SCARBOROUGH — The change in marijuana laws in Maine might have parents, teachers and students confused or concerned, but Scarborough High School wants to educate everyone on how to stay safe.

On Nov. 25, Officer Andrew Flynn of the Scarborough Police Department spoke at an assembly for parents at Scarborough High School about marijuana, pills and opioids, as well as the ways that a teenager or young adult can access certain substances.

Flynn said that recreational marijuana retailers could be opening up as soon as March of 2020.

Susan Ketch, principal of Scarborough High School, said that she wanted students to know when and how to get help in the event of a drug-related emergency. She also wanted parents and teachers to be aware about what kinds of substances and methods are out there and affecting the community.

David Packhem, a Scarborough resident, also spoke to parents about addiction, using his own family as an example of when alcohol can be dangerous.

“I think the days of, ‘Well, they just passed out in the corner, and they’ll sleep it off for a while and they’ll be fine’ are over,” Ketch said. “I worry that there could be a student who has substances that gives them a seizure or something like that, and I want kids to know you need to call for the adult help or the medical help you might need. You can’t be afraid of doing that, that you might get in trouble. You need to look out for your friends, and I think that’s a new message.”

Flynn’s presentation educated parents on the most popular ways marijuana users ingest the product.

One form of ingesting marijuana, edibles, which is a food product that contains THC or CBD, can be hard for parents to spot when searching for the drug in the home, Flynn said. If they aren’t in the packaging, edibles can look like any other kind of cookie, chocolate bar, brownie or gummy bear.

Ketch told parents that she is making sure students are educated about edibles as well, so that they can prevent overdosing.

“One of my biggest concerns is that our students — I’m not sure if they’ve been in touch with edibles before — if they know what portions are and what would be a safe use and what would put us in a danger zone,” she said.

An inexperienced user may not know how to dose out an edible, said Flynn.

He said that a typical candy bar containing THC would have about 100 milligrams. An inexperienced user typically ingests five to 10 milligrams of THC, and a first-time user, like a high school student, may feel effects after one to 2 1/2 milligrams.

“The issue we run into with in edibles: it takes a little bit to take effect,” Flynn said. “What happens is that someone takes a bite of a candy bar, they don’t feel it. They take a second bite, don’t feel it. They take a third bite, and it hits them all at once when it starts to take effect.”

Besides edibles, Flynn talked about vaping products, which are increasing in popularity among younger people. Vape pens can be modified to take THC products, but this is dangerous.

Flynn said that if done incorrectly, the alcohol-based vaping applicator can explode when a high school student tries to modify it to take THC oils.

Besides issues surrounding marijuana, Packhem, whose presentation was more focused on alcohol, said that he wanted parents to take away three key points from the evening.

“One: We’ve learned that addiction of any kind is a very serious brain disease,” he said. “Two: Alcohol, despite what we’re led to believe by people who sell alcohol, is that it’s not a benign beverage that can be enjoyed by the vast amount of people without repercussions. Three: The legalization of marijuana is going to have some serious impacts on our community.”

Packhem said that his son has struggled with alcoholism, a problem that didn’t really affect him until after college.

“I should say, our boys tell us that they didn’t drink in high school because we would have caught them,” Packhem said. “But then they went to college. College was a totally different experience, and they learned to drink in college and learned to enjoy alcohol.”

He said that his son described addiction as, “Standing in a swamp up to your knees all by yourself, and if you’re lucky, you’ve got a sword.”

Alcohol is marketed to young adults, people in their early twenties, said Packhem, but there have been new marketing strategies to get a wider demographic drinking.

“Beer is in decline,” he said. “Beer is working very hard, overtime, to regain its posture. So they’re introducing a lot of specialty beers, trying to attract more women; that’s why we see blueberry beers and pumpkin spice beers and a lot of these craft beers, and they’re heavily marketing this age group.”

One big issue when it came to the marketing was that the target audience is typically people who already are addicted, said Packhem, as the vast majority of adults in America aren’t drinking too much — if at all — each week.

Flynn told parents that he and Packhem weren’t trying to scare anyone or keep students from spending time with friends and having fun, but it’s important that they know the risks.

Before the assembly, Packhem said his son told him, “You can’t stop kids from drinking alcohol. The best you can do is to make sure that if they have a problem, they can get some help.”

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