Advocacy groups raise concerns about marijuana use among teens ahead of Virginia legalization

Marijuana is set to become legal in Virginia July 1

As state leaders prepare for the legalization of marijuana in Virginia, advocacy groups are raising concerns over the impacts on teens and young adults.

ROANOKE, Va. – As state leaders prepare for the legalization of marijuana here in Virginia come July 1, local advocacy groups and law enforcement agencies are raising concerns over an increase in use among teenagers and young adults.

Roanoke County Police Chief Howard Hall expects a large increase of young people using marijuana once it becomes legal this summer.

“A huge huge danger to our young people which the General Assembly doesn’t care about, but is happening all over the all over the country,” Roanoke County Police Chief Howard Hall said.

While anything under an ounce will be legal for those 21 and up, Hall says it will likely cause black market sales to spike because the commercial sale of marijuana is still far out.

“That shouldn’t happen if there was a legal dispensary but again we’re not going to have that till 2024, so the legal market is going to thrive,” Hall said.

Hall says the county has also dealt with many cases of laced marijuana.

“We are encountering marijuana laced with fentanyl, somewhat frequently,” Hall said.

Advocacy groups like the Prevention Council of Roanoke are also working to help close the gap between legalization and commercialization.

“We now have three years, that can be very concerning, and could lead it to growing the black market, between those three years there, there aren’t pieces in place, we’re very concerned about the messaging that needs to happen,” Prevention Council of Roanoke Executive Director Nancy Hans said.

A study done by the Roanoke Prevention Alliance shows from 2018 to 2019, near-daily use of marijuana increased 26.3% among 8th, 10th, & 12th graders. Something advocates say could have long-term impacts.

“Absolutely does impact the brain and it shortens the time that youth can be very addicted to these kinds of substances we know that from vaping that it doesn’t take a lot of years to have that happen, it could possibly even take weeks,” Hans said.

For more information on the Prevention Council of Roanoke, click here.

About the Author:

Annie Schroeder joined the 10 News team as a reporter in June 2020 and is no stranger to Southwest Virginia.