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A teacher’s view on teen marijuana consumption

As states stand on the verge of legalizing both medical and recreational cannabis, fears continue to play out among people concerned that the new policy will lead to increased consumption of marijuana by teens.

Data has shown however that teen consumption has not increased in states where medical cannabis has been legalized. The total number of states with a medical program currently stands at 21, while four states, as well as Washington, D.C. have legalized the non-toxic plant.

Either medical cannabis or full legalization will be on the ballot in nine states in 2016.

We spoke with a Texas high school teacher who shared their experience with teen cannabis consumption to get a clearer idea of how this matter has impacted the classroom and students’ lives.

With over a decade of experience, this teacher says that during their first year on the job a student was arrested for selling marijuana to other students.

“I became curious how marijuana was sold and used by students in my school. I wondered if anything was different from when I attended high school in the 70s. It turns out that the sale and use of marijuana at my high school is exactly as it was in high schools in the 70s. Organized criminal enterprises recruit high school students to sell marijuana to their fellow students. The students selling can make up to several hundred dollars each month. They sell very small quantities, selling marijuana in pre-rolled joints or maybe sixteenths or eighths of an ounce.”

As it turns out, many students attend class while under the influence of cannabis.

“The marijuana is sold and used just off the school grounds before and after school and during lunch and at parties. I can see small groups of students leaving the school grounds each morning before school and going to hide behind buildings, in groves of trees or in their cars to get high. Obviously, I have never seen the actual sale or use of marijuana by students but the pattern is the same as the 70s and these groups of students are the same types of kids who have always smoked marijuana in high school–the rebels and the outsiders.”

“Students who get high before school or at lunch get sleepy in class and they get thirsty and they don’t do any work. They might act silly and laugh and giggle. Sometimes their eyes are bloodshot.”

Most teens who consume marijuana are typically said to do so because of emotional and family issues.

“Many of them have been neglected or abused. They tend to be very unhappy and sometimes angry kids who are using marijuana as an escape from their very serious emotional and family problems they are dealing with. The marijuana is not causing the problems; the marijuana is the escape from the core issues affecting their lives negatively.”

The current laws are not helping make things any better for them either.

“These kids need intense counseling. Instead, if they get caught, they get arrested, they go to jail, they go through the juvenile justice system, unless they are 17, which many of them are, and then they are treated as an adult in the state criminal justice system. The 17 year old students end up with a criminal record that may prevent them from joining the military, getting student loans, attending college or getting hired for jobs. So they start their adult lives at an extreme disadvantage.”

Texas Marijuana Policy Advocacy Workshops — January 2018
Texas Marijuana Policy Advocacy Workshops — January 2018

Teaching students about how getting arrested for marijuana impacts their lives is important.

“I teach my students the repercussions of being arrested for marijuana in Texas. Many of them have no clue about the law or the criminal justice system and how a conviction for possession will affect their future lives. Teenagers don’t think about the future or secondary effects of their choices; they only live in the moment. I teach them about the consequences and hope that they will listen and think about what I said when (not if, when) they are offered a joint.”

“Arresting these teens, locking them in jail and giving them a criminal record is not the answer to this problem. We are handicapping their future by arresting them. And we are not dealing with the core reasons they decided to start using marijuana in the first place. Possession of marijuana needs to be a civil penalty for teenagers; not a Class B misdemeanor. And if they are caught using marijuana, they need long-term professional counseling and support to deal with their emotional and family problems that led to most of them choosing to get high.”

Opinions vary among teachers on the matter.

“Teacher opinions on this issue cover the same range as Texas citizens’ opinions; some teachers believe harsh punishment is a deterrent, some believe, like me, that harsh punishment only exacerbates the problems for these teenagers. The fact is, nothing has changed in our high schools since the 70s. Marijuana is still available on a daily basis to any student who chooses to use it, the marijuana is still being supplied by student dealers through organized local criminal enterprises, and harsh punishment does not deter most students who decide that they want to get high because they believe they are invulnerable. That is why I believe legalization will help this issue. We will put the criminal enterprises out of the marijuana business and we will have dispensaries licensed by the state which check IDs. It will be impossible to keep teens from using marijuana, just like it is impossible to keep them from using alcohol if they choose to drink. However, legalizing marijuana will bring it up from the underground market and make it more difficult for teens to purchase and use.”

This is an issue which this teacher relates to very well, as they speak with the perspective of someone who has been there.

“I did smoke marijuana in high school. I was dealing with serious emotional and family problems. Marijuana helped me relax. Marijuana also caused me to skip school to smoke it, did not help me make good grades because I was too high to focus and ended up getting me kicked out of high school for possession. What I really needed was professional counseling but that was not available.”

They also believe that there is never a good reason for teens to consume marijuana for recreational purposes.

“Teens are not responsible enough to be using marijuana recreationally, just as they are not responsible enough to be using alcohol. Teens need to wait until they are 21 to even consider using marijuana. I told my own son many times when he was a teen that there were zero reasons for him to use any mind altering substance while he was focused on his education, his athletic development and figuring out who he was as a person.”

Texas saw 12 bills introduced to the legislature during the 2015 session concerning cannabis, varying from penalty reduction, medical, to full legalization. Only one of those bills passed, a limited CBD medical cannabis bill.

A recent survey by Texas Lyceum shows that 75 percent of Texans want to reduce the penalty for marijuana possession. As for legalization, about 46 percent are supportive while 48 percent are opposed.

Stay up to date with the latest cannabis news from a Texas perspective by following the Texas Cannabis Report social media pages.

Contact Texas Cannabis Report

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Stephen Carter

Stephen Carter is a journalist and information technology specialist living in Waco, Texas. He has been working with the cannabis movement since 2009. He founded Texas Cannabis Report in 2013 to bring Texans accurate cannabis related news.

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  1. Dianne
    October 22, 2015 at 12:48 pm

    A lot of kids are just bored. Pot was a better alternative to alcohol for me as a teenager. I saw too many friends get stupid being drunk and those that smoked just hung out and played games. Alcohol and pills are the true gateway drug. All of my friends that smoked weed went on and prospered. Only one went on to do ‘bad’ drugs and got in trouble though eventually turned their life around. Drugs do ease the anxiety of those in troubled households but from my experience a lot of kids had good homes but smoked due to lack of adventure. I’m not sure what makes some kids chose to smoke and other’s not. If you compare the amount of kids that drink to the amount of kids that smoke, I would take a gander and say more kids drink alcohol than smoke and when it comes time to put it behind, even more do than don’t. From a parental view I think I would be more concerned with my kid drinking than from smoking, but then I’m not disillusioned by the views on cannabis. Alcohol is a scary substance to have kids partake of and again, I say this with experience. I was a street kid who observed quite a bit growing up. Alcohol will get you into trouble and lower you inhibitions. Never did I see sex parties or violence on pot alone. Just giving you my observations.

  2. rickyb
    November 10, 2015 at 1:15 am

    Hey teacher,

    The problems at home with the kids that you’re talking about, is a common one. It’s called parental alcohol use. Hey folks, if you are really serious about raising kids into a family, get off the bottle! It’s toxic and addicting, as you’ve probably been told a thousand times. But the toxic doesn’t end with you. It gets passed on to your kids.

    Of course this message falls on deaf ears, also, a result of the bottle. The alcohol industry is laughing at you, all the way to the bank. Some of that bank moo-lah winds up in the hands of our legislators, who use the funding to keep — guess what? — cannabis illegal.

    It guess they don’t dig the competition for your recreational dollar, and are willing to disparage the rights of many tens of millions of taxpayers in order to maintain their monopoly. Nice guys.

    This all got started back in the 1930’s after prohibition ended. In addition to destroying the Volsted Act, big alcohol let loose a slew of misleading horror movies, with the help of Hollywood, of course, and probably a third party somewhere. This turned public opinion against all drugs — except — guess what ? — alcohol. The only one that got a pass. Imagine that.

    Have you ever seen a movie, or any TV show for that matter, that doesn’t show alcohol being consumed or referenced? Or maybe in one of the commercials? Hollywood is still very much in the game. One hand washes the other.

    I believe, along with 23 other states (medicinal) , and 4 states (recreational) , with ten more to come online soon, that cannabis is a truly wonderful non-toxic and non-addicting medicinal/recreational plant-based slice of heaven.

    It wears off in a couple of hours, has NO hangover, heartburn, ulcers, sour stomach, intestinal surprises, hair loss, kidney stones, erectile disfunction, gout, pink eye, flatulence, toe-nail fungus,,, the list goes on.

    Teach, if your students seem a bit bored with your curriculum vitae, alter your delivery, make it more interesting, aren’t you supposed to meet them (kids) at their level and then help them to rise up? You sound like you’re too quick to throw in the towel. Remember, their parents might be bottle-heads, and the kids may have a bigger cloud to emerge from, than their walk in the woods.