Pubdate: Thu, 26 Aug 2010
Source: Cortez Journal, The (CO)
Copyright: 2010 The Cortez Journal
Author: Paula Bostrom


"DARE To Just Say No" is the slogan that uniformed police officers
teach to fifth- and seventh-graders in the Drug Abuse Resistance
Education's 17-week anti-drug course.

But at this year's DARE graduation in May, while kids were saying "no"
to cocaine, heroine and methamphetamine, Cortez Police DARE Officer
Vern Rucker briefly touched on the subject of medical marijuana and
the confusion it might cause for youths who have parents or other
relatives with prescription cards.

"It's hard to talk about because (marijuana) laws are changing so much
and they contradict each other," Rucker said. "Colorado has made an
amendment to the Constitution in legalizing medical marijuana, but
it's still illegal (on the federal level)."

Although medical marijuana laws are not part of the DARE program,
Rucker said he makes himself available to answer questions and
facilitate comments in the classroom.

"We don't get into whether it's right or wrong," he said. "We talk
about the negative effects, like how it changes people's

Marijuana use among U.S. adolescents has increased gradually over the
past two years - three years among 12th-graders - following years of
declining use, according to the latest Monitoring the Future study,
from 2009. The study has been tracking drug use among U.S. teens since

People have different opinions regarding whether Colorado's
legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes is changing youths'
perspectives of the drug.

"Just based on the questions or comments I get from fifth-to
seventh-graders, opinions are very varied," Rucker said. "Everybody
has their opinion; some are based factually, and some are not. Some
kids are totally against it because it's harmful. Others don't like
the way it changes the personality of others. I've had kids say they
have an uncle who is fun and does stuff with them, but then they smoke
pot and get lazy."

According to researchers from The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia,
young people who are heavy users of marijuana are more likely than
non-users to have disrupted development in the areas of the brain that
are involved in memory, attention, decision-making, language and
executive functioning skills. Researchers add that the findings are of
particular concern because adolescence is a crucial period for brain
development and maturation. The study appeared in early 2009 in the
Journal of Psychiatric Research.

A group of doctors in Oakland, Calif., came under fire last year for
treating youths with attention-deficit disorder with medical marijuana
instead of the standard drug Ritalin, citing marijuana is more natural
and "safer than aspirin," as Dr. Jean Talleyrand told The New York
Times in November 2009.

Others, such as Stephen Hinshaw, chairman of the psychology department
at the University of California at Berkeley, calls it "one of the
worst ideas of all time," referring to studies showing that the active
ingredient in cannabis disrupts attention, memory and concentration -
already issues for people diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder,
according to The New York Times.

According to Ron Hynan, director of medical marijuana for the Colorado
Department of Public Health and Environment, there are additional
requirements for minors to possess a medical marijuana card. The child
must have written permission from both parents and written documents
from two different physicians who agree on the use of medical
marijuana for treatment. He said to date there are less than two dozen
minors in the state who have a card.

While there are no known youths under 18 in Montezuma County who have
been prescribed medical marijuana, there may be future issues with it.
This brings up the question of whether youths who have been prescribed
marijuana for medical treatment can bring the substance to school with

"Schools have a 'no tolerance' policy (for allowing drugs on school
property) that comes with automatic suspension with an expulsion
hearing," Rucker said. "That goes for prescription drugs as well."

Montezuma-Cortez School District Re-1 policy requires school personnel
trained by a registered nurse to administer oral medication to a
student during school hours if, under exceptional circumstances, the
parent can't be at school to administer the medication. This is only
allowed with a written note by a doctor or dentist and written
permission by a parent or legal guardian. A student with asthma,
severe allergies or other related, life-threatening conditions may
possess and self-administer their own medication.

There have been cases where small children have a hard time
understanding school policy.

"The youngest case I've had to deal with, regarding marijuana (on
school grounds) were second- and third-grade brothers who took it from
mom and offered to smoke it with buddies at school," Rucker said. "In
another case, a third-grader brought his mom's medical marijuana
brownie mix to school. For him it was confusing and he had a hard time
understanding why he was in so much trouble for bringing it to school
because it was something normal at home."

With the addition of medical marijuana dispensaries in Cortez, some
people might worry it will increase marijuana use among youths.
Rucker, who has been the Cortez DARE officer for 14 years, disagreed.
He said marijuana use among kids in Cortez has always been an issue
for the police.

"I don't think (the presence of medical marijuana dispensaries) has
anything to do with it," he said. "If they're gonna use it, they're
gonna use it. They don't have to have a card. They just go get it."
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