Schools concerned about student accessibility to marijuana products

Most schools have Code of Conduct against drug use, but legalization opens up accessibility problems for teenagers.



Area school districts are concerned the new legalization of marijuana may make it more available to teenagers, but most say their school policies are strong enough to withstand problems.

While marijuana is still not legal for people under the age of 21, the product is available in several forms, including gummies, THC, and vape cartridges. But vapes already are an issue for school districts, which can also contain nicotine.

In Ohio, tobacco products are not legal for people under the age of 21, so high school students who are caught with vapes can be disciplined under the district’s Code of Conduct.

According to a November 2023 survey from the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control, the percentage of students using nicotine products dropped from 16.5% in 2022 to 12.6% in 2023, mostly due to a decrease in the number of kids using e-cigarettes. But those products remain the most popular among teenagers, with 7.7% of the students who use nicotine products using e-cigarettes.

And while the amount of high school students using tobacco products decreased from 16.5% to 12.6%, the number of middle schools using tobacco products increased from 4.5% to 6.6%.

Vandalia superintendent Rob O’Leary said he is worried the passage of Issue 2 may make it easier for teenagers to get access to marijuana.

“My concern is with this issue passing that marijuana will be even easier for teenagers and those under the age of 21 to acquire and we are going to be dealing with a lot more drug issues at school,” O’Leary said. “Ultimately, I think this will lead to a huge increase in drug-addicted students. This is going to be a huge problem for schools, and ultimately communities, to deal with addiction issues of young teenagers and young adults in the coming years.”

He said he hopes legislators consider the problem when they are making laws around marijuana regulation in coming months.

O’Leary said the school district is continuing to add surveillance, including drug dog searches in its middle and high schools.

“We are also beginning to evaluate what we do with drug education for students and research strong drug education programs that could be implemented,” he said.

Ohio School Board Association policy consultant Gamy Narvaez said Issue 2′s passage should not impact student policies for school districts as marijuana is still illegal for anyone under 21. More districts have asked about the ability of schools as employers to continue to drug test, especially since some state laws require it for specific employees, Narvaez said.

Narvaez said the OSBA is continuing to tell schools that under federal law, schools are drug-free workplaces. Federal law still labels marijuana as an illegal drug.

“In general, the language of Issue 2 is good at preserving protections for schools,” Narvaez said.

Narvaez said a larger problem for schools will likely be the use of marijuana on school property by members of the public, something the OSBA plans to issue guidance on in the coming weeks.

But other districts, like Mad River, Troy, Fairborn, Beavercreek and Northmont, don’t have plans to change policies, citing strong policies against marijuana, alcohol and tobacco product possession for underage users already.

Paul Otten, Beavercreek superintendent, said the district is not planning to change any of its policies because Beavercreek has a strong policy against marijuana in schools.

“With that being said, we are also cognizant that marijuana will now be more accessible to Ohio residents which may increase the occurrences that we may see in our school district and during our events,” Otten said.

Mad River spokeswoman Jenny Alexander said the district, like most in the area, has seen an increase in the number of kids using vapes.

Alexander said the school district has added HALO monitors, which can detect vape smoke. She said possessing marijuana or THC is a serious Code of Conduct violation, which could result in the student being suspended or expelled from school.

While the district isn’t planning to do anything else because of the new marijuana law, Alexander said the district is working closely with parents to make sure everyone understands the serious consequences of vaping.

“We hope that through the efforts of home and school, our students will refrain from using such devices,” Alexander said. “We strongly encourage parents to have a conversation with their children about the dangers of e-cigarettes and dab pens.”

About the Author