Town Hall educates folks on potential impacts of legalizing marijuana

Local News

ALTOONA, Pa (WTAJ)– The Blair Country Drug and Alcohol Partnership hosted a marijuana town hall Monday evening discussing the impacts of the legalization of marijuana on communities.

The hour-long presentation took place at the Devorris Downtown Building in Altoona. The audience had nearly 50 community members and Penn State Altoona students and faculty. The organization wanted to hit home how marijuana continues to be a social justice issue and a revenue stream for big tobacco companies.

Community Engagement and Outreach Director of SAM Will Jones emphasized how communities of color and low-income communities are still primary targets for marijuana advertising. These are trends similar to big tobacco advertising in the 90s.

“There are billions of dollars being invested by big tobacco, alcohol, and even big pharma companies in legalization for them,” Jones said. “This is an alternative product line. This is an alternative revenue stream.”

The goal of the presentations was to educate everyone on these tactics. Executive Director of the Blair County Drug and Alcohol Partnership Judy Rosser says having awareness is key.

“We really need to make sure they’re educated on what’s really behind the mirrors of the industries and how they’re targeting,” Nasser said. “And how they have to have repeat users in order to make money.”

In Jones’s presentation, he showed a picture of him in a convenience store with his daughter and how multiple marijuana and cigarette advertising posters were within that space. He’s informing the community about the disproportionate trends will not change when the legalization occurs.

“These companies had a strategy, and unfortunately, it looks like they may be using that same strategy today,” Jones said.

Recreational marijuana has not been legalized in the Commonwealth yet. However, Jones and Rosser want the community to think critically when they begin talks about the topic. Mainly remembering what companies have done in the past regarding their advertising on public health and usage.

“Be aware of what these industries have done in the past in terms of the cost of public health and ask ourselves what will be the implications if they’re now allowed to sell and market marijuana,” Jones said.

“What we’re trying to do is educate the community on real issues, and I hope that they will take that and have a conversation around that,” Rosser said. “And really critically think about what’s being proposed when legislation starts to be talked about.”

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