“Make Arizona safer.” A concept every Arizona citizen, regardless of political party, can get behind.
The irony of signs around town promoting safer communities as a result of passing Proposition 205 to legalize recreational marijuana use is worth addressing from the heart, soul, and eyes of a middle school teacher.
We all remember the awkward, uncomfortable years as a teenager. The desire to fit in, the hormones, and falling into peer pressure. This was the time to explore and embrace some newfound independence.
So when the latest drug hits the streets - whether under an age restriction or not - let us not be in such thick denial to assume that by accident or intention, our youth will not be exposed. Be it powdered alcohol, prescription pills, or laced gummies, let’s not pretend that seductive advertising and a catchy product are not attractive to youth.
Our teachers are held to a high standard under the legal theory of in loco parentis, whereby during the school day we assume some rights and responsibilities for our students in the absence of their parents. Yet objects like edibles, brownies, or other candies set us up to fail our students and their families. After all, it is impossible to protect what you cannot detect.
A prime example of this was being in the classroom when Four Loco hit gas station refrigerators by storm – a perfect combination of energy drink and alcohol with aggressive advertising and a product that was attractive to youth. With a relatively unmarked container, splashy colors, and uninformed cashiers, some of my students fell prey to this latest marketing ploy.
What did not hit the news, however, was the impact this product had on school communities.
Let’s talk about how “safe” a school feels when the side effects of a new drug or drink spreads like rapid fire throughout the building. To be the teacher that finds your 11-year-old student unconscious on the bathroom floor from an overdose. To be the one to plead with her best friends to reveal what they took or how much in order to save a life. To be consumed by fear – fear of not knowing and sheer panic you might lose one of your top students who made a single bad decision to fit in. To be flushed from a wave of utter helplessness as the medics take your student out of the building on a stretcher and try to revive consciousness.
Easier access to a drug does not lead to a safer classroom or homeroom environment, and no amount of new tax dollars to classrooms is worth the damage legalization could do to our kids and communities. Certainly it does not lead to an increase in academic gains. Instead of focusing on materials and the day’s objectives, students’ attention and focus goes elsewhere – on the friend that is struggling, wondering how to get more, fear of going into the wrong bathroom and unintentionally witnessing the upperclassman drug handoff.
It all kick-starts from easy access. Having already watched and been approached by 12-14 year-old students pleading for help to beat their drug addiction to marijuana or prescription pills, are we truly prepared for the consequences of legalization?