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WILMINGTON — The Wilmington Substance Abuse Coalition is hosting a dialogue called “Mari­jua­na, Vape, and You” at St. Thomas Church in Wil­mington on Thursday, Jan. 23 at 7 p.m. The event will feature a keynote speaker and a panel of professionals covering everything from legalization to the effects of media on marijuana and vape use.

Wilmington’s Substance Abuse Coalition aims to raise awareness of and prevent substance abuse through education. It’s made up of town representatives from schools, the Town Hall, the police and fire departments, veterans and elderly services, treatment facilities, the Board of Health, and residents.

The coalition was created in effect to create the position of Wilmington Sub­stance Abuse Program Coordinator and hire Sam­antha Reif three years ago. It now serves the com­munity by educating people about substance abuse and intertwining mental health issues.

As organizer and facilitator, Reif shared that the talk will start with keynote speaker Rick Cresta, LICSW. His portion will look at behavior and emotions that may be underlying substance use — why someone might use marijuana.

“He talks about the im­portance of finding alternatives and different ave­nues like behavioral chan­ges,” Reif said.

Next will be a panel span­ning the topics of marijuana and vaping legally, clinically, and health-wise. The panel will feature Canna­bis Control Commission Chairman Steven Hoff­man; Wilmington Police Deputy Chief Brian Pupa; Tracey Rose-Tynes, MS, BSN, RN; and Josh Tow­bin, LICSW of MGH’s Ad­diction Recovery Manage­ment Services Program.

“Each panelist will have an amount of time to talk freely and give what they think is the most relevant information, like a Ted Talk,” Reif continued.

They’ll cover things like legalization and the status of marijuana and vaping; the effects of marijuana and vaping; and coping al­ternatives to marijuana and vape use. Finally, they’ll open the floor to questions for anyone on the panel or the keynote speaker.

The event is sponsored by the CHNA 15 Determin­ation of Needs fund through Lahey Hospital and Medical Center, and the Cummings Communi­ty Givings Donation which the Wilmington Substance Abuse Coalition received over the holidays.

While it’s held at St. Thom­as Church, the talk has no religious or spiritual affiliations. It’s free and open for anyone ages 12 and up.

“Hopefully it’s going to be a pretty broad topic so that someone at any age can walk away with something new,” Reif said.

On behalf of the coalition, Reif encourages any parent with a child planning to attend to join them.

“We want to make sure the conversations started from the event continue at home.”

For this reason, the Sub­stance Abuse Coalition will have take-home resour­ces for families with guided questions to take with them and use after the Jan. 23 talk.

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