As a parent and resident of Norristown borough, I see first hand the impacts of drugs in our community. Drugs, including marijuana, are negatively impacting our children and our schools. At the February 27, 2023, Norristown Area School District board meeting, students addressed the board about concerns with students vaping and smoking marijuana in the bathrooms. I listened while they spoke about a school filled with smoke and vaping haze.

Despite these concerns, board vice president, Monica D’Antonio, has taken a very strong and public stance on the legalization of marijuana. Parents spoke out at the most recent board meeting on March 27, 2023, about her social media posts that allegedly contain profanity and feature her wearing a t-shirt with the words “legal weed” and two marijuana leaves. Parents raised additional concerns that included posts that were deemed inappropriate behavior, cultural misappropriation, offensive, and racist.

This is not the first time that parents have spoken out regarding concerns about D’Antonio’s social media presence. Parents addressed the school board back on October 25, 2021, with similar issues. Yet, shortly after that meeting, she was voted in as the vice president of the board.

After the March 27, 2023, meeting, D’Antonio responded to parents by stating, “I have never been quiet about my support for legalization of marijuana…. I will not apologize for my stance on this issue.”

She made this statement despite the fact that possession, use, sale or distribution of a controlled substance is against school district policy. Moreover, the negative effects of marijuana use for adolescents are staggering. The CDC notes the negative impacts of marijuana use for teens includes difficulty thinking and problem-solving, problems with memory and learning, reduced coordination, difficulty maintaining attention, and problems with school and social life. Adolescents who frequently use marijuana are also at risk for increased mental health issues and potential for addiction.

D’Antonio elaborated on her statement further. “Far too many Americans are losing their lives sitting in prison on non-violent drug offenses – including basic marijuana possession. This mass incarceration predominately impacts black and brown communities, communities exactly like ours. Marijuana legalization and expungement for marijuana crimes helps to restore the lives of so many in our community. I won’t apologize for my stance on this issue.”

As a black woman, I share the concerns about the mass incarceration of many in our community. However, I do not share D’Antonio’s view that legalization is the answer. Marijuana is a gateway drug and can lead to addiction problems, particularly for adolescents. If she is truly concerned about the high numbers of minorities in prison for marijuana use, she could advocate for decriminalization as opposed to legalization. 

Decriminalization is a very different stance than legalization — one that D’Antonio does not seem to understand. If she truly cares about our students, as the board vice president, she must understand the detrimental impact that legalization of marijuana could have on our community. How can we teach our children that marijuana use is not healthy when our board vice president is loudly campaigning for legalizing the drug?

At the last board meeting, multiple parents called for D’Antonio’s resignation based on her very public stance on this issue. She has not resigned and refuses to apologize for her posts, behavior, or advocacy.

Norristown Area School District — and our children — deserve better than Monica D’Antonio. I have talked with many children and parents in our community who are plagued by marijuana use. We cannot have members of our board advocating for the legalization of a drug that is wreaking havoc in our schools. 

Lisa Licwinko-Engleman is a resident of Norristown, a mother to five children, a step-mother to two children, and a registered Democrat. All of her children either attend Norristown Area School District schools or graduated from Norristown Area High School. She is a candidate for school board and is cross-filed on both the Democratic and Republican ballots.

2 thoughts on “Lisa Licwinko-Engleman: Just Say Yes”

  1. School district residents have votes – they should take the time to investigate the candidates’ positions and vote accordingly. This is one candidate’s stance. That you B&L for printing it.

  2. cannabis, even heavy THC use of the type that is possible now and was not widespread even up to the beginning of the modern era of cannabis legalization (unarguably the 2004 California Senate Bill 420 passage), is still safer for children’s growing brains, whether you calculate the effects based on the population-wide net effects or on the harshest of the worst possible outliers among the group with negative effects, compared to ALL OTHER substances commonly recreationally used.

    THC’s legalization in many states has opened the flood gates for reporting medical and mental health symptoms that have been hidden or obfuscated for decades

    we now know that children who use THC in moderate to heavy continuous use have a statistically sgnificant increase in the likelihood of developing a “schizophrenia type” disorder at some point in their later years.

    This sounds catastrophically ominous.

    however, its useful to remember:

    1) some subcomponent of that increased cohort were probably always going to fall into this category due to the overlap between cannabis over-use (as a child) and the types of preexisting life circumstances that would make such usage more likely.

    in other words: poverty, familial dysfunction, a prevalence of illicit activites in or around the child’s life, or already evident mental health conditions that make the drug use a form of self medicating

    2) duh. all chemical substances used repetitively and in heavy recreational dosages (recreational dosages are almost always HIGHER than their therapeutic dosage, even ignoring tolerance) in a growing child’s brain are bad or barely neutral.

    my statements thus far explain that cannabis is still relatively benign, the worst bad characteristics are not as bad as they might seem, and none of this is news and amounts to the statement that its bad to smash yourself in the face with a hammer repeatedly.

    The extension of this is that by legalization, you possibly increase the number of people who roll the dice for the possibility of maybe needing to take an antipsychotic when they turn 40 years old (something that is incredibly common)….

    but you gain back 10s of percent of the workforce, 10s of percent of the state prison population, and 10s of percent of the state budget.

    if this needed to be stated you are dumb.

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