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Published on June 15th, 2022 | by Burlington Partnership

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We Should All Educate Ourselves About the Cannabis of Today

Hello Friends of BPHC,

Laws in VT related to cannabis have been changing rapidly in the last decade. I don’t know about all of you, but I always feel like I’m constantly trying to catch up. In our most recent newsletter we shared information about how the laws as well as the cannabis products have changed and some of the things you can expect as a result. One thing I do know is that these changes have a potential for huge impacts on the health and safety of our local community. In much of our community conversation, cannabis commercialization efforts have focused heavily on developing the legal profit-making system. Today I want to talk about what we feel is as important – spending just as much time and resources to ensure we support public health, protect youth, and advance social equity in health in Burlington.

Across the globe, legal substances are used at much higher rates and so create significantly greater social and economic costs to communities (particularly when there is a commercial market that is allowed to advertise and promote). Big Tobacco and Big Alcohol are powerful industries with large pockets in our state, and as a result have been hard to regulate. We also know that the earlier people start using any substance the more likely they are to develop a problem, which is why our coalition focuses heavily on youth prevention strategies. The substances that kids almost always start with are alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis.

Big Alcohol and Big Tobacco have a long history of marketing products to minors, BIPOC communities, people who identify as LGBTQ+, and low-income neighborhoods. In order for commercial industries to make a profit, it is necessary to get people using early and often to develop long and lasting users. The growing cannabis industry is set to follow the same playbook and is now even bankrolled by major alcohol, tobacco, and pharmaceutical industries. Promotion and easy access to substances in communities has been shown to increase high-risk use and the development of substance use disorders, particularly for populations that are already disproportionately impacted by inequitable access to health.

The Burlington Partnership for a Healthy Community is committed to helping Burlington prevent and reduce the causes and consequences of substance misuse by supporting an environment in which all community members can thrive, and the healthy choices are the easy choices for everyone regardless of who they are or where they live. I’m inviting you to work with us to ensure we put effective community regulation in place to reduce harm, prevent problem cannabis use, and remedy the harms caused by the criminalization of cannabis. We can take an evidence-based approach and draw on scientific research and lessons from tobacco and alcohol control and the other areas of the US and Canada that have been dealing with the impacts of legalized cannabis commercialization.

Below we’ve listed recommendations based on the best science available to help reduce youth use and high-risk use for adults:

  • Create buffers for adult-only product sales near schools and other places kids gather
  • Establish density maximums (“no more than 1 license per block”)
  • Prohibit use in public and at family-friendly events (alcohol, cannabis, tobacco)
  • Prohibit any adult-only advertising (content neutral) in locations accessed by kids and/or Limit/Eliminate Window/Sidewalk/Street view advertisements
  • Require clear warnings and disclosures on labels and at stores – including information about the health risks of use
  • Support a local options tax – youth are highly influenced by price
  • Collect data to help monitor and respond to impacts on kids and increases in use rates
  • Create structure to make local decisions with a public health lens/voice, such as a local CCB with a public health representative on the board

These are more complex issues than I can fully get into in one article. What I hope to leave you with today is how important it is for everyone to become educated about the cannabis available today and the ways it will impact communities, particularly our youth if we don’t plan ahead. So, how will you help support access to good information and prevention of youth use of cannabis in our community?

  • Will you share information from VT’s Let’s Talk Cannabis campaign for adults or ParentUP to help parents of tweens and teens prevent youth marijuana and other substance use?
  • Will you join our Healthy BTV Work Group to work on improving local policy, practice, education, and community design related to legal substance use? (Fill out our contact form to get involved.)
  • Will you check out our interactive, Burlington-specific website with maps, visuals, and data to help reduce underage use and adult misuse of substances through improvements to local policy and community design. Take the survey at the top of the page!

Warmly,
Mariah Flynn, Coalition Director

Read our June 2022 Cannabis Education Newsletter here.


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