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
- School officials, others cite prevalence of medical marijuana as drug violations spike on K-12 campuses includes a timeline of medical marijuana in Colorado and a video of students discussing marijuana use
- In Carbondale teen: Marijuana “something to do,” a student talks about dealing medical marijuana – and getting caught
- In Denver dad: “Nobody thought about the kids,” a parent whose son was busted with marijuana says students are bombarded with mixed messages
- Search an interactive database to see your school’s history of drug violations over the past four years
- Use an interactive map to find your school and see any medical marijuana facilities located nearby
- Read A closer look at the data to see the statistics behind the findings, with links to original reports
Part 2: Two cities, two approaches to marijuana around schools
- Our main story, A tale of two cities: Colorado Springs, Fort Collins differ on regulating medical marijuana dispensaries around K-12 schools, includes a look at whether communities with bans have seen declines in school drug violations
- In Springs teen: Dispensaries not selling to us, a college student describes how she became a regular marijuana user at her Colorado Springs high school
Part 3: Research disputes students’ claims of marijuana as healthy
- Research shows adverse effects of marijuana on teens as drug abuse among students appears to be rising
- In Teen: Without marijuana, I’d probably be dead, a 17-year-old with a rare disease relies on medical marijuana but can’t get treatment at school
You can also read our coverage of the federal crackdown, including a spreadsheet showing K-12 public schools within 1,200 feet of dispensaries.