Medical marijuana to blame for 45 percent increase in school drug violations?

Over the last four years, drug violations at Colorado K-12 schools have increased by roughly 45 percent.

And according to a report shared by Education News Colorado about the issue, the rise can be squarely attributed to medical marijuana dispensaries.

Though the data doesn't distinguish between marijuana and other drugs, including pharmaceuticals, the report cites "school and district officials, healthcare workers and students" as saying marijuana is the reason behind the spike.

They believe there is a shift in perception about cannabis use among students. The report alleges that because medical marijuana shops are so abundant in Colorado, the message being sent to kids is that marijuana is harmless.

"When I grew up, it was horrible if you got caught with pot," says East teacher Matt Murphy in the report. "Now there are little green medical signs everywhere. It seems healthy. We're at the front lines of this huge shift where kids think it's okay."

Oh, the horror. Maybe that's because to 32 percent of the nation, medical marijuana is okay and perfectly legal. Attitudes are also shifting toward recreational use, with nearly half the country in favor of legalization for adult use, according to some polls. Meanwhile, kids are exposed day in and day out to liquor ads and tobacco ads on television and in print telling them in more ways than one that these deadly products are acceptable.

Among some of the other points raised:

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• Overall, suspensions were down 11 percent and expulsions were down 25 percent in infractions not involving drugs.

• Denver saw a 71 percent increase in drug violations referred to law enforcment. East High School violations have tripled since 2009.

• In 2010, Denver police started noting marijuana arrests separately from other drugs. That school year, the DPD made 179 arrests at 43 different elementary, middle and high schools.

• Schools with the largest increase in drug violations have "multiple medical marijuana dispensaries" within a mile.

• The report also includes a map of all schools and dispensaries around the state.

Of course, all of this misses a big point: Kids have been getting their hands on marijuana and smoking it for the last forty years or more with or without dispensaries around. I speak from experience growing up in a medical marijuana-less state.

Now, I'm not stupid enough to say that the increased availability of herb hasn't contributed somewhat to the rise. But the blame shouldn't be cast on dispensaries that have never sold to illegal minors. Rather, it belongs on dishonest people abusing the system. And that's not germane to just medical marijuana dispensaries; neither is it a recent phenomenon.

The report uses the term "shoulder tapping" to refer to underage kids standing outside a dispensary asking people to buy them weed, as if that's a new issue. It's not. Kids have been doing that for booze for much, much longer -- and are going to continue doing it.

And that's not including the thousands of purchases made by kids using fake IDs or with the assistance of careless liquor store owners or bartenders. In Boulder during 2010 alone, police used underage decoys showing their real IDs in 469 liquor-store stings, busting more than 59 stores that sold to the minors. You want to talk about a problem? Booze kills more teens each year in Colorado than cannabis has ever killed in the thousands of years humans have been using it. But do we blame the entire liquor industry for this? Hardly.

Meanwhile, as attorney Brian Vicente points out in the report, not a single illegal underage transaction has ever been reported from dispensaries -- which require a medical marijuana card to even get through the secured entrance most all shops have.

Vicente's conclusion? Students are getting marijuana the same way they have been for years: illegally.

Here's a video of East High students discussing marijuana from the Education News Colorado report.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana initiative can't force John Suthers to sue feds over enforcement, his office says."

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