Vape pens used to smoke marijuana aren't new: We wrote about a dispensary giving them away to chemotherapy patients back in 2012. But with the growing popularity of e-cigarettes, the concept has gone mainstream in a big way thanks to the way the devices mask much of the scent and smoke long associated with lighting up. No surprise, then, that a report has surfaced about students stealthily smoking pot in school using vape pens. But how serious is the problem at this point? Perhaps not as bad as teens using the device to smoke tobacco.
This week, CBS4's Rick Sallinger brought the vape pen issue front and center with a report focusing on Lakewood High School.
In the piece, Sallinger chats with several students who talk about weed-related vape pen use in class. He also quizzes the school's principal, Ron Castagna, about telltale hints teachers and staffers are on the alert to notice.
These include students who may look as if they're chewing on the caps of other pens -- the sort used for writing.
Are schools other than Lakewood High also experiencing difficulties related to vape pens and pot? We checked with Lynn Setzer, spokeswoman for the Jefferson County School District, of which Lakewood High is a part, and she says that "according to our discipline office, they are seeing an increase of students using e-cigarettes and vaporizers and hookah pens."
However, Setzer adds, "Most of the time, they're using tobacco in those e-cigarettes, so I'm not sure how widespread the use of vaporizers for marijuana is."
Discipline for students caught using e-cigarettes and the like varies widely depending upon what's in them.
Setzer references the Jefferson County School District code of conduct, which we've shared below. The tobacco section, which begins on page twenty, notes that the possession and use of tobacco by students is prohibited on Jeffco school property. However, the code encourages administrators to consider "educational alternatives to suspension, to provide comprehensive interventions, for student tobacco policy violators."
In contrast, vape pens using marijuana products like hash oil fall under the drug and alcohol policy, which begins on page nine and is among the largest portions of the code. In such cases, law enforcement is informed, with schools also meting out five-day suspensions for purchase, possession, use or being under the influence after first and second offenses over a three-year period. And as in baseball, strike three is a likely out. The policy reads: "The student may be expelled upon the third offense and all subsequent offenses within any three-year period. If an expulsion is not requested, a minimum suspension of ten days will be imposed for this offense and any subsequent offenses."
At present, Setzer acknowledges that Jeffco schools have not been overwhelmed by vape-pen pot smoking in classes. But she says administrators and teachers alike are very aware of the possibility.
Let that be a lesson to you. Here's the CBS4 report, followed by the aforementioned code of conduct.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
More from our Marijuana archive circa August 2012: "Medical marijuana dispensaries giving free Vape-Pen to chemotherapy patients."