WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — The dangers of marijuana was the topic addressed at the Alliance for Better Communities summit on October 18.

Gathering local officials, educators, organizational leaders and community members, the Alliance focused on local marijuana use as the drug has recently been legalized in New York State.

The Summit’s keynote speaker was Laura Stack, who traveled from Douglas County Colorado. Stack has been a public speaker for 30 years, but more recently has been sharing the story of her son, Johnny, to prevent marijuana use, especially among teens and young adults.

Stack’s son, Johnny, died by suicide in November 2019 at the age of 19 after high-THC marijuana concentrates. According to Stack, his heavy marijuana use was attributed to the development of a psychotic disorder, which is believed to be the cause of his death.

“After many years of using high potency marijuana concentrates in Colorado, he became psychotic and thought that the mob was after him and died by suicide,” Stack shared.

Now Stack travels the country advocating for less teen marijuana use through the Grassroots Organization Johnny’s Ambassadors. Stack and her family reside in Colorado, which is known as the first state to legalize marijuana. Colorado also commercialized the drug in 2014, which is when Johnny first started using.

When asked about how to avoid these incidents in areas where marijuana has recently been legalized, like the North Country, she stated it must be regulated. She also voiced a message to parents.

“It’s important that they get educated. That they understand what today’s concentrates look like. What the products really are under. How it affects their teams and do not use it yourself,” Stack added.

Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock also addressed marijuana from a law enforcement perspective. He said since the legalization, crime has increased.

“We’ve seen an increase in crime. An increase in driving under the influence of drugs, in fatal crashes, increases of violence involving youth and young people that are associated to the use of marijuana,” Sheriff Spurlock voiced.

He also claimed that although marijuana has been commercialized, and has been for several years, the drug still is sold illegally. Sheriff Spurlock emphasized that the drug has no real economic benefits in his community.

“Marijuana is not going to make you a lot of money. I’m here to tell you right now from Colorado, it is not going to make money,” he said. “And what it’s going to do is going to cost you money. It’s dangerous. And you need to be thinking about those things.”

Stack also added that the drug needs to be regulated if it is legalized. She urged North Country residents to speak with local lawmakers moving forward.

“You need to do everything that you can because once it’s commercialized, it will be everywhere,” Stack stated.

Both Spurlock and Stack also spoke on a panel discussion at the Alliance for Better Communities “Marijuana’s Impact on the Community” summit on October 16. More information regarding both speakers and local marijuana use can be found on the Alliance’s website.