By Leslie Nicholson
As the founder and Director of R.I.S.K. Sonoma (Resources, Information, Support and Knowledge), a parent support network, I wanted to respond to the I-T’s recent editorial criticizing the City Council’s allocation of funds to screen the documentary “The Other Side of Cannabis: The Negative Effects of Marijuana on our Youth.”
I applaud the Council for supporting the parents, teachers, law enforcement, guardians, and grandparents who are invested in the health and wellness of Sonoma’s youth. The Community Grant Fund Guidelines include youth as a priority group.
This documentary simply gives information about marijuana, including the dramatic increase in THC levels of today’s marijuana as compared to 20-30 years ago, and its effects on teens’ brain development. It is a researched-based documentary, including expert testimony from Harvard neuroscientists and others, with no political or judgmental intention.
I founded R.I.S.K.-Sonoma after seeing my young teen become addicted to drugs. I have spent the last five years, with the support of many people in the community, creating a support network to educate and support families. Our intent is to be proactive in educating about issues affecting teens, and also to direct families in crisis to resources that can help their teens overcome challenges related to drugs and alcohol, and bring their families back together.
The documentary, which won an award at the LA Film Festival (something the writer failed to mention), is a straight-forward look at the addiction issue tied to marijuana use in teens. As a parent whose teen became addicted to smoking pot, and having spoken with many parents whose teens have also been easily addicted, I feel it is important to bring this discussion out in the open.
As I stated in my remarks to the City Council, I am in favor of people who need medical marijuana having access. Being concerned about something new in the community like medical marijuana dispensaries does not mean I minimize the benefits for those in need of help with pain or disease. As a parent and resident of the community, I believe that changes to the cannabis laws and ordinances involve all of us.
Our intent in bringing this documentary to Sonoma is to prompt discussion. Sonoma Valley Hospital reports that in 2015-16, there were 86 emergency room visits related to drugs or alcohol amongst 14- to 25-year-olds. RISK wants to continue the discussion that we started back in February regarding opioid addiction and in April regarding binge drinking.
The sad fact is that for many teens marijuana isn’t a phase. It is far too common these days to hear parents of young adults in their 20s and 30s talk about the struggle their kids have in getting their lives together, and struggling to overcome their addiction.
We hope that this documentary will give parents and teens valuable information. It has received support from many in the community, including the Sonoma Valley Community Health Center, which has generously offered to pay the expenses for the event’s speakers.
Following the documentary and presentation by the film’s producer, there will be a panel discussion focused on edibles, including presenters with a variety of perspectives. Our purpose is to have a productive and helpful discussion to inform parents and caregivers about what edibles are and how to know if they have gotten into the hands of youth who are using them for recreational use, not medical necessity. We also want to inform the public about the need to keep edibles out of the hands of young children who are at risk of accidentally ingesting cannabis oil that is meant for adult consumption.
We look forward to a successful event and hope to have many people from the community in attendance.