Vt. health officials alarmed at changing perception of pot among youth

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) A new study shows a majority of Vermont youth no longer feel regular marijuana use damages developing brains.

The study conducted at Montana State University shows that marijuana use dropped among teen and young adults in some states where recreational use is now legal.

While Vermont does not have any usage stats since legalization here, the Youth Risk Behavior Survey shows that the percentage of Vermont youth who admit to using marijuana in the past 30 days rose by two percent from 2015 to 2017.

"The percentage of youth who admit to have ever used marijuana really has stayed pretty steady over time," said Kelly Dougherty, the deputy commissioner of alcohol and drug abuse programs at the Vermont Department of Health.

One stat that concerns state health officials is the perceived risk of harm. Over three-quarters of young people in Vermont don't think marijuana use is harmful. The human brain is developing until the age of 25 and it has been shown that regular marijuana use up to that point can have very harmful effects on brain development. Still, a lot of Vermont youth don't feel that regular marijuana use is harmful to them.

"If you're living a healthy lifestyle. Otherwise regular use could be rather non-intrusive," said Eli Lewis, a University of Vermont student.
"It's that everybody hops on effect of everybody's doing it, how can it be bad. And then as soon as they see a negative result, it just kinda gets pulled back," said Liz Bashaw, a UVM student.

"Most kids think, 'You know, I know someone who's done that so it's not a bad thing.' So, I mean I guess kids are not informed enough," said Julia Gerardi, a UVM student.

The results from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey conducted in Vermont schools this past year will be released this fall and health officials are eager to see if perception of marijuana use has changed or remained the same.