State Superintendent Issues Statement on Marijuana

State Superintendent Randy Dorn says passage of I-502 changes nothing in public schools in Washington state, where marijuana remains illegal to anyone under 21 years old.

Anecdotal reports from school districts in the last several months suggest an increase in marijuana possession and consumption among young people, especially after the passage of Initiative 502, which legalizes small quantities of the drug for people age 21 and older.

Initiative 502 passed overwhelmingly on Mercer Island, with 61 percent of voters voting "yes" to 39 percent opposed. Mayor Bruce Bassett urged residents to remain vigilant over restricting access of the drug to young people and children under the age of 21.

While . And the sale and distribution of marijuana is still illegal under state law, until the State Liquor Control Board comes up with rules on how to license the trade of marijuana products.

Below is a statement from State Superintendent Randy Dorn on what the law means to public schools:

The passage of I-502 changes nothing in public schools in Washington state. Certain drugs, including marijuana, continue to be illegal on school property and to anyone younger than 21 years old.

To receive federal funds, districts must abide by the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act and must have a Drug and Tobacco-Free Workplace and a similar student policy in place. Each district's policy has a number of common requirements about marijuana and other drugs, such as not allowing any student to:

  • Possess
  • Distribute
  • Manufacture, or
  • Be under the influence

Any student caught will be disciplined according to local district policy and local law enforcement as required. Fines can also be doubled if the arrest occurs within 1,000 feet of a school facility.

I-502 changes state law but has no effect on federal law.

Some people think that a medical marijuana card is similar to a prescription for a controlled substance and can be brought to schools or the workplace. That is false. Having a medical marijuana card does not mean a student, or an employee, or anyone for that matter, can bring marijuana on school grounds.

Students need to be engaged and prepared for school. Marijuana doesn't allow them to be either of those things. Marijuana dulls the brain. It can lead to paranoia, short-term memory loss and depression.

And for those under 21, it is illegal.

Here's additional context and information on Initiative 502 on Mercer Island Patch:

  • How did Mercer Island Vote in the 2012 Election?
  • Letter: Mayor Urges Community to Guard Against Underage Marijuana Use After Voters Approve I-502
  • Marijwhatnow? Your Guide to Legal Pot Use From the Seattle Police Department
  • UPDATE: Legal Pot and Gay Marriage Closer to Passage; McKenna Trails and Other 2012 Washington Election Results
  • State Liquor Board to "Carry Out the Will of the Voters" on Marijuana Initiative

(Ed. Note: The information above is taken from an OSPI press release.)

Paul Schrag December 12, 2012 at 03:34 PM
Your lead is terribly misleading. "Anecdotal evidence suggests" means you have no idea what is true, and may or may not have relied on the accounts of a few school officials, none of whom are quoted or referred to by name. Anecdotal evidence should never be allowed to stand on its own, without some kind of supporting quotes or detail at the very least. "Anecdotal evidence suggests" translates as "I kind of think this might be true, and may have heard from a couple of people that it might be true, so I'm going to deliver it to my audience draped in language that obscures the fact that I really have no idea what it going on." That's some lazy, assumptive, sloppy reporting. You have done little more than reiterate and legitimize a fear-driven cliche about the impact of cannabis decriminalization - that more children will become users once the law relaxes its grip on adults. Unfortunately, this assumption has been challenged successfully in a number of contexts, using far more dependable criteria than "anecdotal evidence". A great analysis published by the Institute for the Study of Labor (Discussion Paper No. 6592, May 2012), for example, showed a statistically significant decline in use among teens in states where marijuana had been decriminalized for medical use. You do a disservice to the school and cast its students in a false and damaging light so you could juice up a press release that could have stood fine on its own.
Kendall Watson December 12, 2012 at 05:38 PM
The "anecdotal evidence" is based on several presentations given by local members of the Communities that Care Coalition and outside experts focused on drug use, including Steve Freng from the NW High Intensity Drug Traffic Area, and officials from the City of Mercer Island Youth and Family Services Department who are actively tracking underage drug use. On Mercer Island, 31% of MIHS seniors say they used marijuana in the past month, according to the 2010 Healthy Youth Survey (http://patch.com/A-yVTC). The illegal use of marijuana and alcohol by local residents under 21 years old has been also been identified by local leaders in the community as a serious public health threat. You're correct that it's from a press release, which I failed to mention, as is my custom. Thank you for your comments.
Kendall Watson December 12, 2012 at 06:32 PM
I'll add a note that this is a press release from OSPI. Also, according to Healthy Youth Survey Data, marijuana use has stayed virtually flat on Mercer Island since passage of the Medical Marijuana law in 1998, or increased slightly. I understand you're asserting this statewide, but it has not declined locally. Contact WA State DSHS behavioral health program specialist Deb Snellman at 360-725-3763 for more information about this.


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