Letter from Switzerland
Musings From the Middle Ground
As an educator in Colorado, I am uniquely poised to witness marijuana legalization and all the ups and downs that accompany it. During the early phases of legalization, I believe people felt they had to take a firm stand on one side of the issue or the other. Few people believed there was room for middle ground. Several years into this process, I now believe that Colorado has an unprecedented opportunity to lead a progressive, middle-ground educational movement.
Formerly, I was an educator of teens. Now I am the mother of two and a cofounder of the Marijuana Education Initiative. My partners and I started MEI with the intent to have a voice in the marijuana conversation. Marijuana laws and views are changing, and we believe we owe it to our youth to provide progressive education to accompany these changes.
At MEI, we have created a marijuana-specific, post legalization, reality-based program that changes the dialogue and approach to adolescent drug use prevention and intervention. We are often asked to present information or provide consulting services on issues related to youth marijuana use. Our mission is to bring this information to parents, schools, and communities.
When I present MEI programs to the parents, school staffs, or the community, I have the opportunity to step back and absorb the positions and emotions of those in the audience.
- I see groups of people seeking a clearer understanding of a complicated issue.
- I see individuals wanting to be heard.
- I see communities looking for a way to come together over the issue.
Whether I am presenting around conference tables, in school lunchrooms, orin community halls, I often find that, regardless of the setting, I am standing, metaphorically speaking, in the middle.
My partners and I believe that many people are looking for answers and trying to find some understanding. I initially wrote this as an open-ended informal letter expressing my thoughts and feelings after encountering a variety of community concerns in many of our parent and school presentations. It is difficult to articulate middle ground on an issue as controversial as marijuana legalization, but it is worth a try.
If I were a parent of a child with epilepsy, I would certainly be fighting for any option that could help improve my child’s condition and quality of life. I would feel passionately about my actions and my beliefs in support of medical marijuana. IfI were a parent of a teen who had begun abusing recreational marijuana at an early age and was now struggling with addiction, well, I would feel equally passionate about opposing marijuana legalization and proliferation. Yet, from my vantage point in the middle, I can see both sides and be empathetic to all.
I am Switzerland.
Empathy is powerful, and it is a very important position to navigate from. Empathy allows me to understand others’ points of view without being overwhelmed by their passionate emotions. Standing in the middle gives me a great vantage point. I have eyes on both sides of the aisle, if you will. I am informed. I am empathetic. I am Switzerland. Being Switzerland, and an advocate for our adolescents, in the middle of the marijuana debate is crucial. It affords MEI the unique opportunity to demonstrate informed middle ground.
A person can support research on medicinal marijuana while still firmly op-posing adolescent recreational use. One can support adult recreational use while embracing the current research that shows the risks of teen use. Marijuana legalization does not have to be all or nothing, and neither does marijuana education. New technology is providing us with the opportunity for advanced research on the impacts of recreational adolescent marijuana users. Marijuana legalization efforts are providing us with opportunities for advanced research into the benefits of medicinal marijuana. One does not negate the other.
We can use progressive education to bridge the gap between the two positions and write a new page in the history of marijuana, a page written from informed middle ground. It is time for a new conversation and a progressive approach to marijuana education.
Finding middle ground enables us to navigate and adjust our positions as new research continues to inform and drive the conversation around this controversial topic.
For now, I will remain Switzerland and extend the option of arriving at informed middle ground to those who are also seeking a new approach to marijuana education.
After working as a criminal and family law paralegal for many years, Sarah decided to follow her passion and pursue a career in education. She returned to college and earned a BA in education with an endorsement in K–12 special education. Sarah later earned additional endorsements in language arts and health. She has worked with special education students in middle school and high school and worked as a general education language arts and health teacher at an alternative high school. Her work at the alternative education campus led Sarah to co-found the Marijuana Education Initiative with Molly Lotz. Together, she and Molly work with specialists and professionals in diverse fields to create unbiased, reality-based marijuana prevention and intervention curricula as well as alternative-to-suspension programming, parent information guides, and online learning modules. Sarah couples her experience in the classroom with her knowledge in youth-specific marijuana prevention efforts to successfully work with educators, communities, legislators, state agencies, and industry leaders across the country to ensure educational practices keep pace with changing norms.