Pubdate: Fri, 12 Jun 2015
Source: Albuquerque Journal (NM)
Copyright: 2015 The Associated Press
Author: Ivan Moreno, the Associated Press


State Aims to Study Effects of Legalization

DENVER - Colorado schools will begin compiling data on students who 
get busted for using or distributing marijuana, an effort aimed at 
gauging the effects of the drug's legalization in the state.

The new requirement is an addition to a 2012 law directing law 
enforcement and district attorneys to collect information on how 
students are punished and whether they're being arrested or ticketed 
when they should be disciplined by educators for minor offenses.

Schools have been tracking all drug offenses involving students, but 
marijuana has not been separated on its own. Anecdotally, some 
schools say they've noticed an increase in marijuana use while others 
have not, according to Jane Urschel, deputy executive director of the 
Colorado Association of School Boards.

Lawmakers want definitive data now that recreational marijuana pot 
shops have been in business for almost 18 months.

"I think we need to get an accurate picture of what our trends are at 
our schools, what sort of impact legalization has had on our kids," 
said Republican Rep. Polly Lawrence, one of the lawmakers behind the 
bill to track marijuana use.

Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the bill last week.

Washington state, which also has recreational marijuana sales, began 
tracking student suspensions and expulsions for pot use during the 
2013-14 school year. That year, 4,116 students were suspended for 
marijuana and another 265 were expelled, according to state data. 
Numbers for the latest school year are not available yet.

When Colorado lawmakers passed the new marijuana reporting 
requirements for schools, they also revised the state's 2012 law to 
track police involvement in student discipline, such as citations and 
arrests. That law was designed to spot demographic trends on student 
punishment, and whether school officials were referring youths to law 
enforcement instead of handling a matter themselves.

But compliance with that law has been spotty. When this year's bill 
was drafted, only 74 out of 246 law enforcement agencies in the state 
sent data to the Colorado Department of Public Safety, along with 
just six of the 22 Colorado district attorneys.

Every district attorney has now submitted data on students who have 
been prosecuted for offenses at schools, but law enforcement agencies 
struggle to comply. They say organizing and analyzing data to send 
the state is time-consuming and challenging for smaller departments 
with little staff.

The first report on student discipline is due Aug. 1 and will be 
retroactive for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years. The reports 
will be done annually thereafter, and they'll be posted online 
beginning in April.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom