March 14, 2012–A collaboration of Colorado media groups reports that suspensions for drug violations at the state’s public schools increased 45 percent over the past four years, expulsions for drug violations increased 35 percent, and referrals to police increased 17 percent, while all other violations declined. Highlights of their findings, published in Education News Colorado, are:
In Denver, referrals of school drug violations to law enforcement increased a whopping 71 percent over the same four years. Denver police began keeping separate records for schools in 2010, recording 179 arrests for marijuana possession or sale at 43 Denver public schools during the 2010-2011 school year. One third of those arrests occurred at elementary and middle schools.
Some 53 medical marijuana dispensaries are within 1,000 feet of Colorado schools, while 95 elementary schools, 27 middle schools, and 23 high schools are within a half mile of a dispensary. School officials say the vast majority of the drug violations involve marijuana and the dispensaries are driving the increase. Colorado legalized medical marijuana in 2000 and dispensaries have proliferated.
Students say they stand outside the dispensaries and ask approaching customers to buy marijuana for them. They call this “shoulder tapping.” Others say they ask friends with medical marijuana cards to buy it for them. Statewide, 41 minors have obtained cards.
One boy, 16, says he thinks the large number of dispensaries makes the drug more attractive. “It’s like Starbucks. You think what’s so good about Starbucks? And you’re going to go try some.” he said.
Five dispensaries are within a three-block radius of the campus of Denver’s East High School, regarded by many as the city’s premiere high school. Its former principal says he asked both city council members and state legislators about the impact dispensaries would have on youth. “They told me, ‘It’s not something we thought about,’” he says. “I’m disappointed that young people weren’t considered when our government decided to implement a law and make medical marijuana legal.”
Today’s question. If Colorado legalizes marijuana for recreational use in November, what kinds of provisions can be put into regulations governing the retail sale of the drug to avoid this problem?
Our thanks to Monte Stiles, executive director of the Prevention Idaho Foundation, for sending us this article and to Education News Colorado, Solutions, and the I-News Network for conducting this investigation.