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School boards lean against Amendment 64

Several Colorado school districts have passed strongly worded statements against Amendment 64, the proposed change to Colorado’s Constitution that would make it legal to possess one ounce of marijuana, but others are staying silent on the issue.

A group of Denver East High School students on a lunch break near the school display rolling papers used to smoke pot in this <em>EdNews</em> file photo.
A group of Denver students on lunch break display wrapping papers in this EdNews file photo.
Colorado Department of Education

An anti-64 resolution recently was pulled from the Denver Public Schools board agenda due to a lack of support. However, three of the seven board members – Happy Haynes, Anne Rowe and Nate Easley – signed an op-ed letter opposing 64.

As to why the board didn’t take up the resolution, board President Mary Seawell said there wasn’t one reason in particular.

“I felt like I don’t know enough about the impacts of 64 and mainly want to keep the focus on 3A and 3B,” she wrote in an Oct. 19 email. She was referring to the proposed DPS bond issue and tax override that are on the ballot.

Her board colleague Andrea Merida said she, too, had questions about the wording of a proposed resolution.

“My own objections to the resolution itself … were that it was not sufficiently crafted to address how the legislation would impact our DPS students,” Merida wrote in an Oct. 19 email.

Most districts silent on 64

Denver wasn’t alone in staying out of the heated debate about legalizing marijuana. Other districts – including Jeffco, the state’s largest, and Boulder Valley – didn’t even discuss Amendment 64.

But other school boards, including Adams 12, Aurora, Sheridan, Mesa County School District 51 and Dougco, plus educational organizations such as the Colorado Education Association and the Colorado Association of School Resource Officers, are vehement in their opposition. They believe that setting 21 as the legal age to possess, as proposed in Amendment 64, would not stop the drug from getting into the hands of Colorado’s youth and would negatively impact school climate.

The Colorado Association of School Boards passed a resolution Oct. 20 stating that it “opposes efforts to promote legalization of the sale of marijuana by designating the use of revenues generated through the sale of legalized or medical marijuana for any purpose related to public education, including capital construction.”

To clarify, CASB did not take a stand on the legalization of marijuana but rather “efforts to promote such legalization by designating revenues for use by public education.” As proposed, the first $40 million in revenue raised annually from the sale of marijuana would go to the state’s school construction assistance fund.

Dougco board members explain votes

The Dougco school board voted 4-1 in in favor of a resolution opposing 64. Among other things, the resolution states that approval of 64 would “make Colorado a veritable mecca for drug producers and consumers, transforming Colorado into a safe haven and platform for illegal drug trafficking in nearby states.”

It continues: “If Amendment 64 were to become part of our state constitution, it would result in increased use of marijuana, harming our students and disrupting the educational environment in Douglas County and, more generally, in Colorado.”

Board member Meghann Silverthorn was the lone dissenting vote. According to minutes of the board’s Sept. 18 meeting, Silverthorn told the board she does not believe it is her role to pass policy in an area “that is left to the family or other institutions such as a church.”

Dougco board member Kevin Larsen was so passionate about his opposition to Amendment 64 he took his views on the road, visiting a recent DPS board meeting and encouraging its members to take a stand.

Larsen said he has spoken to law enforcement officials who are concerned there are no defined measurements for intoxication and ‘acceptable’ levels of marijuana consumption while driving.

“This gives law enforcement a tremendous burden enforcing traffic laws and keeping the roads safer for all citizens, especially students,” Larsen said.

Larsen also tied his district’s opposition to 64 to the district’s well-known stance in favor of choice for families and kids.

“In Douglas County we champion the importance of choices, thoughtfully and thoroughly made, empirically based, and carefully reached – which proximately depend on a clear-eyed, focused, sober, and engaged community of parents, employees, students and taxpayers who are free from the intoxicating and self-destructive influence of drugs,” he said.

“This measure not only contradicts those ambitions, but in itself does not measure up to that standard.”

Adams 12, Aurora oppose the measure

The Adams 12 Five Star Schools Board of Education voted 3-2 earlier this month to oppose Amendment 64. And the Aurora board voted 5-2 on Oct. 2 for a similar resolution.

Aurora’s resolution stated: “Passage of Amendment 64 would result in increased use of marijuana, harming our children and the educational environment in Colorado” and would “harm Colorado’s image as a healthy place to live, work and raise a family.”

According to Oct. 2 meeting minutes, Aurora board President JulieMarie Shepherd said she planned to vote against the resolution because “there are a number of community issues that impact students in which the board is not in the business of discussing or making policy decisions.”

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