The Vermont Medical Society (VMS) and the American Academy of Pediatrics Vermont Chapter (AAPVT) are pleased that our policymakers have chosen not to pass legislation legalizing marijuana at this time, and we thank them for their commitment to the health of Vermont’s citizens, especially its children.
As numerous health experts testified throughout the legislative session, legalizing recreational marijuana would have created substantial risks to the health and development of Vermont’s children and adolescents, and normalized use of the drug in ways that had great potential to increase youth use rates.
We realize that the push to legalize recreational marijuana is not over. To that end, we encourage Vermont lawmakers to consider the following while debating future legislation:
- Currently more adolescents in Vermont seek out substance abuse treatment for marijuana than for all other illicit drug use combined;
- Teens who use marijuana regularly may develop serious mental health disorders, including addiction, depression and psychosis;
- Vermont currently suffers from inadequate substance abuse treatment capacity, and more facilities are closing than opening; and,
- Vermont has inadequate psychiatric treatment facilities, especially for youth and teens, and our emergency rooms are full of patients waiting for psychiatric treatment.
As such, in order to reduce the safety risks and negative health impact of legalization of marijuana on the health of children, adolescents and families, we strongly feel that any steps toward legalization must include:
- Education directed toward youth to counter the climate that portrays marijuana as a benign drug; and,
- Education directed toward parents on the negative health impact of marijuana on parenting ability, the developing fetus and the dangers of second hand smoke.
Furthermore, we request that the following benchmarks be determined – after appropriate research – and met prior to legalization:
Increasing the percentage of Vermont adolescents who perceive marijuana as harmful;
- The number of substance abuse treatment facilities is sufficient, such that wait lists for programs are no longer a concern; and
- Utilization of emergency rooms for holding areas for psychiatric admissions has decreased.
VMS and the AAPVT stand ready to help the Governor and legislature craft legislation and safety guidelines in a manner that ensures that, if legalization occurs, it does so in a way that does the least amount of harm to Vermonters.
- Vermont Medical Society
- American Academy of Pediatrics Vermont Chapter