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Pot legalization is a disaster for Colorado children and schools. Listen to the experts who live it every day.

The crisis of pot-infested schools was identified by Colorado educators last week as the No. 1 issue they face. They shared their concerns and frustrations as more than 350 school officials, first responders and school mental health professionals met Wednesday and Thursday in Thornton for the Colorado School Safety Resource Center's Safe Schools Summit.

"We got sold that marijuana legalization was going to positively impact our schools," said Christine Harms, director of the Colorado School Safety Resource Center, as quoted in The Denver Post. "And there is the school infrastructure aspect, but we're not seeing tremendous changes with marijuana prevention programs, and our students are paying the price."

Assistant state's Attorney General Michael Song told school faculty of the shifting attitudes young people have in favor of marijuana. The risk-reward ratio favors risk more than it did before passage of Amendment 64, which legalized pot for adults. Educators complained of parents who smoke and consume marijuana with kids.

"There's a shift in culture," said Jeff Whitmore, director of transportation for Bayfield School District in southwestern Colorado. "Kids see their parents smoking it and see it marketed everywhere, and they think it's normal and OK for them to do."

Bayfield expressed dismay after an hourlong presentation highlighted the in-plain-view obscurity of drug-laced edibles that appeal to children and can be easily consumed in classrooms, hallways and lunchrooms.

"At first, I thought it was similar to alcohol and that the kids would do it anyway and all that," Whitmore said. "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."

Alcohol and cigarettes have long been problems in schools. But students have not achieved alcohol intoxication or ingested tobacco by popping common food items into their mouths wherever food is permitted. Consuming alcohol and tobacco in schools involves greater risk, and more deviant efforts to hide the activity, than getting stoned on THC.

It is scandalous that our state constitution facilitates and protects Big Marijuana, aka Big Tobacco 2.0, in marketing a psychoactive drug to kids. With pot as the biggest problem in our schools, the state's future is compromised. It means test scores and education are rendered secondary concerns. A generation of kids who sit through lectures in the haze of THC intoxication is not likely to compete among peer groups from more sober countries and states. It makes Colorado an international joke.

With legalization, Colorado law is no longer on the side of educators and kids in regard to substance abuse. Teachers, principals and counselors cannot successfully combat this alone. As seen last week in Thornton, they are overwhelmed by the new dilemma.

Gov. John Hickenlooper, legislators, state and local school board members and other officials need to acknowledge the crisis and respond with urgency. But we cannot wait or depend on a government solution. Mothers, fathers, grandparents and clergy need to get involved and intervene. They need to somehow ensure the children in their lives are not sitting through classroom lectures in stupors caused by drug-laced gummy bears and licorice.

The Gazette

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