April 23, 2016

Dr. Chen Talks Youth Prevention With House Appropriations

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Montpelier (April 20) – Dr. Harry Chen, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Health warned the House Appropriations committee against legalizing marijuana as well as discussing youth education and prevention efforts through social marketing.

Dr. Chen started his testimony with a clear message that the Vermont Department of Health sees “no compelling reason to legalizing marijuana,” however, if it were to become legalized, the market should be heavily regulated to prevent health impacts that could come with unregulated marijuana.

According to data collected by the Vermont Department of Health, only 27% of youth perceive marijuana as risky, which is a number that may only decrease with the legalization of marijuana; however, with the right education programs, the number doesn’t have to decrease.

Committee Chair Mitzi Johnson asked Dr. Chen what a strategy to curb youth marijuana would look like if he were to design one, starting a discussion about what that education program and campaign could entail. Dr. Chen envisioned an education program that continuing this frank discussion, “Let’s leverage these discussions we’ve been having into something people can hear and listen and continue, so we get that message out.” This would mean piping these conversations into education programs within schools as well as parent education programs.

The Appropriations Committee will continue to hear testimony until they reach a decision whether or not to pass the bill. Many are eager to see what will pan out if a bill is passed – will there be a compromise with House Judiciary before the bill hits the floor, or will the two versions of the bill battle it out on the house floor. Appropriations was expected to be the hardest hurdle for S 241 within the house; however, many are saying that they want to pass a bill in order to have a solid ground to stand on when negotiating with the Senate. The bill is expected to make it to the floor next week.

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