Local teen marijuana use among highest in nation

Local teen marijuana use among highest in nation

Nearly 40 percent of teens in both Cumberland and Lincoln admit they've used marijuana at least once, a rate so high that the federal government is investing more than $1 million over five years into a multi-pronged anti-drug campaign directed specifically at the two towns.

Pam Shayer, who coordinates the Prevention Coalition in both Cumberland and Lincoln, told The Breeze this week the money will fund a series of programs for teens and parents this upcoming year, as well as a media campaign.

Shayer points to a National Survey on Drug Use and Health that says Rhode Island ranks first in the nation in illegal marijuana use.

"We beat out Colorado," quipped Shayer, noting Rhode Island's high incidence of drug use continues a trend for the Ocean State cited in past surveys.

And Cumberland and Lincoln were among 12 Rhode Island communities where Partnerships for Success funds were allocated in an effort to reduce the use of marijuana.

Lincoln, awarded $483,500, ranks 10th highest in the state, while Cumberland, awarded $558,500, ranks 13th.

Her research shows that specifically, based on a 2013 survey, 39.9 percent of Lincoln students and 38.6 percent of Cumberland students have used marijuana.

Other northern Rhode Island communities awarded funds are Burrillville, Foster and Scituate, along with Cranston, Little Compton, Newport, New Shoreham, Providence and Westerly.

Rhode Island was one of 16 states chosen for this special funding, Shayer said.

Money is flowing to the state through the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Heathcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals.

The University of Rhode Island will evaluate the effectiveness of the program.

The problem, says Shayer, stems from teens' attitude about marijuana. "They see their grandparents using it as medication, and think it can't be bad."

Moreover, after years of being warned about tobacco smoke and drinking, they see both as far more harmful than marijuana, says Shayer.

"There's plenty of information out there on tobacco but not much out there on marijuana," she says.

Why is Rhode Island number one in the country?

Shayer quotes Nancy DeNuccio, chairwoman of the Ocean State Prevention Alliance, who suggests Route 95 is a corridor between Boston and New York that brings in marijuana.

And while medical marijuana is legal in Rhode Island, it is unregulated, she said, including edibles, such as cookies, brownies and gummies consumed by youth who have access to them.

Teens' acceptance of the drug comes as its potency is increasing. Shayer warns that THC content, which is the ingredient in marijuana that produces the marijuana high, was about 7 percent in years past. The average now is about 18.7 percent.

Liquid marijuana, known as hash oil, BHO, wax or dabs, have much higher amounts of THC, up to 80 percent or more, says Shayer.

The two Cumberland and Lincoln coalitions have already invested in highway billboard messages that will continue with bus stop shelter walls, on TV, radio and newspapers, as well.

Highway drivers have already seen a provocative "It starts with you" message directed at parents, according to Shayer.

Coming up this year, 9th-graders in Cumberland and Lincoln will receive a book this year that shares information about illegal drugs.

Additionally, an "Above the Influence" program crafted by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids is planned.

Its website focuses on peer pressure and suggests, "Our goal is to help teens stand up to negative pressures, or influences. The more aware you are of the influences around you, the better prepared you will be to face them, including the pressure to use drugs and alcohol."

Parents will also find programming at the Manville Family Literacy Center on what parents should be looking for and how to take positive parenting action.

Members of the Lincoln Prevention Coalition include Co-Chairwomen Jan Boucher and Karen Kruth, Tim Potter, Terri Lynn Longpre, Mary Beauchemin, Police Chief Brian Sullivan, Officer Michael Cavanaugh.

Cumberland Prevention Coalition members include Officer Rob Fay, Police Chief John Desmarais, Chairwoman Christine Bandoni, Tina Lundgren, Officers Kevin Koleck and Gary Rubello.

Shayer welcomes new coalition members. Reach her at pshayer@lincolnri.org .


what a waist of federal money. with legalization around the corner. over $1 million is not going to stop anything

No one starts smoking pot before they try drinking.
Alcohol is the real gateway drug and it is legal. Marijuana will be legal within the next 2 years. What a waste of federal money.

Might as well flush $1 million down the toilet. None of these "programs" or "media campaigns" will do any good.
MAKE money instead of throwing it away.
How much more money do we need to waste on anti-marijuana campaigns before these idiots realize that it's all in vain?

Don't think the article was about it being a gateway drug, missing out of taxes or "it's going to be legal anyway". It is about TEENAGER'S on the rise. No matter if it is legal or not, that age group shouldn't be in that position.

The real killer out there is Oxy and other Rx drugs that are ruining lives and ending lives on a huge scale every day. Mary-Jane is the least of our concerns.

I was exposed to more anti-drug campaigns than I care to remember as a kid. They had no effect. I tried pot. I survived. As a country, as a state, and as a small town, we need to stop the STUPID. Let's cut the BS, talk like adults, and discuss the merits of anti-drug nonsense. A person should have every right to inhale, eat, etc. anything they want. Anything. It's nobody's right to determine what you do to yourself, period. I think most teens and nearly every adult knows that, despite the government claiming otherwise, which is why prohibition campaigns are as effective as lighting the money spent on them on fire. A teen is a parent's responsibility, not the government's. I can't believe it's 2015 and we're still discussing this. Insanity = Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.