School officials in various Colorado districts have been attempting to combat an increasing number of drug violations on their K-12 campuses, many of which are citing the prevalence of medical marijuana dispensers in the vicinity.
Colorado voters narrowly approved the use of marijuana for limited medicinal purposes in 2000, but since 2009 more than 80 communities have banned dispensaries, outlawing them from Alamosa to Greeley, writes Rebecca Jones and Katie Kerwin McCrimmon at Education News Colorado.
"School leaders lament a 45 percent spike in drug offenses, an increase sparking a federal crackdown on dispensaries near campuses."
However, while a state law suggests that a 1,000-foot buffer should be around schools, local authorities allow dispensaries to deviate. Critics and superintendents of three school districts – Colorado Springs, Cheyenne Mountain and Academy – are lobbying for a bigger, stricter buffer zone as officials believe at least some medical marijuana is going to students.
Carrie Gordon Earll of CitizenLink, Focus' advocacy arm, said:
"Like many, we are unhappy with the current marijuana dispensary situation in Colorado Springs. However, we are not aware that there are any current options to âfight' these dispensaries as they are here legally and to date, efforts to limit them have been unsuccessful.
"If an opportunity to reverse the law or close down dispensaries presents itself, we'll examine it for future involvement."
Schools in the city District 11 have recorded some of the highest increases statewide in drug violations. Palmer High School saw incidents rocket from two drug incidents in 2007-08 to 45 in 2010-11.
Greg Ecks, director of the district's Office of Student Discipline Services, said that almost all students found with drugs have been caught with marijuana.
"It has a dispensary label on it. That would lead us to the conclusion that it's coming from dispensaries.
"It's passing hands. The students say they don't know where it came from. But the jars are quite common.
"It's serious and it's a growing problem. Even before it was legally allowed for medicinal purposes, it was growing in popularity," he added. "Now it's filtering down into the middle schools."
U.S. Attorney John Walsh cited a "dramatic increase in student abuse of marijuana" in warning 23 dispensary operators to move within 45 days or face criminal action and seizure of their property, writes Katie Kerwin McCrimmon and Nancy Mitchell at Ed News Colorado.
However, Brian Vicente, director of pro-legalization group Sensible Colorado, said that it is wrong to blame dispensaries for the increases in student drug violations.
"There's never been a recorded case of dispensaries selling marijuana to high school kids," he said.
"That is not the problem. Dispensaries are a highly regulated industry."
Vincente said that students are getting marijuana the same way they've gotten it for the past 50 years – illegally, writes McCrimmon and Mitchel.