Tragically, as superintendent of Zion-Benton Township High School, I have sat through over 75 very painful school board disciplinary/expulsion hearings during the past eight years because of students under the influence of or possessing marijuana during the school day or at a school sponsored activity. Eight years ago our Board of Education decided that every student involved with marijuana would have a Board of Education disciplinary hearing. There are no exceptions, or second chances. The hearings are held in closed session and involve the student, parents, other family members, school officials, and the Board of Education. Here is what we have learned:

 

  • The pain and emotion of students and family members faced with an expulsion hearing in front of elected members of the Board of Education, who are also parents, cannot be described in words

  • Following lengthy questioning of the student by Board members, most parents are amazed at the extent of marijuana use by their son or daughter. In almost every case, parents thought that their student only used occasionally. Almost always, student use of marijuana was much greater than parents thought or were willing to admit.

  • When students are caught under the influence of or possessing marijuana at school, it has never been the first time. In every case, initial use of marijuana occurred outside of school, at times at home, and always while students were unsupervised.

  • During the hearing the Board of Education reviews a profile of the student that covers the previous three or four years. Without exception, students were doing relatively well with their grades in junior high school. Often the ninth grade year went well. But, a definite pattern emerges. Once students started using marijuana, grades declined rapidly, school attendance became a problem, most dropped out of extracurricular activities, problems with police were common, and conflict within the family was almost always admitted. In other words, the use of marijuana caused a rapid deterioration in so many of the positive qualities that parents and teachers want for our youth.

  • Almost none of the parents understood much about the most active ingredient in marijuana, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). At almost every hearing, we explained that THC is fat-soluble and imbeds in the brain, reproductive organs, and other fatty tissues in the body. We also informed parents and students that heavy users of marijuana have an extensive buildup of THC in their bodies that can take months to be eliminated.

  • Over and over again we observed students who use marijuana exhibiting one primary characteristic - apathy. They care very little about anything except where their next joint will come from. The use of marijuana has become in so many ways the focus of their lives.

  • From a school perspective, the THC impact on the brain is tragic. It definitely impairs short-term memory, the most important school skill that all students must possess. Students who frequently use marijuana have a difficult time remembering what was taught the previous day, week, or month. As a result, their learning ability is handicapped.

There is so much more that could be shared from these very school board disciplinary hearings. As administrators and board members, we have cried with many students and families. Yet, we cannot tolerate students attending school and possessing or being under the influence of marijuana. To assist students and families, we have implemented an extremely successful Student Assistance Program (SAP), a cooperative drug-testing venture with our local hospital and other programs to help struggling students with the use of this very dangerous drug. Yes, we all know that high school students in the late 1970s and during the 1980s used a great deal of marijuana. However, it may have had the same name, but it was a much different drug back then. The THC content was 1-3%. Much of the marijuana being used today has a THC level of 8-12%, and possibly as high as 30%. IT IS NOT THE SAME DRUG. The dangers are much greater than ever. Lives are being destroyed by marijuana. Together, families and educators, we have an obligation to help all of our teenagers understand the dangers of marijuana and to do everything possible to help them avoid the temptation.

As an epilogue to the 75 board hearings noted above, every student was expelled by the Board of Education. However, the Board of Zion-Benton Township High School has a very enlightened expulsion abeyance contract policy. Students are not put on the street. When a student is remorseful, and at least one parent is cooperative, the student is placed on an expulsion abeyance contract. Only 5-10 days of the expulsion are actually implemented. The student must then fulfill the terms of the contract, which include frequent drug testing at parent expense with the results released to the principal, enrollment and successful participation in the Student Assistance Program, a commitment to perform school service after regular school hours, and a contractual commitment to improve attendance, grades, and behavior. If the student does not fulfill the expulsion abeyance contract, he/she is then allowed to attend the Regional Office of Education Alternative High School for Lake County.

Although more than half of the students do not satisfactorily complete their expulsion abeyance contract, and do enroll in the alternative high school, the impact of this policy and approach by the Board of Education has had dramatic impacts on the entire student body of Zion-Benton Township High School (2,200 students). Seldom is there even any odor of marijuana use during the school day or at school sponsored activities. Student surveys and anecdotal comments from many, many students indicate that the use of marijuana has diminished greatly in recent years. Through a strong educational program, a very effective board policy, and an extensive helping component, the Student Assistance Program, much hope is being demonstrated.

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Proof cannabis DOES lead teenagers to harder drugs: Study finds users are 26 times more likely to turn to other substances by the age of 21

 Daily Mail, Steve Doughty and Ben Spencer, June 8, 2017

The study of the lives of more than 5,000 teenagers produced the first resounding evidence that cannabis is a gateway to cocaine, amphetamines, hallucinogens and heroin.

Teenagers who regularly smoke cannabis are 26 times more likely to turn to other drugs by the age of 21.

It also discovered that teenage cannabis smokers are 37 times more likely to be hooked on nicotine and three times more likely to be problem drinkers than non-users of the drug.

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Teens rescue girl from horrific crash that killed her pregnant mother

 WGN 9, Dana Rebik, July 6, 2017

A man, arrested for driving under the influence and possession of marijuana, hit a car killing a mother who was six months pregnant and leaving a 1-year-old daughter hanging out the front of the car with one arm hanging out and the other hand reaching back grabbing the baby seat.

The driver, Jacob Kaminski 23 from Marseilles, went on to hit a Toyota Camry carrying three people. They were not hurt.

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2 Kids Die In Hot Car After Mom Locked Them In As Punishment: Cops

 Inside Edition, June 25, 2017

A Texas mother of two was jailed after she left her kids in a hot car where they died while she went inside to smoke marijuana. Cynthia Randolph locked 1-year-old Cavanaugh Ramirez and 2-year-old Juliet Ramirez in a vehicle at as temperatures soared to the mid-nineties. Juliet was unable to escape the car with her brother.

According to police Randolph acknowledged that she left her children in the car intentionally. She found the kids playing in the car and, when the 2-year-old refused to get out, she shut the door to teach her a lesson in the belief that her daughter could get herself and her brother out of vehicle when ready.

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Weed pizza? Massachusetts dispensary offering THC - infused pies

 Fox News, June 9, 2017

Ermont Inc., a dispensary in Quincy, Mass., has created a new pizza sauce infused with 125 milligrams of THC and they’re using that sauce to top their homemade personal pizzas. The THC-content of the pizza is far too high for a single serving. The suggested dosage is 10 milligrams of THC every two hours, not 125 milligrams in the time it normally takes to consume a 6-inch personal pizza.

The pizzas are baked and frozen on-site in Ermont Inc.’s kitchen.

But, for dispensary visitors, these weed pizzas might be too good to be true. There are some downsides to the THC-infused snack, the biggest of which may be the high cost. The personal weed pizzas will cost $40, they cannot be delivered and in order to purchase one of these pizzas, a valid Department of Public Health-issued patient or caregiver card is necessary.

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Horror in New York’s Times Square as car rams into pedestrians killing one and injuring 22

 Mirror, Anthony Bondpatrick Lion, May 18, 2017

Driver ran into pedestrians in Times Square high on marijuana

A car rammed into pedestrians in New York City’s busy Times Square, with one person dead and 22 injured.

Richard Rojas, 26, of the Bronx, was named as the man who drove a maroon sedan at pedestrians, knocking them over near the intersection of 45th street and Broadway.

Rojas, who had two prior arrests for drunk driving, was reportedly high on marijuana after telling officers he had smoked the drug earlier today.

Witnesses said the vehicle drove against traffic and on to the sidewalk about noon after entering the district around 42nd street and driving north.

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Workplace drug testing finds cocaine, marijuana use at 12-year high

Quest Diagnostics, May 17, 2017

Employees increasingly are testing positive for marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamines at work, driving the rates of positive drug tests in the United States to the highest level in 12 years.
Illinois' positive drug test rate matched the national average, though employees' drugs of choice vary widely in different parts of the state.

Cocaine is big in Chicago's south suburbs while opiates dominate at the southern end of Illinois, according to a local breakdown based on the first three digits of the ZIP codes. Heroin is concentrated around Rockford.

Marijuana, the most common drug for which workers test positive, has a steady presence throughout much of northern and central Illinois but leads to a particularly high positive rate in Sangamon County, home of the state capital.

Illinois has nearly double the national rate of positive heroin tests — 0.055 percent versus 0.028 percent — and the rate is even higher south of Chicago around Will and Kankakee counties. The rate of positive heroin tests is highest around Rockford, where it exceeds 0.12 percent.

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions issues charging and sentencing policies for drug crimes.

 Note: A bill in the Illinois legislature would raise the amounts of all drugs constituting an offense while decreasing penalties for all drug offenses (HB3235).

Attorney General Jeff Sessions Delivers Remarks at Sergeants Benevolent Association of New York City Award Presentation
Department of Justice, Friday May 12, 2017


In 2015, more than 52,000 Americans died from a drug overdose. According to a report by the New England Journal of Medicine, the price of heroin is down, the availability is up and the purity is up. We intend to reverse that trend. So we are returning to the enforcement of the law as passed by Congress – plain and simple. If you are a drug trafficker, we will not look the other way. We will not be willfully blind to your conduct. We are talking about a kilogram of heroin – that is 10,000 doses, five kilograms of cocaine and 1,000 kilograms of marijuana. These are not low-level offenders. These are drug dealers. And you're going to prison.

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Scientists Expose Colorado’s Marijuana Problems

Letter to Governor John Hickenlooper, March, 2017

We are a group of scientists from Harvard University and other institutions acutely concerned about the impact of marijuana on youth, and among drivers, employees, parents, and other members of society.

The only representative sample of teens ever conducted in Colorado, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), shows that Colorado now leads the nation among 12 to 17-year-olds in (A) last-year marijuana use, (B) last-month marijuana use, and (C) the percentage of people who try marijuana for the first time during that period (“first use”).
Youth use has risen since statewide since the legalization of marijuana.

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Mysterious illness tied to marijuana use on the rise in states with legal weed

Jonathan Lapook, CBS News, December 28, 2016

There is a disturbing new illness resulting from heavy, long-term marijuana use that causes nausea and vomiting. Hot showers and baths are the only thing that seems to relieve the symptoms. It is cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, or CHS.

For more than two years, Lance Crowder was having severe abdominal pain and vomiting, and no local doctor could figure out why. Finally, an emergency room physician in Indianapolis had an idea.

“The first question he asked was if I was taking hot showers to find relief. When he asked me that question, I basically fell into tears because I knew he had an answer,” Crowder said.

Dr. Kennon Heard, an emergency room physician at the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, Colorado co-authored a study showing that since 2009, when medical marijuana became widely available, emergency room visits diagnoses for CHS in two Colorado hospitals nearly doubled. In 2012, the state legalized recreational marijuana.

“It is certainly something that, before legalization, we almost never saw,” Heard said. “Now we are seeing it quite frequently.”

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Elephant tranquilizer carfentanil causes first death in Chicago area

WGNTV.com, Dina Bair, December 9, 2016

There is a new opioid, a fentanyl synthetic called carfentanil that is 10,000 times more potent than morphine. A 35-year- old Lake Zurich man became one of its first victims.

Drug dealers are manufacturing their own version of a painkiller used by veterinarians to immobilize elephants. In people, it leads to instant death.

“It’s really like a ticking time bomb because it’s so potent. If someone thinks they are getting something else, like just straight street heroin for example, its being so much more potent, they’re likely to stop breathing and die,” Dr. Steven Aks, Stronger Hospital, Emergency Medicine and Toxicology.

In an effort to save lives naloxone has been made available by prescription. If administered immediately after an overdose of heroin, for example, it can completely reverse an overdose. But carfentanil may be too strong for naloxone.

“The problem with carfentanil is because it is so potent, we are not sure how effective it is going to be,” Aks said.

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Gummy bears that sickened Naperville students contained marijuana, doctor says

WGN TV, December 8, 2016, Associated Press

On Tuesday December 6th, fourteen Naperville high school students were taken to the hospital after eating gummy bears believed to have contained marijuana. Dr. Jennifer McNulty of Edward Hospital said after talking to the students and observing their behavior she is certain that the gummy bears contained marijuana or marijuana oil.

On Tuesday, police said they had taken a 17-year-old into custody for his alleged involvement in the incident but on Wednesday police did not provide any updates on the investigation.

Source:
http://wgntv.com/2016/12/08/gummy-bears-that-sickened-naperville-students-contained-marijuana-doctor-says/

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Drug Positivity in U.S. Workplace Rises to Nearly Highest Level in a Decade, Quest Diagnostics Analysis Finds

 Quest Diagnostics, Sept. 15, 2016

In the general U.S. workforce, between 2011 and 2015, marijuana positivity increased 26 percent and heroin positivity increased 147 percent.

Following years of declines, the percentage of employees in the combined U.S. workforce testing positive for drugs has steadily increased over the last three years to a 10-year high, according to an analysis of nearly 11 million workforce drug test results released today by Quest Diagnostics, the world’s leading provider of diagnostic information services.

Another notable trend is the rising positivity rate for post-accident urine drug testing in both the general U.S. and federal-mandated, safety-sensitive workplaces. Post-accident positivity increased 6.2 percent in 2015 when compared to 2914 (6.9% versus 6.5%) and increased 30 percent since 2011 (5.3%). In addition, post-accident positivity for safety-sensitive workforce has risen 22 percent during a five-year time period (2.8% in 2015 versus 2.3% in 2011).

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Child Abuse, Exploitation in California’s Marijuana Country

 Parents Opposed to Pot, September 12, 2016

The Emerald Triangle can’t hide behind its secrets after a report of widespread abuse, sexual exploitation and worker exploitation was published last week by Reveal News. There’s both worker and sexual exploitation.

In summer and fall, temporary workers come in town to work the marijuana harvests. These “trimmigrants” sometimes end up homeless and without jobs. In one article, it’s reported that 100 European “trimmigrants” were stiffed for pay, broke, and without a place to go and ended up in homeless shelters. Mexican and other immigrants also face abuse.

After exploitation, teens and other workers many end up in homeless shelters.

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How Marijuana Begat Heroin

Notable & Quotable, Wall Street Journal, Aug. 18, 2016

Okay, I’m going to say it. The heroin epidemic was caused by the legalization of marijuana.

We wanted legal weed, and for the most part, we got it. Four states have legalized it outright, others have decriminalized it, and in many jurisdictions police refuse to enforce the laws that are on the books, creating a de facto street legalization. The American marijuana was superior and the cost of doing business significantly less.

Colorado’s recreational marijuana law threatened to annihilate the Sinaloa Cartel’s weed operation. In a single year, the cartel suffered a 40 percent drop in marijuana sales, representing billions of dollars.

Looking at the American drug market as it existed, Guzmán and his partners saw an opportunity. An increasing number of Americans were addicted to prescription opioids such as Oxycontin. And their addiction was expensive. One capsule of Oxy might sell on the street for thirty dollars, and an addict might need ten hits a day.

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Mass Illnesses Due To Marijuana Edibles, Brownies, Candy

California, Child Endangerment, Colorado, Washington

Parents Opposed to Pot, August 8, 2016

Edible marijuana poses a ‘unique problem,’ because ‘no other drug is infused into a palatable and appetizing form’ – such as cookies, brownies and candy. Many household items cause poisonings, but marijuana edibles are different because they’re made to look appealing and they appeal to children.

Last year there were more than 4,000 treatments at hospitals and poison center treatments in the US related to marijuana toxicity in children and teens.

Parents Opposed to Pot summarized the recent cases of toxicity from edibles.

• A JAMA Pediatrics article explains the dramatic rise in children’s hospitalizations related to marijuana in Colorado since legalization. In 10 cases, the product was not in a child-resistant container; in 40 scenarios (34%) there was poor child supervision or product storage. Edible products were responsible for 51 (52%) of exposures. The report claimed that child-resistant packaging has not been as effective in reducing kids’ unintended exposure to pot as hoped.

• The state of Washington has a similar problem with edibles, as reported on the King County Health Department’s website. From 2013 to May 2015, there were 46 cases
of children’s intoxications related to marijuana edibles reported in Washington. However, reporting is voluntary and the state estimates that number could be much higher. 

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Secondhand marijuana smoke damages blood vessels more than tobacco smoke

American Heart Association News, July 27, 2016

In a new study, arteries in rats that inhaled secondhand marijuana smoke for one minute carried blood less efficiently for at least 90 minutes. Similar exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke caused blood vessel impairment for 30 minutes.

 “While the effect is temporary for both cigarette and marijuana smoke, these temporary problems can turn into long-term problems if exposures occur often enough and may increase the chances of developing hardened and clogged arteries,” said Matthew Springer, Ph.D.

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Marijuana exposure in kids rose after recreational use legalized in Colorado

The JAMA Network Journals, July 25, 2016

The legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado was associated with both increased hospital visits and cases at a regional poison center because of unintentional exposure to the drug by children, suggesting effective preventive measures are needed as more states consider legalizing the drug, according to an article published online by JAMA Pediatrics

The authors identified 81 children – 62 included in the analysis – evaluated at the hospital and 163 marijuana exposure calls to a Colorado RPC. The median age of children who visited the hospital was 2.4 years and for children in RPC cases. 

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Colorado Youth Marijuana Use: Up – Down – Flat? Examine the Data and You Decide!

Press Release, Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (RMHIDTA), July 6, 2016

In June, 2016, the 2015 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey (HKCS) was released with the media claiming that past month marijuana use by Colorado teens had not increased since pot had been legalized and use was within line with the national average.

However, Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area asks, “Is the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey ‘Good News’ and is Colorado teen marijuana use ‘flat?’ The reader can examine the facts and data to make an informed decision. What is clear is that there is no overall pattern in the HKCS data: thus it is best to refrain from jumping to conclusions on such an important issue. The HKCS results are highly variable between class years and regions from major increases to major decreases.

Examples of variables include:

• There was a 57.5 percent increase in use among one region’s freshmen while a 53.4 percent decrease in another.
• In one region there was a 72.0 percent increase in high school sophomore use but, in another, a 38.9 percent decrease.
• One region for juniors shows a 49.8 percent increase and another, 33.1 percent decrease.
• In one region, high school seniors had a 90.0 percent increase and in another a 34.3 percent decrease. 

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Opioid overdose deaths by state

Emily Rappleye, Becker’s Hospital Review, June 27, 2016

Opioid abuse — which has spurred a 20-year high in heroin use in the U.S. — has become a significant cause of death nationwide.

In 2014, there were 28,647 deaths due to opioid overdoses. The overdoses were due to natural, semisynthetic and synthetic opioids, methadone and heroin.

The five top states were Ohio – 2,106, California – 2,024, New York – 1,739, Florida - 1,399, and Illinois – 1,205. The data was published by the Kaiser Family Foundation.  

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One in six children hospitalized for lung inflammation positive for marijuana exposure

 Science Daily, American Academy of Pediatrics, April 30, 2016

A new study, Marijuana Exposure in Children Hospitalized for Bronchiolitis, found that one in six infants and toddlers admitted to a Colorado hospital with coughing, wheezing and other symptoms of bronchiolitis tested positive for marijuana exposure. There were comparisons made between before the legalization and after the legalization of marijuana.

A questionnaire given to parents asked whether anyone in the home smoked marijuana.
Of the children who were identified as having been exposed to marijuana smokers, urine samples showed traces of a metabolite of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component of marijuana, in 16 percent of them.

These findings indicate that secondhand marijuana smoke, containing carcinogenic and psychoactive chemicals, may be a concern for children’s health. 

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Effort to limit pot’s THC count raises questions

Those behind the THC limiting proposals say they’re smart, cautious moves; Opponents say they’ll hurt the pot industry

Ricardo Baca, The Denver Post – Denver and the West, March 30, 2016

Colorado is concerned about extremely high levels of THC in their marijuana and marijuana products. Their average potencies are 17 percent for marijuana and 62 percent for marijuana concentrate products.

Josh Hindi, whose dispensary, Dabble Extracts, a concentrates company, “estimates his extracts test between 70 percent and 80 percent THC and cater(s) to patients who prefer the more potent product.”

For Josh, lowering THC limits “would remove concentrates in total from any kind of retail operation.”

There is no research available on these alarmingly high THC levels and its impact on brain development of adolescents. As a result, the Colorado state House has a proposed bill limiting THC potency of marijuana to 15 percent and 16 percent in marijuana products. Additionally, “It would require everything to be sold in a child-resistant, opaque, resealable package and would require edibles to be packaged and sold only in single-serving amounts.”

There is also a THC-capping ballot initiative limiting retail marijuana products to 16 percent but not medical marijuana.

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New Study Shows Increased Heroin Availability at Root of Heroin Crisis, not Prescription Painkillers

Brian Blake, Hudson Institute, January 21, 2016

There is no consistent evidence of an association between the implementation of policies related to prescription opioids and increases in the rates of heroin use or deaths. Instead the heroin market forces, including increased accessibility, reduced price, and high purity of heroin appear to be major drivers of the recent increases in rates of heroin use.

This finding contradicts the White House claim that the huge increase in heroin overdose deaths---440 percent in the past seven years---is directly related to prescription pain killers and changes in prescribing policies aimed at making them harder to obtain and abuse.

The article appearing in the New England Journal of Medicine is a product of leading researchers at the National Institute of Drug Abuse, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They surveyed dozens of recent, peer-reviewed studies on heroin use. Initiation patterns, overdose deaths and the effects of policy changes in prescribing opioids.

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Study: 20 percent increase in youth marijuana use --- Kids 12 to 17 used the drug 20% more in the two years since legalization

Kody Fisher, 22NEWS WWLP, January 17, 2016

Marijuana use by Colorado teens ages 12 to 17 has increased 20% more in the two years since legalization. The data came from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

With the increase the state moved from number 4 to number 1 in teen pot use.

“With the legalization of marijuana it has just kinda made people more comfortable with being open about. It’s more socially acceptable, so I think people are more open about the fact that they use it,” said Studio A64 Owner Ambur Racek.

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Prevalence of Marijuana Use Among U.S. Adults Doubles Over Past Decade

National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse, NIH News, NIAAA News Release, October 21, 2015

Marijuana use by adults in the United States has soared, more doubling, over the past decade, 2001-2002 to 2012-2013. Surveys show 9.5 percent of Americans use marijuana; 30 percent of users meet criteria for a disorder.

Past year marijuana use rose from 4.1 percent to 9.5 percent of the U.S. adult population, while the prevalence of marijuana use disorder rose from 1.5 percent to 2.9 percent, according to national surveys conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of the National Institutes of Health.
“Based on the results of our surveys, marijuana use in the United States has risen rapidly over the past decade, with about 3 in 10 people who use marijuana meeting the criteria for addiction. Given these increases, it is important that the scientific community convey information to the public about the potential harms,” said George Koob, Ph.D., director of NIAAA.

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Colorado Educators Concerned about Pot in Public Schools

Elizabeth Hernandez, The Denver Post, October 14, 2015

The Colorado School Safety Resource Center in Thornton, CO, held a Safe Schools Summit. Over 350 educators, first responders and school mental health professionals crowded into a conference room to learn about the impact marijuana legalization is having on the schools.

“It’s the No. 1 problem in schools right now,” said Lynn Riemer, president of ACT on Drugs, a nonprofit drug awareness and education organization.

Jeff Whitmore, from Bayfield School District, said, “At first, I thought it was similar to alcohol and that the kids would do it anyway and all that. But it’s like they’re disguising alcohol as Kool-Aid and marketing it to kids. These edibles are cookies and gummy bears, and they’re filled with high amounts of THC.”

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