As a career educator and librarian, I’ve been curious about the impact of marijuana’s legalization on classrooms and schools in the affected areas. Do these new tolerance laws impact the classroom, and if so, what are schools doing about it?
The research I found was pretty disturbing.
In 2012-13, over 700 students in Colorado high schools were expelled, and over 30% of those students were removed due to marijuana abuse at school. The National Institute on Drug Abuse says while there’s a decrease in the use of drugs and alcohol by young people overall, there’s a significant increase in marijuana use.
1% of 8th graders self-report using marijuana daily; 4% of 10th graders; 7% of 12th graders. 23% of America’s teenagers report using marijuana regularly.
School resource officers in Colorado say they’ve seen a huge increase in marijuana-related incidents, and a sharp rise in drug-related disciplinary actions. School reports indicate increased absences and drop-out rates. In Greeley, Colorado, kids in fourth grade were expelled for selling a dime bag to other fourth graders. Some teens recognize the date 4/20 but can't identify the meaning of 11/11.
Some doobie brothers would probably say, “Awesome.”
I think, “Not so much.”
I don’t like a drug and alcohol culture. I’ve seen what these uppers, downers, and in-betweeners do to people I love over the long haul, and I don’t embrace recreational medicine. In the case of marijuana, we know that it’s got THC, and THC alters the brain’s hippocampus, affecting learning and memory. Potheads will tell you that’s not true. But could it be that they can’t remember what they forgot?
Marijuana slows reaction times, and may lead to depression or anxiety. Red eyes are a side effect that many movies and TV shows use for comic fodder, but it’s a reflection of an increased or rapid heartbeat, not a healthy sidebar.
In adolescents, marijuana use leads to a lower IQ as well as cognitive and mental deficiencies. There’s even a higher risk of stroke, depending upon what additives are in the weed. “Spice” or synthetic marijuana, is laced with chemicals similar to THC. Kids are using many alternative drugs and there’s a dramatic rise in edibles, a proliferation of food products made with marijuana. These ‘green’ brownies, cookies, and cakes can easily make their way into kids’ hands, lunchboxes, and classrooms.
Teenage pregnancy is difficult enough; but the infant of a teenage mother who regularly uses marijuana may demonstrate moderate to severe developmental delays or behavioral issues. The teenage body is not well-developed, and research tells us marijuana is not physiologically healthy for teens or children.
Second hand smoke from marijuana is not innocuous. Researchers state it may be 4-30 times higher in carcinogens than regular cigarette smoke, at the rate of 2 cigarettes per hour. Inhaling second hand smoke may result in difficulties passing a drug screen, depending upon the level of exposure. Research is in progress about the affect of second-hand smoke from marijuana on younger children.
Ironically, Colorado has a huge youth drug abuse prevention campaign. But “Do as we say, not as we do,” is the message kids are hearing loud and clear, and it’s not working. Proponents of legalization will say their courtrooms have cleared out; they’re no longer spending a ton of money on “frivolous” charges for recreational drug use. I say they’re going to pay a pretty penny over time. School psychologists report that when the perception of risk goes down, marijuana use goes up, and this seems to be the prevalent truth.
From a spiritual perspective, I see huge warning signs in our country as marijuana use is legalized in more areas of our nation. It spells spiritual trouble. What is the real hunger? What is the child of the marijuana user seeing when his parent smokes weed to relax, unwind, recreate? What does it say to our children when we legislate recreational drug use? Is the term ‘recreational drug’, in itself, not an oxymoron? Talk to the parent of the heroin user; he’ll tell you it started with weed. Talk to the spouse of an alcoholic; she’ll tell you that like alcohol abuse, the chronic use of weed is just one more way to mask the pain of daily life.
God’s word says, “All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful.” Not all things build up. I’m not in favor of drug, alcohol, or marijuana use. We have this one life to live. I want to be clear-headed, sober-minded, and focused on what He asks me to do, what He asks me to give, where He wants me to go. I want that for my children and grandchildren as well.