Leaders look to tackle marijuana use

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  • PHOTOS BY VERA OLINSKI Vernon Coalition Coordinator Rebecca Dorney gives a mini-seminar and update on marijuana in the U.S.A.

  • Vernon Township High School Principal Drew Krause reports about Retail Therapy.

  • New Vernon School Security Officer Ron Rivera expresses concern regarding marijuana gummy bears.

“Perception of risk: the more dangerous something is perceived to be, the less likely someone is to try it,” reviewed community leaders at their December Vernon Coalition meeting in the Lower Library of Vernon Township High School.

The leaders meet monthly to develop strategies in order to prevent and reduce substance abuse among Vernon's youth.

During the meeting, Vernon Coalition Coordinator Rebecca Dorney gave a mini-seminar and update on marijuana in the United States.

With many states voting for different forms of marijuana legalization, Dorney said, there now is a lower perception of danger, thus, leading to increased use and addiction.

Dorney explained, the marijuana of today is not what it used to be in the 1960s. At that time the psycho-active part of the drug, Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), was .02 percent. Now, through technological advancements, some concentrated forms of marijuana have 60-to-90 percent THC.

She continued, 22 million Americans have an addiction at this time; 8.3 million children live with a parent who needs treatment for addiction; and now the number one cause of accidental death is drug induced, not alcohol or guns.

Dorney said data regarding driving under the influence of marijuana is lacking, because in the past, only alcohol data was obtained. She added, now, people are tested for everything: alcohol, marijuana, and opiates; and marijuana is involved in a great majority of the cases.

Only blood tests are used for marijuana, and results do not come back for a couple of days. Dorney explained Cannabidiol (CBD), found in marijuana, may perhaps help seizures.

However, Dorney continued, any substance can be put into liquid form for “Vaping:” marijuana, heroin, ecstasy, Molly, Cocaine, and Methamphetamine.

She added, the Surgeon General just released a “huge historic report,”413 pages, discussing addiction of every possible drug, including a lot about prevention. She continued, the report also identified, for the very first time, vaping as a drug and needing prevention.

Dorney said, of grave concern is the 4th generation Electronic Nicotine Delivery System, where manufacturers intentionally disguise products to look like inhalers or whistles. She added the disguises are not for medicinal marijuana, but recreational.

She also discussed, many different types of marijuana concentrates and edibles. One example is “Shatter”, a very stiff form of butane hash oil, which can test between 60 and 90 percent THC.

Dorney explained, “Shatter” looks almost like a very thin window pane. Thus, the equivalent of 4 pounds of marijuana can be sent in a simple envelope. She added,

“Just a whole new world,”

Regarding edibles, Dorney explained, the recommended amount of THC in a serving of a marijuana edible product is 10 mg., whether cookie, candy bar, or gummy bear. She added, poison control is getting a lot more calls in every state because of edibles.

Executive Director for Prevention and Counseling Becky Carlson said, the Narcotic Task Force said, they are reporting and seeing more edibles in Sussex County, which is a big concern.

Dorney explained, marijuana edibles are not FDA approved and marijuana is still a Schedule 1 Drug, regardless of whether it is legal medicinally or for recreation in some states.

The new Vernon School Security Officer Ron Rivera commented, he has read cases where someone ate an entire “cookie,” which lead to jumping off a balcony. He added, gummy bears are “the scary one,” when used for that purpose, “What is the child going to think?”

Dorney also reviewed: eight states allow marijuana for recreational use; around 28 states medical marijuana; 16 states only CVD; and marijuana is only prohibited in: Idaho, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Indiana, and West Virginia.

As a result, Dorney continued, it will be more difficult to push the perception of marijuana being risky to kids. However, she added, as a group, team, and community, they need to determine how to explain the risk.

Vernon Township High School Principal Drew Krause shared about a “field trip” with Vernon Township School District Superintendent Art DiBenedetto and Dorney to “Retail Therapy” on Rte. 94. He said, “It was enlightening and disturbing,” where signs said, “For tobacco use only,” along with: pipes, bongs, stash cans — simulating real cans of soda, Monster, or Red Bull — to hide the “stuff.”

Recently retired Security Officer Jim Barta reported, LSD is starting to pop-up on the back of postage stamps and sugar cubes as edibles.

After the meeting, with passion and concern in her eyes, Dorney said, “My job is to reduce substance usage among youth. Over 90 percent of people of addiction started when they were adolescents: that's what we need to attack. That's why these are so important.”

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