By on November 10, 2015

Potholes to Pot

Three years ago, Wyoming was road blocked on the path to legalizing medical cannabis by major obstructionist thinking among not only our legislators, but by a main part of our citizenry as well. But there has been a change in thinking since Colorado’s legalization of recreational cannabis in many areas of Wyoming. What has turned those Boulders into mere Potholes since?

First, the dawning realization that, despite the negative publicity to start, the idea that people will DIE from using pot has been pretty well debunked by the facts.  There were several reported overdoses of edible cannabis when they first appeared on the market in Colorado, which has now tightened up its packaging and labeling rules to help prevent other incidents. These cases were mainly children whose concerned parents followed standard overdose and poisoning medical protocol in taking children to be observed in an Emergency Room for adverse events. The worst that happened?  They slept it off. The best thing that happened – no one died of overdosing on medibles – the strongest dosages of pot. No one has died since despite claims that an accidental fall was “possibly” caused by ingestion of a cookie. One of how many thousands that had no adverse effects? Much better than the stats on Wyoming manufactured OxyContin, without a doubt.  Wyoming Whiskey too, for that matter. Got a brew pub in your town?

Secondly, there is a growing awareness in the media and among the local and national populace that medical marijuana works! From epilepsy to Multiple Sclerosis and from spinal stenosis to ADD, people find benefit from cannabis in its many, many forms and means of delivery. Whether smoked, vaped, dropped as oil on the tongue, and in many new and different adaptations of itself, the benefits by far exceed the risks – all but one, that is. Which brings us to point number three.

The only risk left to assess regarding cannabis legalization is in how the current political climate will change when the legalization movement succeeds. That’s what Gov. Matt Mead’s task force is really doing. They are weighing how much MONEY Wyoming will lose by alienating Big Pharma backers. Most of the task force is made up of people who are vested in keeping asset forfeiture laws a sure thing in their secondary budgets and they aren’t willing to give up a thing, even if it’s the best thing for Wyoming people.  Well, we are the people, with the power to change things. The power to vote them out if they don’t agree with what we, the people of Wyoming bring.  Why is this lette titled “Potholes”? Because the only thing the task force can use to block us is a few bumps in the road on our way to collecting 50,000 signatures. Then it’s a smooth ride.  Their road-blocks on the legal and factual side are about to be blown down.

Legalization is reducing dangerous drug use everywhere it has been implemented. Why not here too? I see no more roadblocks here, only potholes.

Please support the Peggy A. Kelley Wyoming Cannabis Act of 2016. I like Wyoming NORML’s motto: Turning a red state green in 2016. (I’m humming a few bars of Willie here.)

–Mariah Kaze
Jackson, WY

Is the adult populace sending too many mixed messages to young people in Jackson? (Photo: Jake Joslyn)

Is the adult populace sending too many mixed messages to young people in Jackson? (Photo: Jake Joslyn)

Mixed Messages Hurt Teens

In The Planet’s feature “Identity Crisis” by Andrew Munz (Nov. 4, 2015), he recounts his teen experiences of consuming alcohol: “more often than not in a safe environment.” This seems to indicate as long as you are in the right place, alcohol is safe (no mention of alcohol poisoning or the impulsivity of intoxicated teens, the resulting problems such as sexual assault or the fact that addiction is often formed in teen years).

I do agree with Mr. Munz that demonizing teens is inappropriate. By nature, they are going to test boundaries occasionally and that’s OK, it’s our job (as adults) to give them safe structures to learn and grow in. While teens will experiment with alcohol, they do not need enabling messages from adults that it is OK or “safe” to do so, because it’s not.

 I have worked in substance abuse treatment with adults and teens here in Teton County and two of the most troubling aspects of addiction are: it starts young and is so difficult to overcome.  While most drinkers drink in a relatively safe way, many do not and ignoring this fact is a disservice to our community despite the “legacy” of partying that teens apparently are trying to measure up to. Eighty-eight percent of arrests in Teton County are alcohol related – the adults are struggling with alcohol, no wonder it’s a challenge for our youth.

 As Lieutenant Cole Nethercott accurately stated in the article it’s the “mixed messages” from adults in this community that significantly impact the attitudes of our teens.  Appropriate messages, boundaries and enforcement help keep teens from making serious mistakes.  Teens do not necessarily like this, but I support Mayor Flitner’s position of “keeping kids safe and alive” because preventing a tragedy is always the best option, even if the side effect is boredom.

 Mr. Munz quoted the 2014 Wyoming Prevention Needs Assessment, but he did not quote the binge drinking statistics for teens in Teton County, which are among the highest in the state. There are myriad reasons for this and the enabling behaviors (providing alcohol), role modeling and messages from adults are among the most concerning. 

The real “Identity Crisis” is in our adults.So we can choose to support the safe development of our youth or continue with messages and role modeling that influences young people in unhelpful ways.

–Matt Stech, MS, LPC
Jackson, WY

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