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Letter: Attend hearing today; curb youth drinking

To the editor,

As a previous employee of the Grand Forks Public School District for 30 years, 23 of which I was a licensed addiction counselor, I'm aware of the disease of alcoholism and addictions as well as the negative impact addiction has on society, especially our youth. The need to prevent the disease before it begins is imperative. I am convinced the only way to do that is through evidenced-based prevention, which includes true community support in the effort.

I attended the Mayor's Call to Action on substance abuse and addictions and was encouraged with how many community members were present and involved in the discussions. It is a step in the right direction. However, there is an ordinance before City Council which allows youth under 21 in bars for "special events." The state has approved the law. The law does not clearly define "special events" nor does it specify how minors will be monitored to prevent underage drinking. As I reviewed how it became a state law, it became clear it was added as a last-minute add-on to legislation through the Office of Management and Budget. As a community, our leaders have the authority now to pass this revision of the special or limited license at a meeting today, June 19.

I am extremely distressed by this motion, as it goes against existing efforts to change our "cultural norm" of binge drinking, especially by minors. The Centers for Disease Control research from 2016 states North Dakota is No. 1 in binge drinking in the nation, with 24.9 percent of us binge drinking. Why do we want to allow youth greater exposure to alcohol through easier access?

I realize the focus currently is on opioids and I, too, am concerned about this crisis. However, the majority of those who have been affected by heroin addiction began their drug use with tobacco, alcohol and marijuana serving as gateway drugs.

I hope city leaders will consider the effects this decision will have on our youth. I ask they consider their final vote on this ordinance to be a "no vote" for our community.

The public hearing on this ordinance is at 5:30 p.m. today (Monday) at City Hall. I encourage everyone to contact Council members to encourage them to vote "no." Sandi Marshall was the only one who voted "no" on the preliminary vote.

Chris Bogan Rood

Grand Forks