"Marijuana? Virginia's Big Question" and is sponsored by S.A.F.E., a Chesterfield County organization working to prevent substance abuse.
RICHMOND (WRIC)—A conference focusing on marijuana is being held in Richmond on Thursday and Friday at the VCU Student Commons.
It's called "Marijuana? Virginia's Big Question" and is sponsored by S.A.F.E., a Chesterfield County organization working to prevent substance abuse.
Twenty states, along with the District of Columbia, have laws legalizing marijuana in some form. While many support the growing effort, this conference focuses on the possible dangers of legally accepting the drug.
"I think it's a terrible idea," said former federal drug prosecutor Monte Stiles. "We unfortunately live in a country where our children are taught simultaneously that cigarette smoke kills them, but marijuana smoke heals them."
Marijuana use acceptance seems to be growing among local teenagers.
In 2012, S.A.F.E. surveyed Chesterfield County high schoolers and found that 37 percent of teens reported it was "very easy" to get pot—easier than alcohol, cigarettes and other drugs.
The same survey found 25 percent of 12th graders said they had used marijuana within the past 30 days.
"This is going to be an industry that's going to flood the country and hurt our kids," said Tony Coder, a member of the "Smart Approaches to Marijuana" board.
Coder says the push to legalize the drug is all about money.
"It's about creating an entire industry. We're talking candies… we're talking gummy bears… we're talking vape cigarettes," he said.
Stiles and Coder compare today's fight for legal marijuana to that of the tobacco industry years ago.
"They made billions of dollars off of selling a product that hurt people and I think that's happening again," Stiles said.