Year 12. I have been found with 1 ounce of cannabis in my
possession at school and look like getting expelled tomorrow.
Can you please give me some assistance in handling this
issue. Is it reasonable to be expelled?
As I said to the young man in my email response, one ounce of cannabis is a fair amount and when you have that much in your possession at school, it is fair to assume that you were either selling or giving it other people! Why else would you have it there with you? I never heard back from him so I don’t know what happened to him and whether he was expelled or not but this is a story I keep hearing around the country, although those that are being caught are usually much younger (typically around Year 9) …
- most people who use cannabis don’t experience major problems with the drug
- those who do have problems, usually have major problems that not only adversely affect them but everyone around them
- the younger you start using the drug, the greater the risk of a range of problems
- no matter what legislative changes are made in the future, there is no government that will ever make cannabis legally available to those under 18 years of age, i.e., there will always be a ‘black market’ for this age group
Most of the pro-cannabis lobby people I know agree with me that school-based young people should not be using the drug and it is important to try and prevent uptake for as long as possible. Most acknowledge that the risks are much greater, particularly around mental health, the younger you start to use cannabis.
I had a Year 11 young man approach me this week after my talk because he had just started using cannabis after he had read on the internet that it would help him with his Asperger’s! He was finding that it was making him very depressed and he was losing his motivation and feeling tired all the time. Of course we immediately went to the school counsellor and discussed what was happening but this example illustrates what we’re starting to see …
As a result of the changes to cannabis laws in the US, we are seeing cannabis discussed in a very different way, particularly in the mainstream media. You can’t watch an American comedy show today without at least one or two jokes about someone getting access to cannabis and it all being totally hysterical that one of the characters was able to get stoned for ‘medical reasons’. Don’t get me wrong – I laugh as well – some of the jokes are really funny! But it means that young people are getting a very different message about cannabis than in the past. Sure watching someone doing something really stupid whilst stoned can be funny (and bongs are hysterical, at least as far as teens are concerned) but there is another side to cannabis for some people and that is not being discussed. Add to that the growing number of celebrities who talk about their personal use of the drug and the benefits they derive from cannabis (thank you Miley Cyrus!), young people are far less likely to be hearing balanced messages that include the potential harms … Once again, we don’t want to go down the ‘Reefer Madness’ road and use scare tactics to terrify students by saying their brains are going to ‘fry’ if they have one puff, but there must be a middle ground somewhere.
Schools battle with so many issues and thankfully, cannabis has not been a major one for many of them over the past decade. That certainly appears to be changing. We need to respond and quickly!
- the education we provide in schools is going to have to change to some degree. Young people believe so little of what we tell them about illicit drugs anyway, now we also have to battle American culture that often makes cannabis look like a big joke with few, if any, negative consequences. Providing balanced and accurate information, including issues around medicinal use and legalisation/decriminalisation, is imperative. Sure, not everyone is going to experience problems with cannabis, but there are negative consequences and they need to be aware of them!
- schools are also going to need to find a way of dealing with those young people who end up experiencing problems with the drug. Many of these students have existing mental health problems and appear to be attracted to the drug due to its effects. Young people who have issues with drugs and have a mental health problem are difficult to deal with and services are scarce
- uniform policies across all systems need to be adopted on how to deal with students who bring cannabis to school and these need to be communicated effectively across the whole community. Kids make mistakes and branding them a ‘cannabis dealer’ at the age of 15 and expelling them can be incredibly damaging but what can you do? I’ve got to be honest and say I don’t know what the answer is, but there has to be one …
Of course, it’s not just the school’s problem – let’s not forget, when it comes to young people, it’s a partnership between the parents and the school. But I’ll talk about parents and cannabis in my next blog …