New Law Haunts Schools Local City Officials Charge: Marijuana Law is Taking Toll on Teens at Revere High

January 19, 2012
By

Two years ago this month, Massachusetts decriminalized the use and possession of an ounce or less of marijuana.

Many probably haven’t given a second thought to that change over the past 24 months, but in the schools, it’s a topic of conversation just about every day.

And Revere school officials say the double standard between inside the school and out on the streets has made it much more difficult – if not impossible – to keep drugs and drug dealing out of the schools.

Superintendent Paul Dakin said it has become a Catch-22 for schools all over the state.

“It haunts us and it has made our lives harder and has made things much more difficult,” he said. “It’s not affecting us in a good way. We have to do intense re-education of the kids because they feel if they can have marijuana on the street, then they should be able to have it in the schools. Society is giving them the right to hold pot in the street. The way an adolescent thinks is that we’re taking away their rights when we enforce our zero-tolerance policy because there is this great disconnect between the street and the schools. It makes adults look foolish because you can’t expect to keep schools safe and drug-free and not follow your own procedures. This society sends mixed messages to kids with this and it’s not good.”

In November 2009, after a well-funded media campaign by out-of-state individuals, voters across the Commonwealth overwhelmingly voted to decriminalize the possession of an ounce or less of marijuana – which meant that one could not be arrested for possessing that amount. The new procedure called for tickets or citations to be written, though public safety officials complained that the civil ticketing process was vague and difficult to implement.

When it came to young people, the law was fairly vague, only requiring that any young person caught with marijuana be referred to a state program. It was still technically illegal for young people to possess, but they could no longer be arrested. They could only be referred to the state program. That program, though, was slow to be implemented and was cumbersome to wade through.

The law went into effect in January 2010.

Two years later, public safety officials, school officials and youth advocates are saying it has levied a major toll on the school-age generation – who grapple to understand why marijuana is frowned upon at school and smiled upon in the law books.

“Our anecdotal reports suggest that the decriminalization of marijuana has led to the misconception that marijuana is now ‘legal,’ when in reality, it is still illegal for youth to possess it or use it in any amount; it’s just that the consequences of doing so have changed,” said Katie Sugarman of RevereCARES. “Based on the information we have received from youth in Revere, there appear to be skewed perceptions of how harmful marijuana actually is – and its decriminalization just reinforces this misunderstanding. Many youth mistakenly believe that marijuana must not be ‘that bad for you’ if the regulations governing it have loosened.”

Added RevereCARES Director Kitty Bowman, “For youth it creates a very confusing situation. You cannot drink legally, but if you are caught with a small amount of marijuana on the street it is only a civil offense. Then you factor in the differences between consequences in the schools and in the street.”

Sugarman added that there isn’t enough emphasis being put on the long-term ramifications of youthful drug use – especially that of marijuana.

“In reality, marijuana use is associated with a number of health problems for adolescents, including negative impacts on brain and lung development,” she said. “Furthermore, youth marijuana use is associated with an increased risk of substance abuse later in life.”

Revere Police Chief Terence Reardon said that the well-funded campaign during the 2009 Election came from moneyed interests like MoveOn.org founder and multi-billionaire currency trader George Soros. He said that Soros and others championing the cause did not pay enough attention to how their crusade would negatively affect young people.

“What most disturbs me is the rise of marijuana as the substance of choice among kids,” said the Chief. “It is sad that the public while availing themselves of the access to the drug never even considered the negative affect it might have our youth. George Soros, with all his billions, should be ashamed of himself for wrapping the issue in the blanket of personal freedom while ignoring the consequences.”

The law, nevertheless, will likely see no change or amendment any time soon and, perhaps, could possibly get emboldened as similar advocates continue their annual call for a medical marijuana law to be implemented in Massachusetts.

In the interim, superintendents such as Dakin are left to sort out the mess that is left behind two years after the initial law became implemented.

That involves sorting out who is dealing drugs, whether or not to expel kids who are carrying drugs and how to explain to young people that pot isn’t harmless.

“If we catch a kid with 15 bags packaged for what is obviously a selling situation, the law does nothing to them if they have less than an ounce, but we expel them,” said Dakin. “We would get no place in the courts with something like that. It could be an amount under the quantity and the laws don’t say anything about how it’s packaged. That’s the law, but for the school purposes, we can expel and sometimes we do.

“Meanwhile, people say we shouldn’t be expelling kids for something that’s not illegal and I say, ‘Then what?’” Dakin continued. “How do we keep schools safe and drug-free?”

Even more importantly, he said, is keeping kids on the edges of bad behavior drug-free.

“There are a lot of kids on the fringes that will not go down a bad path if they know there are consequences,” he said. “Once you relax those consequences, these kids are the ones that will end up going down that bad path that they otherwise would not. That’s the biggest tragedy here.”

  • Anonymous

    Failure to fact check is obvious with the first word of the first sentence erroneously proclaiming “Two.”  FACT: It was January 2009 that Question 2 took effect.

    The rest of this one sided story goes down hill from there.Leaving the year mistake aside and my agreement that children shouldn’t use marijuana and certainly should not be bringing it to school, what I take away from this story is:

    further proof that the Superintendant and the School Department are failing our children;
    none of the adults have actually read the law, http://www.malegislature.gov/Laws/SessionLaws/Acts/2008/Chapter387;

    further proof that RevereCares is failing to properly prioratize its substance abuse prevention efforts when it takes sides on anectdotal evidence about marijuana while opiod and prescription use by our children, an activity that even they must agree is far more dangerous than marijuana; and,

    Chief Reardon implicitly thinks the 64+% statewide and the 61%+ in Revere are stupid and  desire to reempower his officers to handcuff children and get court time for marijuana.

  • Mjg95

    So teens didn’t use Marijuana until it was legalized?  Sure they didn’t, who wrote this nonsense? 

  • Mjg95

    …and further, why are there ZERO stats or evidence in this hit piece showing the supposed “toll” this harmless, beneficial houseplant has “caused”?

  • Zig Zoe Zeta

    Nonsense. 

    The law still doesn’t allow selling…nor does it allow drugs around schools. Get more law enforcement for the area because with or without the law the behavior is unlikely to stop. 

  • Anonymous

    blah, blah, blah, refer madness.  lets just continue to jail our youth for it instead”that’ll teach ‘em”  why dont we just tax and regulate, then it will be just as hard to get as Tobacco and alcohol now.  decriminalization is not an answer, full legalization is….

  • Anonymous

    the governments policies advocate for illegal use which obviously is fueled by illegal sale. if this nature of the substance were eliminated, other scapegoats could be found. *lord knows we have to have a scapegoat*

  • http://www.facebook.com/mikecann Mike Cann

    Where’s the balance in this article? Quotes from the other side? The 65% who votes Yes? Where are the quotes from the local volunteers that collected signatures and staged years of PPQ’s to set the stage for 2008 decrim? Cigarettes are legal for 18+ where’s the outrage, problem with that? 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Norman-Gooding/100001236498173 Norman Gooding

    Remove the profits,remove the criminals.

    America does not have a marijuana problem,,we can find marijuana in any town in America.  Our government makes us criminals and forces us to buy it from criminals,we would rather buy it from you.

    Legalize and take control of the market instead of feeding the criminals.

  • Massvocals

    here you have a school  director  who  come to the state  to effect everyone  due to kids  The law address this  and this director  knows  The  weather   if wheat or hemp is illegal it will still be present  the openness  should be address  with there openness   why is it they have to deal in punishment   why is it they can not control with reason  , why  because this story is sham and meant to help change the law back for everyone   because of the kids   those kids     I say to you  there is no problem   most of the kids  don’t ever smoke   remember its not legal   however  if there  is a problem  well  what you should do is hold one of those really  rally  inviited the whole scholl  and tell it like it is   , fact is there palce for everything  even marijuana   and not in school  so those  who  refuse too control them selves   do what you do   throw them out   for week  2 weeks  what ever  with there parents  being told    the police can do noting  but push it down under ground 

  • Anonymous

    from colorado springs newspaper “schools officials say nearby dispensaries don’t worry them” i’m not saying there isn’t a problem in another place but please check out this article http://www.gazette.com/articles/dispensaries-131742-colorado-schools.html

  • JH2

    This article is 100% propaganda!  Marijuana decrim wasn’t enacted by some sinister out-of-state campaign.  They barely spent any money on advertising.  Less than half a million for sure.   (Compare that to the $10+ million spent on the wine in grocery store referendum.)

    Marijuana decrim was supported by Massachusetts residents in non-binding local referendums (Public Policy Questions) from 2000-2008 – dozens of local decrim ballot initiatives were approved by wide margins all over the state.  Over a dozen state legislators had signed onto a MJ decrim bill sponsored by State Senator Charles Shannon, a former police officer.

    The Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse at the State House also moved this 1-ounce decrim bill favorably out of committee in 2006 and 2008, after having studied the issue for a year.

    Massachusetts residents support decrim because we recognize the “War on Drugs” has spun wildly out of control.  We’ve had ENOUGH punishment of our kids from the corrupt political class here.  Get the police OUT of our schools.  How much more clear do we need to make this?  If you disregard our vote, what else will we have to do???

    How many more Speakers of the House need to be convicted and sent to prison before the Mass. political class ceases these relentless self-righteous moral crusades?  Are you kidding me?   Why don’t they focus on corrupt Public Housing bureaucrats that are ripping us off!

  • Massvocals

    one more thing  a warning  I myself had to deal with school directors  as such  I never been arrest but i support smoking  of marijuana  and people like this guy  running this school  has no cause to go out side the school  deal with the parents  or the child   make reason  not punishment  you go further  but this guy seems to want to change then law for everyone   like man hes got DARE officers in the school  pushing there wills   its going take some understanding  on both sides   but NORML  would not approve of  smoking grass in school     school for education  and like everything  things must be taken in measure    and  dont get ugly  get wise  the police should not be called   its not a criminal  matter  that what we all said   and now you want to change it back   we tried that it doesn’t work  what really want is to kick those out of school  for ever give them records  figue that will stop them or all   your wrong   plain and simple  .I  got thrown out myself as i said   and had to get my GED  but dude  all that did was ruin my life  i had wanted  to destroy the director then but he die  soon after   i fugue its was  fate   and thank GOD  now you come to repeater mod   why can’t your just ask them to have some thought of there education   > why ? 

  • Anonymous

    Agreed, what a worthless excuse of an “article”. Give me a break, we have been throwing hundreds of billions of dollars at “prohibition” and its been a disaster. Explain to the kids they can’t have weed on campus or they will get expelled, pretty simple if you ask me. That’s a far cry from moving in the wrong direction and spending even more money trying to enforce laws that are unenforceable. People should be going to jail over weed, period.

  • Responsible Parent

    First of all, talk about shoddy reporting… your dates are way off. It’s been 3 years since decrim was effective, after passing in November 2008.

    Second, and most importantly, national studies have shown that teen use of marijuana has increased slightly in recent years nationally, while all other teen drug use, including alcohol, has declined dramatically.

    In other words, teenagers are making a SAFER choice. My kids can smoke pot all they want if it keeps them away from dangerous drugs like alcohol, ecstasy, LSD, cocaine, and other drugs that were very popular when I was in high school.

  • Killer bud

    I would rather kids got a fine instead of a criminal record any day.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Norman-Gooding/100001236498173 Norman Gooding

    The answer is right before
    them,within their grasp,,legalize and take control of the market,remove
    the criminals selling to the masses and allow police to center on anyone
    selling to kids,,instead of scattering police resources fighting the
    “green” market.

  • Charleston Voice
  • John Furr

    Sounds to me like PARENTS need to have a reality talk with the kids. 

    What more is there to say than that?  It’s legal for 18 year olds to smoke on the streets to..but most schools still prohibit cigs right?

  • Anonymous

    Your point, besides not seeing eye to eye with George Soros, who doesn’t see eye to eye with Ron Paul?

  • Djones

    The people have spoken.Get over it and move on with your pathetic lives. And the cops should put the donuts down and go catch some real criminals instead of trying to ruin these kids lives F*%king bullies.

  • RevereReporter(Staff)

    Correction is needed…Sorry about that. Due to a reporting error, it was listed as two years and those responding are correct. It is three. Hard to keep track of the new year at times. Other than that, the piece was a reflection of what those officials are saying. It is valid. This is more about the schools and less about the law. There is obviously a hole in the law. Every superintendent in the state will tell you the same thing. Those who pushed for signatures did their duty, but they aren’t school administrators. And face it, no one is able to enforce the law as it’s written, so it isn’t enforced…and the state program for youth who get caught is an absolute joke…self-reporting by phone to a hotline??? As usual, if you want to be bombarded by comments on the Internet – write about reefer or pit bulls.

  • Pdakin

    Some seem to miss my point that there are > conflicting laws. One law for possession outside of school that says > one can possess, and one for inside of schools that says they can’t. > That’s the mixed message we are sending kids. Change one of the laws > to keep kids out of conflict, either the outside of school possession > law, or the inside school law that says they can’t be in possession, > but if we do the latter, lets take down all the “Safe and Drug Free Signs”Dr. D.

  • Stevenickse

    @pDakin:twitter

    There is no law saying pot is OK outside of school. I wish there was. You seem to be all confused. Could you try to make your point using different words. Think twice, write once.

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