Tonight’s forum will focus on the influence of medical pot on youth |

Tonight’s forum will focus on the influence of medical pot on youth

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Colorado Attorney General John Suthers is scheduled to join a local panel discussion tonight on the impacts of the presence of medical marijuana in the state on adolescent youth.

“The attorney general has consistently voiced his concerns that the presence of medical marijuana has increased the availability to and the acceptability of marijuana among youth in our state,” Suthers’ spokesman Mike Saccone said Monday.

This would be Suthers’ second trip to Glenwood Springs to participate in discussions about the medical marijuana industry and its potential legal ramifications. Saccone said the visit may be weather dependent, as a winter storm was forecast to move through the area today.

Tonight’s forum, titled “The Presence of Medical Marijuana and Our Kids: Facts You Should Know,” will take place from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Glenwood Springs Community Center.

It is being sponsored by YouthZone, the Roaring Fork School District, the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association, Community Health Initiatives and Valley View Hospital.

In addition to Suthers, panelists are to include Glenwood Springs Police Chief Terry Wilson and Dr. Paul Salmen, a longtime local family physician and the medical director at the Youth Recovery Center, a substance abuse treatment facility for youth located at Valley View Hospital.

Area youth and health organizations have become increasingly concerned about medical marijuana, which, although legal for certified patients, is sometimes illegally finding its way into the hands of teenagers.

The forum has been in the works for several weeks, as agencies have been compiling statistics and other information on the issue.

It is designed for parents, youth, elected officials, business owners and citizens to engage in a conversation on the issue, said Lori Mueller, program director for YouthZone, an organization focused on youth crisis intervention and prevention.

“This is something that people have been mulling around in their minds for some time,” Mueller said. “Especially in the last two years, we have seen an increase in the number of kids who come to us who have been charged with marijuana use.”

That could be for a variety of reasons, she said, but it does coincide with the rapid proliferation of medical marijuana dispensaries in Glenwood Springs and other valley communities.

“We’re also finding that people have a lot of misinformation and myths about the issue, and we want to get to the reality of how marijuana impacts the adolescent brain,” Mueller said. “That way we can be a lot smarter as a community about the issues.”

Medical marijuana and its impact on the business community has also been a concern for the Glenwood Springs Chamber, which is co-sponsoring the event.

“The purpose of our involvement is to educate, and not to condone or to raise opposition to medical marijuana,” Chamber President and CEO Marianne Virgili said.

“As many Colorado communities are examining the actual effects of medical marijuana in their towns, it’s important for Glenwood Springs to become educated on the effects that medical marijuana dispensaries can have on youth,” she said.

The chamber has also hosted seminars in recent years on the impacts of medical marijuana in the workplace, and the implications for both employers and their workers.

At the forum tonight, each of the panelists will be given time to make a presentation from their perspective. The meeting will then be opened up for questions from the audience.

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