2015 Bezos Scholar Gillian Breuer and educator Kelby Benedict Local Ideas Festival: WEEDing Out the Facts educated and empowered Poudre High School students to form their own conclusions regarding marijuana usage once provided a comprehensive understanding of the drug’s effects.
In 2013, recreational marijuana was legalized in Colorado. Gillian noticed that legalization was not coupled with an effective educational strategy about the drug’s short and long-term impacts on adolescents, which led to increased marijuana usage among teens in Fort Collins, CO.
Through WEEDing Out the Facts, Gillian worked to dispel many misconceptions about the legality and the health effects of marijuana in regard to youth and empowering youth to make informed responsible decisions about marijuana usage.
During the evening event, multiple presenters hosted workshops on a variety of topics, such as how marijuana usage can influence the college application process, how Colorado’s legislation on tobacco and marijuana usage compare, and how alcohol and marijuana impact the brain’s development as well as mental health. After these sessions, participants enjoyed dinner, discussions, and games facilitated by the Center for Public Deliberation.
“The greatest strength of the festival was its ability to re-conceptualize an issue that has been around for a long time and present the information in a new way,” notes Gillian, “Much of the discussion and feedback from the event centered around the idea that marijuana is talked about frequently in schools but never in a context such as this. Participants appreciated the variety of viewpoints and thought that the way in which we discussed the issue was a departure from how it had been done in the past, and consequently was more fitting for the changing community that we live in. Creating a venue that was safe for people to talk about their perceptions and myths around the topic, debate new information learned from the sessions, and engage in a healthy dialogue around adolescent use of marijuana proved to be extremely fruitful.”