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Washington County residents will have opportunities to share their opinions about public health and marijuana with public health officials in two separate efforts, including events on Thursday.

The Maryland Commission on Public Health is hosting its Western Maryland listening session from 5-[6 p.m. Thursday, May 23, at the Washington County Health Department’s Behavioral Health Services offices at 925 N. Burhans Blvd. in Hagerstown.

The Washington County Health Department is doing a survey regarding attitudes and beliefs about cannabis, including a focus group late Thursday afternoon in Boonsboro.

Maryland Commission on Public Health seeking public input

The Maryland Commission on Public Health is inviting community members to share comments about public health agencies and services, according to a flier about the event.

The Thursday session is one of at least five meetings the state panel is hosting from April through September to learn what residents “want from public health agencies and how the agencies could function,” the flier states.

Folks attending the listening session will have up to 2 minutes each to share thoughts, ideas, complaints and concerns about public health, said Danielle Stahl, spokesperson for the county health department.

Written comments can be submitted online and can be found through https://bit.ly/44SJkjY.

Maryland lawmakers created the commission “to review what public health agencies need to serve communities,” according to a news release from the county health department. Members of the panel include officials from health departments, community and healthcare groups, universities, local groups and community volunteers.

The panel is collecting and analyzing information to “determine the state’s ability to respond to major public health challenges,” the release states.

The commission is expected to recommend improvements, including in the areas of the organization of public health departments; how departments use information technology, exchange information, and collect and report data; how the departments communicate with and engage with their communities; and the people, funding and contract processes the departments need to do their work, according to the release.

The meeting will be aired live on the county health department’s YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/@washcohealth_md and through the department’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/WashHealth.

American Sign Language and Spanish interpreters will be available at the listening session.

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Washington County Health Department conducting marijuana-related survey

With the legalization in Maryland last year of recreational marijuana use for those 21 and older, the Washington County Health Department is seeking public input about marijuana attitudes and beliefs.

The health department has grant funding to conduct surveys and focus groups, gathering information to help local health officials determine what educational and/or safety campaigns could be needed, Stahl said.

This could include whether there is a need for medical lockboxes, to secure cannabis products, she said.

Local health officials want to hear from people who use marijuana recreationally or medically, as well as from those who don’t use it, she said.

Issues residents might want to address include whether there is more education needed about cannabis as well as concerns about cannabis-related trash along streets, children and/or pets getting into cannabis products, and second-hand cannabis inhalation, Stahl said.

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The information shared with health officials will help them determine what program(s) are needed, she said.

An online public survey is available through June 30. Survey access also is available through the local health department’s website by first clicking on the item about the cannabis attitudes and beliefs survey. There is a separate survey for providers.

The introduction to the public survey states that answers are anonymous and can’t be traced back to the person completing the survey.

People who participate in the survey have an option to receive a gift card, the survey states.

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The health department also is offering a meal and gift card for people who participate in focus groups.

The first of those focus groups for Maryland residents 18 and older is from 4-6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 23, at the Boonsboro Free Library at 401 Potomac St.

Advanced registration is encouraged for the focus groups. Interested residents can register online or email wchd.ohe@maryland.gov for registration information.

For the Boonsboro focus group, people can walk in and register, but there will be a cap on the number of participants so there’s a possibility that if too many people show up, some people might be turned away, Stahl said. As of late Tuesday, there was plenty of room in that focus group.

The other focus groups are:

  • At the Hancock Veterans Memorial Library at 231 Hancock Veteran’s Parkway from 4-6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 29.
  • Two focus groups for young adults, ages 18 to 20, who are willing to listen and share thoughts about cannabis. These will be held from 2-4 p.m. on Thursday, June 6, and from 1-3 p.m. on Friday, June 7, at the health department’s Behavioral Health Services offices at 925 N. Burhans Blvd.

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