Nursing students host “Let’s Talk About Marijuana” event

On April 26, Luther nursing and social work students hosted a training seminar alongside Kathy Schwartzhoff, the Mentoring Coordinator at Helping Services for Youth & Families in Decorah. The event, which was open to the public, was held at Baker Commons and live streamed over Zoom. The Researchers and contributors to the presentation were nursing students Katy Bellamy (‘22), Katie Dunn (‘22), Ethan Moore (‘22), Sydnee Schreier(‘22), Emma Syers (‘22), and social work student Stefanie Maas (‘22).

At the event, Schwartzhoff and the students gave a presentation about the effects of marijuana, its legalization status in Iowa and surrounding states, as well as providing the necessary resources for those suffering with addiction. At the start of her presentation, Schwartzhoff first expressed the idea that knowledge on marijuana is limited. She proposed the possibility of changing beliefs and attitudes surrounding the drug, and said it is very important to recognize that marijuana itself is evolving.

“Laws are changing, attitudes are changing, beliefs are changing,” Schwartzhoff said. “Sometime tonight you might learn something new [about marijuana], and your attitude may change a little bit.”

According to the data provided at the event, marijuana has evolved to be more potent over the past thirty years. During the 1960s, marijuana hada potency level of less than 10%, but today, smokable marijuana has reached a potency level of 35%. That higher potency level has made marijuana more addictive. The event also looked at the legality of the drug. Although recreational marijuana use in Iowa is illegal, Iowa law permits regulated use of marijuana to treat qualified patients.

Data on marijuana use in various demographic groups was also presented. Surveys conducted by Winneshiek County showed 1% of youth in the county have used marijuana, while in adults, daily marijuana use among college students has surpassed daily cigarette smoking, according to Iowa’s Office of Drug Control Policy. Long term effects of using the drug were also discussed; users of marijuana can be diagnosed with somatic and psychiatric disorders. Also, contrary to popular belief, users can also become addicted to the drug. Students attending the event were given a folder of information on the basic facts of marijuana and several forms of help if students ever found themselves abusing the substance. 

Associate Professor of Nursing Angela Kueny (‘02) expressed the importance of the event and Luther’s collaboration with Helping Services, saying that both parties benefit from working together on the “Let’s Talk About Marijuana” event.

“The nursing program benefits from receiving feedback from a professional organization in developing and distributing information regarding health topics that impact each and every person in the community,” Kueny said. “They learned about interdisciplinary teamwork and collaboration across an entire project, in addition to the content that they researched. Helping Services benefits from the research, perspectives, and input from [students and members of the Decorah community] in the presentations that they prepare.”

Dunn, who was one of the nursing students presenting at the event, was responsible for researching the legalization of marijuana in Iowa and other states. Dunn expressed her desire to help educate the community about the effects of marijuana so they can make informed decisions. She specifically talked about the importance of knowing the implications of marijuana use, the different types of marijuana, and where dispensaries are located in the state of Iowa.

“I think that attendees [of] this event [have] a multitude of resources available to them in order to educate themselves on [marijuana],” Dunn said. “By better understanding what’s going on in the state of Iowa with legislation, residents can make more informed decisions.”

‘More information on Helping Services for Youth & Families can be found on their website, Their next event will be a Drive-In Movie Youth Mentoring Group Event, on May 13 from 7:45-9:45 p.m. The event will be held at the Winneshiek County fairgrounds.