NEW YORK (MainStreet) Three Sonora, Calif. third-graders were busted February 27 for smoking marijuana in their elementary school boys' bathroom. Police were alerted after another student told teachers, who then called the police.
The boys - two eight-year-olds and one nine-year-old - were taken into custody then released to their parents. The Sonora police chief said the youngest prior arrest he had made was age ten. He also said that there was no determination made as to prosecution. Violators younger than age twelve are not usually charged in California, but the boys could be subject to some sort of juvenile justice sanction.
The origin of the marijuana is not known. But school superintendent Leigh Shampain has been quoted in news reports that this incident adds to concerns about legalizing marijuana. Such legalization could make it easier to youngsters to access it.
California, in 1996, was the first state to legalize marijuana use for medical purposes. But in 2010 a ballot proposal to make pot legal for recreational purposes was defeated was despite the backing of some very wealthy and famous people like George Soros, Bill Maher, Google billionaire Paul Buchheit and Men's Wearhouse founder George Zimmer.
Those who oppose marijuana legalization say this incident is not surprising. It is an indicator of things to come. Their fears are being realized.
"This is exactly what we are afraid will happen as we liberalize our marijuana laws," said Tom Gorman, director of the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program. "It will affect our kids. We are seeing more and more of this - kids bringing marijuana to school - and even more edibles - brownies,gummy bears, and lollipops."
Those who favor marijuana legalization think this incident has no bearing on their efforts.
Morgan Fox, communications manager for the Marijuana Policy Project, acknowledged that third-graders should not be using marijuana. But, he emphasized, it is the responsibility of the parents to ensure that they do not have access to any dangerous substances such as drugs or alcohol or cigarettes.
"Having said that this is indicative of the problems caused by prohibition," Fox said. "Drug dealers do not have any incentive to check for ID, whereas legitimate businesses do."
Regarding claims that marijuana usage will increase because of legalization, Fox rejects this.
"It is ridiculous to say that taking the sale of marijuana out of the hands of criminals and giving it to legitimate businesses to control will increase usage," he said. "Other countries, where it has been decriminalized, show a novelty spike at first, but then it returns to prior levels."
Calvina Fay, executive director of Drug Free America Foundation, Inc., predictably feels the exact opposite.
"If you look at the monitoring surveys that are done every year when society is tolerant of drug use it increases," she said. "We have a society today that tolerates marijuana, saying it is a medicine and so we are seeing more of a young people using it. We are very alarmed because we think we are going to lose a couple of generations to the drug culture. Drugs do not make kids smarter, there are studies that marijuana is linked mental illness and decreased IQ."
She also said that President Barack Obama's recent statement about marijuana did not help.
"President Obama was very irresponsible to say what he did," said Fay.
--Written by Michael P. Tremoglie for MainStreet