By Teri Knight, News Director
There were several advocates of the “Tobacco 21” ordinance urging the Northfield City Council to raise the buying age within city boundaries. They had some eye-popping statistics. Three local students shared stories, with one saying there’s not a day that goes by that there aren’t students inside the school vaping. Northfield Police Chief Monte Nelson added, “The use in school is unreal because it is so easy to use because the devices are so small.” That includes both the middle and high school. Mayor Pro-tem Brad Ness commented yesterday morning, “I was middle of the road on this whole thing until I saw this presentation and the vaping issue is huge.” Shelly Dickinson has children in Northfield schools and teaches addiction in adolescents at St. Olaf. She said
that while cigarette smoking has gone down, vaping has risen substantially nationwide and in Northfield the statistics are worse. Since 2016, the use of vaping by 8th graders went up 891%, in grade 9 it’s up 141%, and a 105% increase in 11th graders. Ninety-five percent of smokers started before the age of 21. The purpose of T21 is to prevent 15- to 17-year-olds from easy access; they are the largest group to start using nicotine. There are currently 15,000 different kinds of flavored vaping options on the internet. The packaging is aimed at young people and the devices to deliver the vaping juice are increasingly deceptive, including “vapewear,” a sweatshirt wherein the juice is filled in the back and the delivery system is in the ties of the hood. JUUL is a brand mentioned because they use nicotine salts which allows the nicotine to absorb much more quickly into the bloodstream thereby hooking the user faster. One vaping pod has the equivalent amount of nicotine as one pack of cigarettes. There was much discussion which included raising the age to 25 but Police Chief Monte Nelson said that would be a problem to try to enforce. This will come back to council on January 7, 2020. In the meantime, you can view the video on the City’s website where there is much more information.
Before legalizing pot, Fossum wants to know “actual impacts”
As the new legislative session approaches, will legalization of marijuana be back on the agenda? Rice County Attorney John Fossum said with a divided House and Senate, it won’t likely be on the agenda next year but he does believe Minnesota will see it at some point: “…and I hope before we get to that point, we carefully analyze what has happened in the states that have legalized it, that, what are the actual impacts.” From what he’s gathered from law enforcement in those states, he said the harms including impaired driving “…far outweigh the tax benefits that the proponents have been proclaiming.” One issue is determining “allowable levels” of marijuana in your bloodstream. He said there’s currently no research on what would be an “appropriate” level. He wants that issue addressed if or when it gets before legislators. Note: with the vaping issue and the dangers of vaping THC, this issue becomes more complicated.
Highway 3 “can be dangerous”
There’s a stretch of Highway 3 from the Cannon River to the south near Target where there have been a number of crashes in the last month. Northfield Police Chief Monte Nelson said, “If you’re one of the people involved in those accidents, you obviously don’t feel lucky because we’ve had some people injured, but we’ve been lucky from the standpoint that no got critically injured or killed because Highway 3 can be a dangerous roadway.” Those crashes have all been intersection-related. He reiterated how you need to pay attention even at controlled intersections, noting people taking a left turn on a red arrow. Recently there’s been additional enforcement of speed limits as well.