It’s an alarming scene that is playing out every morning since school opened last week in the District. On a well-traveled block in Southeast, dozens of high school-aged students, mostly males, congregate on the porches of businesses or in storefronts blowing huge puffs of marijuana that can be smelled nearly a block away. They get off buses, are dropped off by cars — many with Maryland tags — or they walk up from nearby neighborhoods and are handed a lit joint that passes from one person to another until it’s gone. Then they proceed to class.
Business owners intervene but the police do not. As these young early morning pot smokers meander their way to school often after their 8:45 expected arrival, they describe their use of the now legalized marijuana to those who inquire as a way to better prepare themselves for the school day.
“It helps me focus.” “It relieves my stress.” “It’s legal so why not,” they retort.
Young people who believe they can smoke when and where they want with no real consequences are misconstruing the D.C. law legalizing the use of marijuana and they’re getting away with it. Some members of MPD say they ignore these public pot-smoking juveniles because to arrest them means taking them o the street for only two or three hours and then releasing them with no follow-up from their guardians, teachers or law enforcement. It’s better, they say, for them to proceed to school, albeit under the influence, rather than taking the arresting officers of the street who may be needed for other more serious public safety issues.
So, they watch from afar but say nothing, while business owners just shoo them away, and teachers, who must teach both their “high” and sober students the same, all bemoan the marijuana law that is having a negative impact on the young people in this city. The peak age for marijuana use is 16-20, but teachers will admit that even the youngest students often come to school reeking with the smell of pot.
Something must be done. At the very least there needs to be a public education campaign to inform, educate and alert young people and their parents of the negative impact marijuana has on children’s health, and particularly their developing brains.
It’s an issue that can’t be blown away in smoke.
Ask the folks in Colorado where the use of marijuana among young people since legalization is reportedly the highest in the nation. And where teachers and community members who had high expectations from marijuana tax are finding, like Harry Bull, the Superintendent of Cherry Creek Schools, told USA Today, “So far, the only thing that the legalization of marijuana has brought to our schools has been marijuana.”
D.C. could be next.