Marion County Juvenile Judge and Clinton and Effingham County Drug Court Judge Ericka Sanders is concerned about how the new marijuana legalization for adults will impact juveniles and addicts.
Sanders was one of the speakers at a program sponsored by the Marion County Drug Coalition on what parents need to know about marijuana legalization held Tuesday night at the Salem Community Theatre.
Sanders says research indicates marijuana has an impact on the development of the brain that continues until the age of 25. However, she says the impact is even greater during the adolescent years.
“They never go back to the way they were before they used drugs. And the reason for that, and some people call it “burn out” is because they did so much when they were young when their brain was developing. Most of the time we can correct the damage that has been done by getting people into recovery, that’s why recovery is so important. But for some that used a lot at a young age, it’s difficult to recover.”
Sanders says for many juveniles dealing with trauma in their daily lives, their release is pot. She fears it will become easier for youth to get drugs.
“Just because it’s natural, just because it’s legal, does not mean its safe for a kid to use. That’s why we all have to make sure its the same message we are all spreading.”
Sanders says some see cannibals products as a way to lower opioid use for those with chronic pain, but others who just smoke pot are said to be six times more likely to abuse opioids. She adds there’s no firm evidence on the impact of medical marijuana, with some including the National Association of Drug Court officials, calling reported benefits “junk science”.
Sanders also had a warning for those how are addicted to drugs and alcohol.
“It is a disease. We know that the way their brain looks when we scan. People can recover but their brain will always be addicted. It doesn’t have to do anything to do with intelligence, we have brilliant addicts. But it affects their brain for the rest of their life. So they ingest alcohol, pot, that triggers those addictive chemicals in their brain and they are one step away from sticking a needle in their arm.”
The forum also included a presentation from Salem Police Chief Sean Reynolds which showed a marijuana dispensary would look much like a regular retail store. There was also a presentation on parents needing to talk to their children about drugs. A recovering addict also shared his story on how marijuana was the first step to an addiction to heroin and meth.