“Empowered Coalitions Educating Youth and Communities About Marijuana”

The 7th Annual Conference was held September 26th with 25 communities represented, over 250 in attendance, with 75 of those being teens. We heard the teen voice loud and clear. They are powerfully taking a leadership role, raising their strong voices to help present accurate messaging and taking the reins to positively lead, direct and influence.

Massachusetts is part of the changing landscape nationally with respect to legalization of marijuana. We can’t fold our tent and ignore the sweeping winds of change. It is imperative that we connect, collaborate and circle our coalition work round, like the stage coaches did years ago to provide protection and a strong, resilient front line. Empowered coalitions enhance community strength. This is done by bringing together all 12 sectors of communities.

Knowledge is key to empowerment. Sharing resources allows us to bring evidence based programs, strategies and information across our region.

Dr. Joe Shrand provided a lively and very informative keynote presentation, “It’s All About Perspective: Marijuana”. He walked the audience through perspective, trust, brain structures and addiction, and approaches we can take to have positive impact. “Dr. Joe” reached across the room from adults to teens, helping them understand that marijuana has implications for learning and memory and that it is a “Mortal” issue, not a “Moral” issue.

Other presentations included:

  • Here and Now: Leading Us to Our Future
  • Evidence Based Programs
  • Teens Leading Teens: Capacity Building and Advocacy
  • Weeding Through the Myths: Marijuana in Massachusetts display

The afternoon allowed communities to work on plans and goals for the next year. It was remarkable how the teen voices prevailed, how they spoke eloquently and directly about what they want to undertake. They spoke to the need for parents to be positive role models, for parents to not allow substance use, for the positive teen voice to have weight and impact.

Ryan Morgan, Principal of Independence Academy, shared the story of Desmond Tutu and the notion of moving upstream to discover why people fall in to the river.

We must dedicate ourselves as individuals and communities to persevere, to double down, to work harder and stronger than ever so we do not face an even more virulent public health crisis years from now, based on innocence regarding marijuana. Resilience, grit, caring connected trusting adults, knowledge all make a difference.

My mandate to all of us is to raise our voices up, to empower teens, to band together to be heard.

(For those of you who were not able to attend Dr. Shrand’s presentation is available electronically)