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Police: Medical marijuana may be coming into schools

by CHRIS PETERSON
Hungry Horse News | November 24, 2010 8:00 PM

Columbia Falls Police say they're catching more students at the junior high with marijuana this year and parents may be the ones to blame.

Last Thursday a student was charged with possession of dangerous drugs, a misdemeanor offense. Normally petty crimes go relatively unnoticed. But this is the sixth marijuana case in the Montana school this year, and it's only November.

"Last year, I don't think we had one (arrest for marijuana at the school)," Columbia Falls Police Chief Dave Perry said.

Perry suspects students aren't buying it on the streets.

"They don't go out and buy it. They get it from a parent or an older brother or sister with a (medical marijuana) card," he said.

And how does he know? With a typical crime, like a fight or theft for example, the parents are almost always willing to divulge information. But in recent pot cases, when parents are asked for permission to question the student about how and where they got the marijuana, the parents are tight-lipped.

"They say no," Perry said.

And that, he claims, is a clear indication the marijuana came from the home.

But junior high principal Dave Wick said he hasn't seen evidence of that on his end. He said of the six cases, some were done by a couple of individuals on more than one occasion. One individual self-reported marijuana use after the student came to school under the influence. In other cases, students have turned in classmates for pot use.

Wick noted that penalties for drug use or drug distribution are severe. For distribution, a student can be expelled.

"We're pretty vigilant," he said.

Perry isn't saying that marijuana use doesn't exist in the high school - it does. But by the time users reach high school, Perry said students wise up. They don't usually bring the drugs on campus or school grounds, because they know there's a chance they could get caught. The high school and junior high use drug-sniffing dogs to check vehicles on school grounds as well as school lockers and other areas.

The chief said he didn't know how many people in Columbia Falls had medical marijuana cards or how many growers there were in the city, either. The information is confidential unless an officer has to confirm the validity of medical marijuana user or grower.

Montana's medical marijuana law allows a "qualifying patient," a person who is approved and registered by the state to grow their own medical marijuana - up to a limit of six plants and one ounce of dried marijuana in possession. An ounce might not seem like much, but it's a fairly large bag of pot.

The law does allow minors to use medical marijuana, but it prohibits use in schools.

Montana's medical marijuana law will likely see changes in the upcoming legislative session.

There are a host of proposals on the table which would restrict how and where people can use medical marijuana. There is also a proposal to establishing a regulatory system that licenses and inspects medical marijuana growers and users. None of the provisions repeal the existing law.

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