On Thursday, representatives from Health Advocates Rejecting Marijuana (HARM), spoke to an audience at the conference center at Choctaw Casino in Durant about the danger and prevention of marijuana use. The conference was hosted by the Bryan County Turning point Drug Free Community Coalition and the Wichita Mountains Prevention Network.
The goals of HARM are “to decrease the accessibility/ availability of marijuana-related paraphernalia and to minimize messages that encourage, normalize or trivialize marijuana use” and “to reduce marijuana use by youth, to lessen the problems associated with the accessibility and use of marijuana by youth and to change the perception that marijuana is harmless.”
During the conference, the following five policy campaigns were discussed in-depth: head shop policy, retailers policy, special events and outdoor venues policy, dispensaries policy and media normalization. John Byrom, co-facilitator of HARM, and Rebecca Hernandez, a policy co-chair, spoke to the audience about marijuana use in San Diego County, California. In 1996, California passed a law legalizing the use, possession and cultivation of marijuana by patients who possess a “written or oral recommendation” from a physician that he or she “would benefit from medical marijuana.”
Byrom said he actively protested the law and has been fighting against marijuana use in California ever since. Hernandez became involved working against marijuana use when she was employed at a San Diego high school working with at-risk high school students. She said she saw how drugs and alcohol were negatively affecting their lives and futures.
“We’re losing a whole generation of kids to drug use,” she said. During the presentation, the team spoke about different initiatives of the organization and how they have worked to stop the prevalence of the glamorization of drug use in society. They showed pictures of clothing, shoes, belts, bags and other items found in major stores in California. Pictures and clips of sound and video were also viewed that showed how HARM has been actively fighting marijuana use in San Diego County.
Hernandez said, “We need to stand up to the bully. We’re going to lose our nation if we let people like that [advocates of marijuana use] move forward and that’s why we’re sharing what’s going on in California with other states.”
Byrom urges residents of Southeastern Oklahoma to take a stand against marijuana use and work to prevent its prevalence in the community.
“You can stop it and that’s what’s great. You can stop it from growing to the point of California and you can be the prevention. You have the ability because it hasn’t taken hold here; it’s nothing compared to California. If you can stop it before it happens, that’s the whole idea of prevention. “
According to Gwynn Busby, Wichita Mountains Prevention Network regional coordinator, marijuana use was chosen as a priority issue in Bryan County because of the high rate of admission into treatment with marijuana designated as the drug of choice. Southeastern Oklahoma State University’s arrest records show 100% of drug arrest for students 18 and over at the university had marijuana included with other drugs that were confiscated. Slightly over one-third of the Bryan County Court’s cases are related to marijuana charges. These charges include: possession, intent to sell, cultivate, and paraphernalia.
Bryan County plans to adopt HARM as a county-wide marijuana prevention initiative. For more information about HARM in Bryan County, contact Gwynn Busby at (580) 490-9021, ext. 102.