Brains and Beaches Going to Pot
At Nantasket beach, kites are flying, seagulls are swimming, lifeguards are watching and hundreds of young children are building sandcastles. Vehicles of all colors and sizes arrive from inner city camps full of children wanting to play and cool down. We watch babies naturally kick their feet to stay afloat.
As a professor and research scientist, I study the conditions that help infants to develop and learn. My own research highlights the role of joint attention on early brain processing and development. The importance of quality environments and landscapes for children, families and communities cannot be overstated. I cannot imagine a better place for families to share happy experiences together than Hull and Nantasket Beach, nature’s own learning landscape. But this may soon change with the proposed medical marijuana manufacturing facility and dispensary just steps from our beloved public beach, protected and preserved by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR).
Hundreds of research studies demonstrate that odors are at the heart of human emotional memories. Given the well-documented research on emissions and odors associated with marijuana manufacturing, what emotional memories does Hull plan to “dispense” to our babies and children? When will it happen to your town? Latitude 42 is proposing to be not only a marijuana dispensary but a manufacturing and processing facility. As a result, emissions and odors will be produced and enter our air. Where is the scientific evidence? “Where grown indoors, (marijuana) can require extensive energy inputs with potentially negative effects on climate,” according to Carah et al. (2015) in “High Time for Conservation: Adding the Environment to the debate on Marijuana Liberalization” published by BioScience.
Policy makers urgently need to cooperate with urban planners and public health experts. Dozens of empirical studies highlight the detrimental effects of marijuana on brain development, behavior, health/wellness and local communities. Many resources exist on the local impacts of commercial cannabis (see “Local Impacts of Commercial Cannabis” International City/County Management Association/ ICMA 2018). Has the scientific evidence been evaluated prior to making decisions that will affect the quality of life for so many?
Although they cannot speak for themselves, babies and children must be heard. It is no surprise that their voices have not been considered as part of this debate. Cannabis and children don’t mix.
ICMA suggests that we “Plan for deliberate, transparent community engagement.” (p.8). This does not mean skimming through a list of questions and telling your community that questions were addressed. Not only do meaningful questions remain, but it will take years to adequately research and address valid community and public health concerns. As with developing infants, communities and public officials need role models as they navigate uncharted territory. What towns are we learning from? What are we emulating and where are we looking for inspiration? What do we aspire to be? What developments will get us there?
According to a recent post published in “Today in Hull,” one of the owners of Latitude 42 writes, “I moved to Hull to live near the ocean, surf more and de-stress for my health and well-being.” These are exactly the rights we want to protect and preserve for all who visit our oceans. Having a marijuana manufacturing plant in one’s backyard, at the entrance of our public beach and within footsteps of small businesses such as family-oriented hotels and shops is simply not good for communities, for our environment and for our well-being.