Mobilizing Michigan for Drug-Free Kids

May 2, 2013 Issues: AntiDrug

We all know that a coalition of community leaders can have a vital impact when we get together, identify a problem and work together to solve it. This week, community anti-drug coalitions launched another important phase in their effort to do just that.

Since the start of the Drug Free Communities program in 1997 — which I was proud to co-author with now-U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio — more than 2,000 communities have received grants through the program and eight years of evaluation have demonstrated that youth substance abuse is down in those communities.

The Mobilizing Michigan campaign that we launched this week will take that effort to another level. The Chippewa Valley Coalition for Youth and Families, working with the Macomb County Office of Substance Abuse, has developed a comprehensive tool kit to be used by coalitions around the state to combat youth marijuana abuse. I have always found coalition leaders to be very collaborative in sharing successes and challenges and learning from one another. This is an outgrowth of that effort.

We are not trying to re-litigate the ballot initiative over medical marijuana. We are trying to prevent harmful effects to our youth. Just as community anti-drug coalitions work to combat youth alcohol abuse, youth prescription drug abuse and underage smoking, they also need to be equipped to educate students on the dangers of marijuana abuse.

The latest Monitoring the Future study — conducted last year — found that daily marijuana use among 12th-graders remains at alarmingly high levels, with roughly 1 in 15 high school seniors today using marijuana almost daily. Use goes up when the perception of risk goes down.

At a youth dialogue day in Oakland County last month students from several high schools said they could buy marijuana in school any day they wanted. "No big deal" was the impression they conveyed. Well it is a big deal — for our youths' health, studies, safety and their futures.

Let's not let an adult debate about medical marijuana get in the way of something we all agree on: We want our kids drug- and alcohol-free and will do everything we can to achieve that outcome.

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