BELLOWS FALLS -- The Greater Falls Prevention Coalition along with five other community prevention coalitions attended the 23rd National Leadership Forum and Prevention Day in Washington D.C. Feb. 4 to 7. Director Frannie Waldron and Media Coordinator Chad Simmons represented GFPC.
Organized by the Community Anti-Drug Coalition Association in conjunction with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the forum was an opportunity for community coalitions to hear the latest research surrounding prevention, community building and youth leadership. Highlights included a dynamic presentation on binge drinking and addictive behaviors as well as inspiring workshops on youth-led prevention efforts.
Shifting marijuana policy was front and center during the four-day forum. GFPC staff participated in several discussions around national and state marijuana policy and how policy changes could impact our communities. Specifically, the prevention field is looking at the adverse impact on public health and safety, state and federal budgets and law enforcement. Particular emphasis was given to the growing body of research showing the effects of marijuana use on the developing teen brain and understanding the connection between changing policy, increased availability, decreased perception of harm (i.e. assumption of low risk) and increased use. This is especially timely as Vermont state legislators discuss decriminalizing
GFPC and the other Vermont coalitions met with staff members of the Senators Patrick Leahy, Bernie Sanders and Congressman Peter Welch. They talked about the importance of investing in prevention efforts, including the Drug Free Communities Act, Sober Truth on Preventing Underage Drinking Act, and increased research related to health effects of substance use (Senator Leahy is fierce supporter of Drug Free Community funding). The meetings also was an opportunity to address marijuana policy at the Federal level. During the conversation with Brian Seeley, Counsel for the U.S. Senate Judiciary and chaired by Senator Leahy, it was made clear that the Senator wanted clarification from the Obama Administration on how it would respond to the two states (Washington and Colorado) that passed laws legalizing the possession of marijuana under one ounce. (This was also articulated in a Dec. 6, 2012 letter to the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, attached). Coalitions urged the Senator’s office and other members of congress to consider the impacts on public health and safety as well as the social and economic burdens placed on our communities.
GFPC is one of six coalitions from across the state funded by the federal Drug Free Communities grant. Monthly meetings are held every third Friday of the month, from noon to 1:30 pm at the Parks Place Community Resource Center in Bellows Falls. For more information, go to www.gfpcandtheline.org.