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Frank Ferry: Let’s not play drug dealer to the SCV youth

Guest commentary

Posted: July 28, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: July 28, 2011 1:55 a.m.
 

Recently, a speaker came to our City Council meeting, asking the council to reconsider its ban on marijuana dispensaries in our city. As an avid opponent of marijuana use and dispensaries, I feel compelled to share some opinions I have as a parent and school administrator.

First and foremost, you need to know that drug use, especially marijuana use among teens, doesn’t just exist in the Santa Clarita Valley, it is rampant.

Now, I know for some of you parents, this is not troubling to you. Heck, you used marijuana in your teens, you smoked, drank beer — you see it as a rite of passage and you are not concerned. 

What you may not know is that the marijuana that is available to teens today is much stronger than the marijuana that was available in the 1960s or ’70s. Marijuana is absolutely physically addictive. Today, it is the most-used illegal drug in the U.S.
According to a 2009 national survey, more than 104 million Americans over the age of 12 had tried marijuana at least once, and almost 17 million had used the drug in the month prior to the survey.

Research indicates that the earlier teens start using marijuana, the more likely they are to become dependent on this or other drugs later in life. I believe that with the advent of marijuana dispensaries, our children receive a mixed message about marijuana.

Marijuana is an illegal substance that absolutely affects teens in many harmful ways. It is vital that we begin talking with kids at a young age about this drug. Teens need to be told clearly and often that using marijuana and other illegal substances carries significant health, safety and legal risks.

What concerns me about legalizing dispensaries is the “slippery slope.”

Those truly in need and eligible for medical marijuana in our community are a very small group compared with the large number of teens who may “slip through the system” and be able to obtain marijuana from a dispensary.

While you may say that “kids will get it anyway,” I say let’s not be our children’s drug dealer.

For those of you who are wondering what is being done to prevent teen alcohol and drug use in our community, I can tell you that it is a lot.

The Sheriff’s deputies conduct regular alcohol stings and utilize minor decoys to catch liquor stores that sell to minors, as well as adults who buy alcohol for minors. The Sheriff’s Department also works closely with the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to conduct operations and stings and enforce the law.

Most recently, the creation of the “J-Team” by the Sheriff’s Department and the city focuses on teen and youth crimes, including a whole lot of drug issues.

The city of Santa Clarita, the William S. Hart School District and the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station have formed a proactive committee to work on a comprehensive approach to drug use and abuse in Santa Clarita, including drug-prevention programs and events, continued enforcement in schools, and the community and various media campaigns to raise awareness and educate parents on the easy access to drugs in schools, and the risky behaviors among adolescents and teens that are precursors to or indicators of substance use. 

Our own Blue Ribbon Task Force offers programs and education to the community that addresses timely teen issues, including drug and alcohol use.

We do not, and have not, supported nor endorsed marijuana dispensaries in our valley. It is so easy for teens (or even adults, for that matter) who do not necessarily have debilitating conditions to potentially get a prescription written for medical marijuana. Having a facility close by will provide easy access and can easily compound the problem.

I am particularly proud of the Dads & Moms Against Drugs program which I founded. This program is a group of moms and dads and their teens/tweens who meet and listen to presentations about drug use (or nonuse) among teens. Parents are given drug test kits to use on their kids randomly; results are confidential and kept among themselves. After six years, with 90 kids, we have an astounding 98-percent-plus success rate.

So my answer, and the Santa Clarita City Council’s answer, to the man at the podium who wants us to reconsider our ban on marijuana dispensaries in our city is a resounding no. I simply will not allow our city to play a role as a drug dealer in Santa Clarita.

Frank Ferry is a Santa Clarita City councilman, and can be reached at: fferry@santa-clarita.com.

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