do so illegally.
What will be different is how freely adults talk about the drug, he said, since it’s no longer criminalized for them. Those conversations can be harmful if they change the perception of the risk marijuana poses for children, whose brains are still developing, Hoy said.
But that doesn’t mean he recommends not talking about it at all. “If people are willing to have an open conversation about it, what they’re OK with and what they’re not OK with, there’d be less gray areas,” he said.
And it’s important to be honest with children about cannabis and marijuana, Hoy said, including the positives of products for medical use and the concerns about products containing THC.
“Let’s keep our kids safe for as long as we can and keep their minds fresh for as long as they can,” Hoy said. “Some kids or young adults are going to get in a situation where they’re faced by a choice. We hope to arm them with enough health info to help them make an informed decision.”