As of Oct. 20, Philadelphians caught with small amounts of marijuana will only be fined $25 as far as the city is concerned .
But if caught in school, public school students in Philadelphia are still at risk for expulsion or suspension, since the School District of Philadelphia’s disciplinary procedures will remain the same after decriminalization .
No disciplinary procedures will change, Deputy Chief of the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities Rachel Holzman said, because marijuana is illegal in the city and state — something Mayor Michael Nutter stressed during the signing of the bill earlier this month .
Currently, if a student is found with marijuana in a public school, the school must notify the Philadelphia Police Department, according to the Memorandum of Understanding with the Philadelphia Police .
But last May, Philadelphia started a diversion program to cut back on school-based arrests. If students do not have a record with Philadelphia Police, they are not arrested for minor incidents on school grounds and are instead referred to the Department of Human Services .
“It’s an issue, just like in all school districts,” Holzman said of marijuana use in Philadelphia public schools. Statistics from the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years show that a little over 3 percent of all infractions in Philadelphia schools were for possession or use of a controlled substance . Sale and distribution of a controlled substance accounted for 0.67 percent of all infractions in 2012-13 and 0.4 percent for 2011-12, according to Pennsylvania Department of Education statistics .
Possession of alcohol or drugs is a Level 2 or above offense — meaning the possibility of an out-of-school suspension, a disciplinary school assignment or expulsion, according to the 2014-2015 Student Code of Conduct . But Holzman said that the school district weighs many factors when deciding the fate of a student. In the case of drugs, this includes the amount of drugs and the student’s personal situation. “We are mandated to make referral to treatment if a kid needs treatment,” she said.
School administrators help decide what consequences students will face if they are caught with drugs. “We leave a lot of that in the hands of the principals in the building because they know the kids the best,” Holzman said.
Previous research on medical marijuana legalization has found that legalization did not affect how many teens used marijuana, although these studies might not be applicable to Philadelphia’s recent measure .
Brown University Medical School professor Esther Choo’s recent study, which was published in January, showed that there was no increase in teen marijuana use after laws about medical marijuana changed in several states. Choo said that the study might not be applicable to recreational marijuana decriminalization or legalization because medical marijuana is a substance directed towards a different subgroup of the population — the chronically ill or elderly. “It seemed a little bit unlikely to me that releasing it to that population would bleed into adolescent use,” she said.
Marijuana use after decriminalization is a bit of a different situation than after medical marijuana legalization. Not many states have decriminalization laws in effect — Philadelphia is the largest U.S. city to pass this type of law .
As for now, “It’s all conjecture,” Choo said. “There are researchers and research agencies literally waiting for the passage of time.”Comments powered by Disqus
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