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Special report: Marijuana and K-12 schools

A fever chart of drug violations reported by Colorado public schools would show a gradual decline beginning in 2001-01, a line dropping year by year.

But in 2009-10, something changed. The number of drug violations reported on K-12 campuses began to climb. It climbed again in 2010-11.

While nearly every other category of violations reported to state officials has dropped in the past decade, drug offenses veered in the opposite direction.

To find out why, reporters from Education News Colorado, Solutions and the I-News Network interviewed scores of school and district officials, health care workers and students across the state.

They repeatedly cited the proximity of medical marijuana dispensaries to their schools and the saturation of medical marijuana in their communities. Students, in particular, talked about their belief that medical marijuana is healthy.

While Colorado voters approved marijuana for limited medicinal purposes in 2000, it wasn’t until 2009 that medical marijuana dispensaries began spreading across the state. More than 700 now dot the landscape.

In January, U.S. Attorney John Walsh announced the first federal crackdown on medical marijuana since its approval more than a decade ago. In doing so, he pointed to a dramatic rise in student abuse of marijuana as he targeted dispensaries located within 1,000 feet of schools.

Our special reports on medical marijuana and Colorado’s K-12 public schools:

Part 1: Increase in drug violations on school campuses statewide

Part 2: Two cities, two approaches to marijuana around schools

Part 3: Research disputes students’ claims of marijuana as healthy

You can also read our coverage of the federal crackdown, including a spreadsheet showing K-12 public schools within 1,200 feet of dispensaries.

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