Viewpoint: Concerns about legalization

  • Jane Skantze Courtesy Photo—

For the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/8/2019 4:21:28 PM

As a certified prevention specialist, substance misuse prevention coordinator, and parent here in the Monadnock region, I am extremely concerned about the legalization and commercialization of marijuana in our state.

New Hampshire has been reviewing our marijuana laws for years. In the last five years alone, the legislature has approved both medicinal marijuana and decriminalization. These laws make a great deal of sense. What doesn’t make sense is legalizing and commercializing this harmful substance and making it more available to youth in our communities.

The evidence is clear; harmful substances like marijuana negatively impact brain development. Our brains are built from the bottom up and are still developing through our early to mid-twenties. As a person in recovery, I can tell you my experience with marijuana was not harmless. I started using marijuana in high school and continued using throughout my early twenties. Marijuana opened the door for me to feel comfortable with other substances and a culture that supported substance misuse. The National Institute on Drug Abuse has found that the earlier adolescents experiment with marijuana, the more at risk they are for increased substance use later in life. This was my experience.

The legalization of marijuana means that Big Marijuana (think Big Tobacco) will come to our communities. Picture a pot shop in downtown Peterborough or Keene. The commercialization of marijuana in New Hampshire would likely include an active network of growers, manufacturers, distributors and retail establishments, in business to earn a profit. The goal of these businesses would be to increase consumption by marketing to regular users and new users, often including young people. As Big Marijuana has shown in other states, commercialization allows large companies to target advertisements to our youth. Allowing an onslaught of advertisements to our children and pot shops in our neighborhood would only decrease the perceived risk of harm among our kids, and increase youth use of the drug.

The Monadnock region already has an exceptionally low perception of harm by our youth when it comes to marijuana use. According to the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (a national survey given to high school aged youth), only 11.3 percent percent of high-schoolers in the Monadnock region believed that people were at risk of harm from marijuana use once or twice a week. The relationship between “perceived risk of harm” from drug use and increased rates of drug use has been well established by researchers.

Today’s marijuana is far more potent than in the past. The average THC, the intoxicating compound of marijuana, has dramatically increased, from 4 to 6 percent in traditional marijuana to as high as 95 percent in edible products. Big Marijuana would bring in high potency marijuana based oils and tinctures, and edible products such as marijuana infused candy and baked goods, again making the dangerous drug more accessible and appealing to our youth.

The argument for legalization often centers on our nation’s history of discriminatory drug laws and selective enforcement. Yes, there have been drug laws that aim to discriminate against marginalized populations such as youth and minorities. We should not use marijuana legalization as an excuse to not address the injustices that are embedded in our system. Legalizing marijuana is a poor remedy to fix systemic prejudice at the cost of the health of traditionally marginalized populations.

We need to think along the lines of how does this benefit our communities? It would seem that the risks this poses to our young people outweigh the claimed benefits. The bottom line is that recreational marijuana will not be good for youth in the Monadnock region.


Jane Skantze is the substance misuse prevention coordinator for the Greater Monadnock Public Health Region. As an employee at Cheshire Medical Center she has taken an active role leading the charge for prevention of substance abuse in the Monadnock region.


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