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Parents, schools say more youths using pot

By: The Gazette Op/Ed
March 24, 2015 Updated: March 24, 2015 at 5:40 am
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Woman holding clipboard with drug test

Employers aren’t the only ones drug testing these days. Parents are springing tests on their kids, who are smoking more marijuana since legalization. The owner of two labs in Colorado Springs reports seeing large increases in such tests.

Amy Mullins, who owns two Any Lab Test Now franchises, says the number of drug tests conducted at her location near Chapel Hills Mall was up more than 22 percent in 2014 over the prior year. It was even higher at her south-side location: Testing was up 45 percent.

“I thought 22.4 percent was insanely high,” she said after running the numbers for The Gazette.

While the company offers everything from DNA to thyroid panels, Mullins said it’s not uncommon to receive multiple phone calls a day from moms and dads about marijuana.

See also: Teen: Colorado voters were duped

“We have had an uptick for sure in parental testing. We’re seeing a lot more parents bring their kids in for marijuana testing, especially because lines have been blurred with the legalization of recreational marijuana. I think kids think they can get away with it because they are hearing in the news the word ‘legalization.’ ”

Terra Runyan, medical assistant supervisor at the north branch, said she typically sees 10 teens a day — most of them surprised when they figure out where they are.

See also: Drug use a problem for employers

“A parent will walk in and the children don’t know they’re being tested. They just picked them up from school and took them straight here.” Some, she said, save their parents the $49 testing fee and confess to using marijuana.

The increase comes in the aftermath of surveys that show teens have a decreasing perception that marijuana is harmful.

The 2014 Monitoring the Future survey, released by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, showed marijuana use “steady among eighth-graders at 6.5 percent, 10th-graders at
16.6 percent and 12th-graders at 21.2 percent. Close to 6 percent of 12th-graders report daily use of marijuana.

“However, the majority of high school seniors do not think occasional marijuana smoking is harmful, with only 16.4 percent saying occasional use puts the user at great risk, compared to 27.4 percent five years ago,” according to the survey.

In addition, a June 2014 survey of 100 Colorado school resource officers conducted by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area found that:

• 89 percent of officers saw an increase in marijuana-related incidents since recreational marijuana was legalized.

• The most common on-campus violation was possession, followed by being under the influence and then by possession of edibles.

Colorado Springs Police Chief Pete Carey said school resource officers are being “inundated” with issues regarding vape pens.

“I’m worried about how it’s affecting our kids, our expulsion rates and suspensions,” Carey said.

It’s too early to tell how marijuana is affecting schools in the Pikes Peak region. District 11 reports that through mid-January of this academic year,
102 students were suspended or expelled for incidents related to marijuana. In all of 2013-14, there were 184 suspensions/expulsions.

A Gazette analysis shows that overall, local school districts recorded 602 drug violations in 2013-14, up 12 percent from the previous year. That’s higher than the state average increase of 7.4 percent. Statewide, drug incidents reported by all public high schools hit a decade high last school year of 5,377.

While local middle schools had the highest percentage increase (24 percent), high schools in the region had the most violations last year — 469. That’s an increase of 8.3 percent. Statewide, high school violation numbers were flat.

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