- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 25, 2016

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - Vermont will explore ways to enhance prevention efforts for youths if marijuana access is expanded, the state’s health commissioner said.

Dr. Harry Chen said Monday at a Joint Legislative Justice Oversight Committee hearing that further prevention efforts are needed before marijuana availability is expanded, The Rutland Herald reported (https://bit.ly/2fchdqe).

Chen told committee members that data shows twice as many high school students use marijuana in comparison to tobacco. He said research supports the notion that frequent marijuana use can have a harmful effect on youths.

The commissioner told lawmakers that there’s “pretty strong data” showing a negative correlation between the frequent use of marijuana and academic performance.

“It really comes down to frequent use. That’s the area that we really need to focus on,” Chen said.

Chen proposed a prevention plan should Vermont move forward with the outright legalization of the drug or further decriminalization efforts.

“We actually have the worst of all worlds right now,’ Chen added. “We’ve decriminalized it, but we have no control over it.”

Under Chen’s proposal, the state would provide grants to supervisory unions as well as training for pediatric practice staff and school officials.

Grant payouts would total $200,000 in grants to five supervisory unions in the first year, $1.2 million for 30 supervisory unions in the second year and $2.4 million for all supervisory unions in the third year.

“We’ve said it helps people who have medical conditions,” Chen said. “We’ve left out that important message that it’s bad for kids. It’s bad for kids up to age 25. That messaging isn’t there.”

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Information from: Rutland Herald, https://www.rutlandherald.com/

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