To the Editor:
The city of Marlborough is in debate about the placement of a recreational marijuana dispensary at Twin Boro Crossing on route 20, near the Northborough Line, just 1.2 miles from Algonquin Regional High School. I am a resident of Southborough and am writing as a parent of teenagers and as a pediatrician.
Data from our region (MetroWest Adolescent Survey) is concerning. Marijuana use among teens has increased from 2016 to 2018. Marijuana vaping is increasing, with a quarter of our area’s high school students reporting having used marijuana in an electronic vapor device in their lifetime. Two thirds of high school students say marijuana is “fairly easy” or “very easy” to obtain. Nearly half of youth (44%) think there is either “no risk” or “slight risk” of using marijuana once or twice a week. Lower risk perception is related to increased use.
If you ask teens where they get the marijuana they use, they will say it was legally purchased by someone else who then gave it to them. Higher rates of past 30 day marijuana use increased among adolescents were found in Oregon counties that allow recreational marijuana sales. In those same counties teens were less likely to think using cannabis products was harmful. (American Journal of Preventive Medicine, February 2020).
In the clinical setting more and more teens are presenting with Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome, an illness where these kids wake up in the morning with vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea. These kids cannot make it to school. They are more likely to suffer from mood issues and anxiety. Watching teens suffer from cannabis induced psychosis is heartbreaking.
We know that teens who use any of the gateway drugs, marijuana, alcohol, or tobacco, are more likely to develop dependence addiction not just to these drugs, but others as well, including opioids. Marijuana use is associated with an increased risk of developing opioid use disorder. Clinical studies verify this fact. (American Journal of Psychiatry, 2018).
The decision made in Marlborough will impact everyone in the surrounding towns. I hope that full consideration is given to the health and safety of our children.
Physician, UMass Memorial Assistant Professor of Pediatrics,
University of Massachusetts School of Medicine