Harvard psychobiologist coming to Wilbraham to discuss drug’s impact on teenage brain


WILBRAHAM — As commonwealth voters get ready to decide whether to legalize pot for recreational use, a Harvard psychobiology professor is coming to Wilbraham next month to discuss the negative impacts of marijuana on the mind of teenagers.

“Fact or Fiction: Marijuana and the Teen Brain,” a free talk by Bertha K. Madras, a senior faculty member at Harvard Medical School, is slated for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 12, at Minnechaug Regional High School, 621 Main St. Registration for the event, which includes a raffle with prizes and handout materials, begins at 6:30 p.m.

Madras is expected to deliver a 1½-hour talk on the impact of pot use on the development of teenagers’ brains, according to Ruth DiCristoforo, the new coordinator for the Hampden-Wilbraham Safe and Healthy Students Coalition at Thornton W. Burgess Middle School in Hampden. The event is sponsored by the coalition and the Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District.

Madras will speak about the “myths versus realities of marijuana and teen marijuana use,” DiCristoforo said.

Madras, chairwoman of the Division of Neurochemistry at Harvard Medical School, has focused her research on dopamine-related brain disorders, including drug addiction, Parkinson’s disease, and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder.

The talk will focus on the myths and realities of teenage pot use.

“She has a message that every parent and interested adult would benefit from hearing in very understandable language,” said Gina Kahn, director of HWRSD’s Safe and Healthy Students program.

Madras, in an op-ed piece in The Washington Post earlier this year, listed five reasons why marijuana should not be viewed as “medicine.”

The Healthy Students Coalition is a collaboration of families, schools and community partners who work to reduce youth substance use and promote healthy development from early childhood to young adulthood.

The coalition welcomes interested community volunteers to join the effort, said DiCristoforo, who has more information at rdicristoforo@hwrsd.org or 413-566-5060, ext. 17.

Meanwhile, Question 4 on the Nov. 8 ballot would legalize marijuana for recreational use, but with the same sort of regulations used to control the sale and distribution of alcohol in Massachusetts.

A “yes” vote supports this proposal, and a “no” vote opposes legalizing the drug for recreational use. No matter which way people vote, so-called “medical marijuana” would remain legal in Massachusetts.

If the ballot measure passes, it would create the Cannabis Control Commission, a regulatory body responsible for overseeing the legalization process and issuing licenses to firms looking to sell pot products.

Individuals may only possess up to one ounce of pot in public individuals may only possess up to 10 ounces of pot in their home; and individuals may only grow up to six plants in their homes.

The law would take effect Dec. 15, subjecting the sale of “retail marijuana” to the state sales tax and an additional 3.75 percent excise tax. Local municipalities would also have the option to impose an additional 2 percent tax.