Should Hastings become one of the first villages in Westchester County to welcome cannabis/marijuana dispensaries into our downtown? As pediatricians who specialize in the care of adolescents, we think this would be terrible for the health of teens in the Rivertowns.

The science on dispensaries is clear. Adolescents who attend school near a dispensary are more likely to use marijuana and to use it at heavy, problematic levels. Adolescents are more likely to use marijuana if they perceive that it is safe. If a marijuana dispensary moves into town with the blessing of our mayor, board of trustees, and parental community, it will reinforce the message to teens that marijuana use is normal and safe for them.

In our practices (Dr. Jacobs and Dr. Dodson work at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital and Pediatrics on Hudson, respectively), we see that when adolescents chronically smoke marijuana, it is not normal or safe. We see large numbers of teens with marijuana-induced depression and anxiety. These mood disorders can’t be treated with medications; teens need to stop smoking marijuana to get better, and this is a hard sell when they have already gotten the message that marijuana is natural and harmless. We see teens who are physically and psychologically addicted to marijuana, and need to smoke every day, sometimes all day, to feel “normal.” We see marijuana use cause teens to fail out of school and to lose motivation to pursue their dreams.

The research reinforces what we see in our offices. Adolescent marijuana use is associated with depression, suicide attempts, cognitive and academic impairments, declines in IQ that persist even after abstaining from use, decreased attention and concentration, and decreased ability to learn. The more marijuana an adolescent uses, the greater the odds of developing a psychotic illness such as schizophrenia as an adult. Teen marijuana use is associated with higher risk of cannabis addiction compared with adult use.

While it is not legal to sell cannabis in New York State to anyone under 21 years old, we know that illegal markets often pop up around dispensaries, and anyone with fake IDs can purchase marijuana. We strongly recommend to our mayor and trustees to vote to opt out of allowing dispensaries in Hastings.

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