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To the Editor:

The recent legalization of marijuana across the river in Illinois has created discussion and confusion around the severity and safety of use, especially among youth.

According to the Iowa Youth Survey, over a quarter (28%) of 11th graders have ever used marijuana. This percentage doubled from two years prior when 13% of 11th graders reported marijuana use.

Two factors that may be contributing to this rise include perception of harm and ease of access. Youth in Clinton County increasingly perceive marijuana use as not significantly harmful to their health. Additionally, 2/3 of 11th graders believe it would be easy for them to get marijuana in their neighborhood or community.

We know from extensive research that marijuana use during the developmental years can be significantly damaging to the brain. Regular use can lead to issues with thinking and problem solving, changes in perceptions and mood, and disrupted learning and memory. This leads to students who use marijuana being less likely to finish high school and graduate from college.

It is important that we continue to educate youth in the community on the scientific evidence behind consequences of regular marijuana use during the developing years. Your Life Iowa is a great resource for both adults and youth to access information, research, and resources on substances.

For more information, please go to https://yourlifeiowa.org/ or call ASAC Prevention at 563-243-2124.

Ellen Gackle, Prevention Specialist, Area Substance Abuse Council