Cannabis legalization also renews concerns about increased use by youth
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — An early March drug bust by the Summit County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service is just one of the indications that Colorado is becoming a source state for marijuana distribution and illegal sales in other states. It’s also a warning that easy accessibility to marijuana may have other consequences, including more use by teens, according to Summit County Sheriff John Minor.
The week-long drug interdiction operation at all four local Post Offices yielded more than 13.5 pounds of marijuana and marijuana edibles, along with other illegal substances, resulted in numerous arrests and serious charges. The operation was aimed at reducing the number suspected narcotic parcels or narcotic proceeds being shipped through the U.S. Postal Service.
Some of the marijuana edibles were “professionally packaged” and may have come from legal marijuana dispensaries, but there’s no indication that any local dispensaries were involved in illegal activities, said sheriff’s office spokesperson Tracy LeClair.
“It certainly appears that Colorado is now a source state,” Minor said, explaining that law enforcement agencies in other states are reporting illegal sales of marijuana and marijuana-infused products from Colorado, in most cases purchased at Colorado dispensaries.
“The postal inspector doesn’t decide to come to Breckenridge just because. Based on their data, it was a problem. The data showed cash coming in, drugs going out,” Minor said, adding that the operation probably didn’t even intercept all the packages with contraband. With even just a short operation netting more than 13 pounds, it’s easy to imagine how much marijuana is being shipped out of the county on an annual basis, he said, explaining that, from a criminal perspective, the economics make sense.
“You can buy a pound of weed here in Colorado for $5,000 dollars and sell it back east for $7,500 to $9,000,” he said.
The recent drug bust isn’t directly related to the use of marijuana in local schools. But according to Minor, it is a symptom of a growing laissez-faire attitude, and there are signs that’s leading to increased drug issues at schools around the state.
Drug-related suspensions and expulsions, which had been holding steady at or below 4,000 per year, jumped to more than 5,000 during the 2010-2011 school year, and some doctors are reporting that they’re seeing a big surge in treatment requests — in some cases, referrals have tripled since 2009.
“If you are in the child addiction treatment business in Colorado, business is booming … and that’s a shame, a statewide shame, and it’s overwhelmingly tied to marijuana use,” said Christine Tatum, who owns a market research company specializing in drug prevention information. Tatum is also married to Dr. Christian Thurstone, who treats patients for substance abuse.
Growing school concerns?
“In 2010, I expressed concerns that we would have issues with our youth, now we have issues with our youth,” said Sheriff Minor. “It’s because we have this permissive attitude. It’s not the schools fault, it’s our community, our society’s fault … Our schools are a reflection of our community. They don’t tolerate it, and we have put the schools in a tough spot,” Minor said.
Although it’s a small sample size, the most recent statistics from Summit High School reflect the statewide information, according principal Drew Adkins. For several years, serious drug-related disciplinary actions held steady in the single digits, then spiked up to 11 last year.
Adkins said it’s too early to say if it’s a trend, but he’s gearing up to review the numbers from the latest Health Kids Colorado survey. Those results should be released publicly in early April and may help determine if there’s a growing problem with marijuana abuse among local teens.
“Any any data suggesting an upward trend wouldn’t be surprising,” Adkins said. “I am very concerned that any changes is law will be interpreted as permissive to youth.”