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Mount Vernon's youth cannabis treatment court combines discipline with compassion

Mount Vernon introduces youth cannabis treatment court
Mount Vernon introduces youth cannabis treatment court 01:57

MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. -- Mount Vernon schools, like many districts, are facing the problem of students showing up for class under the influence of cannabis

"Already impaired from marijuana or vape products, ill-prepared for learning," Mount Vernon Police Deputy Commissioner Jennifer Lackard. 

So, the city created a youth cannabis treatment court, which combines discipline with compassion. 

"The key takeaway is that we are restorative rather than punitive," said Tamiah Williams, a high school senior and peer counselor on the court. 

Students who get in trouble over cannabis at school can agree to get counseling for substance abuse and appear in treatment court for a peer review. 

"We send kids into after-school programs and helping with community service, and we're setting them on a better path to be more productive members of our society," said Williams. 

"Rather than focusing on punitive measures, the partnership emphasizes evidence-based practices that educate teenagers about the effects of cannabis use on the brain and body," said Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard. 

Studies show cannabis has a negative influence on still-developing adolescent brains. With gummies, candies and other appealing products, kids have more access to cannabis than ever before. 

Responsible retailers, such as Elevate in Mount Vernon, only sell to customers 21 and older, and warn them to store products safely away from youngsters. 

The mayor said parents and guardians have a key role to play. 

"Parents, we must be active in parenting," Shawyn-Patterson said. 

Researchers continue to study the impact of cannabis use on the adolescent brain. It's already linked to higher rates of depression and other psychiatric disorders. 

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