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.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at cbauman@chalkbeat.org.

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”

 

Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”

 

Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”

 

Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”

 

Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”

 

Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”