Monday, October 5, 2009

Marijuana law has had little effect on schools - Framingham, MA

By John Hilliard/Daily News staff

In the first year since voters decided to decriminalize possession of small amounts of pot, school officials said districts aren't seeing escalating drug problems, though they worry the law may encourage marijuana use among students.

At Framingham High School, Principal Michael Welch said six kids in the past month have been found with marijuana or came to school high in three separate incidents.

Each is facing expulsion proceedings.

Because of the legislative change, some kids don't believe it's a problem, Welch said.

"I think there's a general feeling (of) 'What's the big deal?"' said Welch.

Despite "the change in legislation, we can still expel kids for this," he said.

Last fall, Massachusetts voters approved Question 2, which made possession of an ounce or less of marijuana a civil offense punishable by no more than a $100 fine for those 18 and older. Younger offenders would also be required to undergo a drug awareness program and perform some form of community service.

"From our standpoint, (the law is) sending a terrible message to kids," said Welch.

Southborough's Town Meeting recently passed a local bylaw increasing the civil penalty for pot possession to $400, which interim Police Chief Jane Moran said would deter some young people from smoking and driving while high.

Overall, however, there hasn't been a serious problem with pot in schools.

"I thought I'd see more issues. But we haven't," said Milford High School Principal John Brucato.

Brucato said he thinks it's because of the "hard-line" stance the district took with drugs and alcohol years ago, which involves police, school policies and rules set down by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association that penalize athletes for using drugs and alcohol.

He wasn't certain if the law allowed districts to expel students who had less than an ounce of pot, as students have to be charged with a felony to be kicked out of school. Though decriminalized, possession of small amounts of marijuana remains illegal, he noted.

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Marijuana law has had little effect on schools - Framingham, MA - The MetroWest Daily News

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