FREDONIA – A panel discussion about what legalization of recreational marijuana means for Chautauqua County took place in Fredonia on Wednesday night, with one expert sounding the alarm about teens using the drug.
Experts from the field of law enforcement to health industries met at the Fredonia Opera House for the hour-long conversation, taking questions directly from the public in attendance.
The Executive Director of Prevention Works Melanie Witkowski says she is concerned with how the community as a whole can protect youth, specifically because Chautauqua County has been identified as one of the unhealthiest areas in the state.
“Adding another substance, I think, is going to cause a little bit of concern especially for our youth,” explained Witkowski. “We work with youth ages 13 and up, providing a harm reduction approach called ‘Teen Intervene’, it’s not telling youth to not smoke marijuana, but let’s limit when you are using it, let’s not use it before you are going to school, let’s not use it during the week when you are trying to learn and remember information you are being presented too.”
She says teenagers don’t make the best decisions already, and fears adding another legal substance could compound the already ongoing issues like vaping and smoking.
Use of marijuana is permitted statewide, however municipalities have until the end of the year to decide whether they would permit cannabis sales in their governing districts.
So far, several communities have already opted out of allowing dispensaries in their neighborhoods, including the Towns of Chautauqua and Gerry, Villages of Bemus Point, Cassadaga and Lakewood.