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Gazette Premium Content School officials say nearby dispensaries don't worry them

RYAN MAYE HANDY Updated: January 13, 2012 at 12:00 am

A day after the U.S. Attorney of Colorado threatened 23 Colorado marijuana dispensaries with closure for being too close to schools, officials at five Colorado Springs schools said the dispensaries near them have posed no serious threat.

Officials for two schools in Colorado Springs School District 11 and three charter schools said Friday that nearby dispensaries, while concerning, cannot be traced to a spike in marijuana use among students.

Civa Charter, Globe Charter and Pikes Peak Prep leaders said marijuana poses no greater or newer threat than alcohol.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, school districts across Colorado have seen a “dramatic increase in student abuse of marijuana,” since more dispensaries opened in 2010.

Palmer High School in District 11 is a block from Indespensary, a medical marijuana dispensary in downtown Colorado Springs. The school only tracks general drug abuse and not marijuana use specifically, said Devra Ashby, spokeswoman for the district.

Statistics show that 204 District 11 students got disciplinary referrals for drug abuse during the 2010-2011 school year, up from 141 in 2007-2008. But the number of expulsions for drug abuse has dramatically dropped since two years ago, from 71 to 45 students.

Ashby said there is no way, at present, to connect drug or marijuana abuse at Palmer with the presence of the dispensary down the block.

“The bigger issue at hand, rather than proximity, is more of an access issue,” she said. If teens don’t have medical marijuana cards, they might know someone who does, she said.

District 11 saw a spike in drug abuse in 2006, after the state raise the compulsory high school age from 16 to 17, Ashby said.

Jan Songer, education director at Globe Charter School at 3302 Alpine Place, had no idea that her school is near East West Alternative Medicine, a dispensary off North Academy Boulevard.

“It’s not affecting us whatsoever,” she said Friday.

Monica Ramey, director of operations for Pikes Peak Prep on East Costilla Street, agreed, although she said students often “loiter” around SSI Care Centers, the dispensary on East Cimarron Street. In a school of 267 students, 50 of whom are high schoolers, marijuana use is easy to track, and no spike has been reported. Students also tend to loiter around a nearby liquor store, she added.

In September, Ramey said she became interested in the federal guidelines for dispensaries near schools, but the school has not officially broached the subject of medical marijuana with its students.

“We had talked about putting something in place, but there aren’t any issues,” she said.
Randy Zimmerman, the principal at Civa Charter School, said the nearby dispensary, Mountain Med Club on Northpark Drive, has not been a cause for concern.

“We haven’t seen any increase in marijuana use,” he said. He added that the threat of marijuana use and addiction in teens is not greater than the threat of alcohol use.

But the controversy has provided the students in his government class with a great lesson in federalism, he said. It’s a great example for high schoolers of the conflicts between federal and state governments, he said.

That battle provides conflict for schools as well, placing them in a difficult position, Ramey said.

“What kind of stance is the school supposed to take?” she asked.


Contact Ryan Maye Handy:
636-0261
Twitter @ryanmhandy
Facebook Ryan Maye Handy

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