From Darkness To Light

12 Mar 2018

Celebrating Healthy Communities’ abstinence message resembles that of D.A.R.E. program

Posted by Adam Howell

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A forum on teenage marijuana use in Durango following legalization in Colorado offered a panel with teen’s perspectives, a marijuana business owner’s explanation of how underage sales are prevented, and a message from a marijuana opponent encouraging abstinence.


Breeah Kinsella, of Celebrating Healthy Communities, gives a speech about why parents should talk to their kids about avoiding marijuana. Jonny Radding, to the right, does not work for Celebrating Healthy Communities. Radding, a partner owner of Durango Organics, talked about how his business keeps marijuana out of the hands of youth.

Coalition Coordinator Breeah Kinsella, of Celebrating Healthy Communities, gave the last speech of the panel.

She claimed that marijuana is addictive and talked about the importance of providing teens with accurate information about marijuana. She told the audience to avoid repeating the same failed efforts of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program (D.A.R.E.).

Likewise, how different or similar is the message of Celebrating Healthy Communities to that of the D.A.R.E. program?

One point that Kinsella made that was the same found on the D.A.R.E. website was a citation from the National Institutes of Health that found 1 out of every 6 adolescents who try marijuana will develop an addiction.

When Kinsella cited the same study, she made it sound like Celebrating Healthy Communities was the organization who conducted the study, and wrote the report.

“People think that it’s not addictive. But what we found is that one in six teenagers who use drugs, who begin smoking marijuana as teens, one in six can become addicted,” said Kinsella. “People who are trying to quit marijuana, who use everyday report symptoms that include irritability, sleeplessness, decreased appetite, anxiety, and drug cravings. That’s addiction. It’s hard to quit. If you start smoking as a teenager, it’s going to be hard to quit.”

Latino and black teenagers are disproportionately arrested for marijuana possession more than white teenagers are, said Kinsella. This tidbit of information was found in a summary at the beginning of a state-sponsored report that followed surveys.

“The Colorado Health Department survey found that while there wasn’t a huge racial difference between which youth were using marijuana, the arrest rate for marijuana for white teenagers fell by nearly 10% between 2012 and 2014, while arrest rates for Latino and black youth respectively rose more than 20% and 50%. So this is one of those things, someone wants to talk about kids know the legal consequences of using marijuana, this is something that we need to address. If you know youth of color, they’re going to know that they’re more likely to get in trouble, but it’s ok for us to acknowledge that too, because that’s the only way we can change it.”

This same study was cited by the marijuana prohibition group called SAM, Smart Approaches to Marijuana, on their website.

Kinsella followed up this review of how minorities who use marijuana are impacted by law enforcement, with a note of caution about how to talk to kids about marijuana.

“Forty percent more likely to use, if you got through the DARE program,” said Kinsella. “Don’t try to scare your kids. It does not work. It does the opposite. So stay positive.”

Here's a graph from Celebrating Healthy Communities' website home page. The percent change column data does not match up with the data in the columns and rows to the left of it.

Here’s a graph from Celebrating Healthy Communities’ website home page. The percent change column data does not match up with the data in the columns and rows to the left of it.

“It is a really important tool to use with young people is to role play how to say no,” said Kinsella. “A lot of young people don’t know, that it’s as easy as, “you know what, if I get caught smoking pot, I can’t ski, I can’t dance, I can’t do theater, I can’t play my sports. Let them use you as an excuse, right. Let them know, “hey you can use me as an excuse, just say, you know what my Mom will kill me. I’ll be grounded all summer. Even if that’s not true, they can still use that. Cause peer pressure is real, and sometimes we have to prepare ourselves for what’s going to come.”

“I have loads and loads of statistics,” said Kinsella. “If ever you want some, give me a call, because I’d be happy to talk about statistics.”

Kinsella refused to answer my questions about her statistics when I called, emailed, and texted her to ask for her to explain her statistics for this story.

Celebrating Healthy Communities fights local marijuana industry

Celebrating Healthy Communities is a local organization that’s rooted in its past of pushing Durango City Council to impose restrictive, punitive policies upon the marijuana industry.

In February of 2017 when the Durango City Council was considering how to regulate buffers between retail marijuana stores in Durango, Kinsella and her counterpart Pat Senecal advocated for increased regulations.

At the City Council meeting, Kinsella provided a bunch of statistics related to how the legalization of marijuana has impacted youth and adults, stating:

  1. Youth marijuana use has increased since Colorado legalized marijuana. (Author’s note: The rate of youth using marijuana in Colorado is less than the national average, according to Data from the CDPHE)
  2. Youth incarceration for marijuana use costs too much money.
  3. Adults who use marijuana have more automobile accidents. (Authors note: Following legalization in Colorado and Washington, changes in motor vehicle crash rates were not statistically different than those from those of similar states that had not legalized marijuana, according to the American Journal of Public Health. The studies that are often used by marijuana opponents to say that traffic deaths associated with marijuana usage have gone up in Colorado are those that fail to isolate other intoxicants in the offender’s systems to prove that marijuana was the single causative intoxicant)
  4. Adolescents who use marijuana have lower IQ’s than those who do not. (Author’s note: sample size: 37)

Kinsella said the Celebrating Healthy Communities does not promote prohibition of marijuana sales, but would like to see Durango balance responsible adult usage, revenue building, and reasonable protection for our young people.

At the time, the coalition asked the City to implement buffers in response to their concerns about the saturation and density of eight dispensaries in existence at the time.

City Council agreed, and implemented buffers.

Celebrating Healthy Communities’ Director Pat Senecal took a jab at the industry, asking City Council to implement a fee on each marijuana license sold in Durango. The tax money could be used by the City for marijuana use prevention education, she said.

The City of Durango rejected that tax proposal.

At the time, Senecal also told City Council that the buffers and caps that were proposed would be fantastic.

The City Council rejected Senecal’s proposed extortion fee, and the caps, but implemented the 250-foot buffers.

Who funds Celebrating Healthy Communities?

It is unclear how much money Celebrating Healthy Communities is working with on their reinvented D.A.R.E. program, but we now know where they got their initial grant.

Back in the day, the organization used to be affiliated with San Juan Basin Health Department.

San Juan Basin Health Department’s Communications Coordinator Claire Ninde said that Celebrating Healthy Communities was formed as a program of SJBHD in 2012, but then became an autonomous independent coalition in 2014.

Celebrating Healthy Communities has received several grants from the federally-funded Drug-Free Communities Support Program, according to Southern Ute Community Action Programs’ Program Developer Peter Tregillus.

The grant program was created by SAMHSA, the same Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration that helped create curriculum for the D.A.R.E. program. A copy of the San Juan Basin Health Department's application for the Drug Free Communities Support Program grant can be viewed by clicking here.

Kinsella refused to answer how much money she personally gets paid to administer this grant money.

Celebrating Healthy Communities’ Director Pat Senecal did not return this blogger’s phone call and voice mail.

Adam Howell works in the marijuana industry and is an advocate for responsible marijuana regulations and usage. He can be reached by clicking on this link to the contact page.

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