Colorado

Springs teen: Dispensaries not selling to us

She’s not the stereotypical stoner, zoned out in a haze of smoke and flunking out of school.

Emma is a graduate of Palmer High School in Colorado Springs, known for its prestigious International Baccalaureate program and for attracting a diverse student body.

A church steeple in Colorado Springs, where the number of medical marijuana businesses now rivals that of churches of all faiths. Photo by Joe Mahoney / I-News

But Palmer holds another distinction and so does Emma, whose name has been changed to protect her identity.

The downtown Springs school posted one of the highest increases in drug violations reported by any Colorado school in the past four years. In 2007-08, Palmer reported two drug violations; in 2010-11, it was 45.

And Emma, now a successful college student mulling a career in law, is also a regular user of medical marijuana who frequently got high in Palmer’s “party parking lot” during lunch or other breaks from school.

“It’s a lot of fun. You go out to your car, get high and go back,” she said. “We weren’t worried about getting busted.”

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Although she’s old enough at 19 to seek an “M” card, a state-issued license for medical marijuana, Emma hasn’t done so. She thinks it’s intellectually dishonest to fabricate an illness to buy marijuana.

“The term ‘medical’ isn’t fooling anyone,” she said. “I don’t think most of the people who have their cards think of it as medicine.”

But most young people don’t get medical marijuana directly from the dispensaries anyway, she said. Instead, they get an older friend or sibling to buy for them or they get it straight from licensed growers with extra product.

“They are growing so much marijuana legally that they will go out and find other people to sell it. That’s where the kickback is,” she said.

Connecting with a dealer is simple.

“They find you,” she said. “If you’re downtown and trying to solicit somebody to buy cigarettes outside a gas station, it’s safe to assume you also smoke pot.”

Perhaps the easiest way to buy is through an older friend or sibling.

“Certain dispensaries have coupons where you can get two ounces for the price of one,” she said. “If a kid can search through High Times magazine and find a coupon, then you find a friend who can cash it in.”

She described her high school friends who smoked as discriminating shoppers who searched for bargain prices on medical marijuana because it’s generally less expensive, higher quality and perceived to be safer than street pot.

One thing they didn’t do, Emma said, was walk in to a dispensary near Palmer. She mapped them for a school project last year, but said the dispensaries won’t sell to kids and too many people would see a teen loitering outside.

An investigation by Education News Colorado, Solutions and the I-News Network found as many as eight dispensaries are located within a mile of Palmer.

One, called Indispensary, is kitty-corner from the school’s front door, separated by a small park.

PHOTO: Micaela Watts
Judy Negley, left, co-owner of Indispensary, a medical marijuana dispensary in Colorado Springs, talks to manager Christy Kress. Photo by Joe Mahoney / I-News

Indispensary co-owner Judy Negley said hers was among the 23 medical marijuana facilities located within 1,000 feet of a school that were recently targeted in a federal crackdown.

Negley said her shop doesn’t sell to anyone under 18 without a state-issued marijuana card. Statewide, fewer than 50 cards have been issued to youth that age.

Students without cards have zero access to their product, she said.

“It would be so difficult for them to get in. They could break in,” she said. “But in our dispensary, they have to go through two locked doors. There’s surveillance everywhere. They have to present credentials in a neutral area.

“I don’t think dispensaries are the problem,” added Negley, the mother of a Palmer student. “The kids are smart enough to know that.”

Emma and other students interviewed said they don’t believe the proximity of dispensaries to schools has made marijuana easier to buy.

“I haven’t heard of a single dispensary anywhere selling to somebody without a card,” she said. “The kids who are smoking weed and getting high at Palmer are not getting it from the dispensaries.”

So what do students like Emma think policymakers should do about the spike in drug violations at schools?

“Regardless of the legality of pot, we will continue to smoke it,” she said. “I don’t think people see it as positive or as medicine. It’s still a drug. People do it more to get high … but it’s viewed as safer than the alternatives.”

Contact Katie Kerwin McCrimmon of Solutions at katherine.mccrimmon@ucdenver.edu.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.


For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.


Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.