Solana Beach School District takes stance on youth access to marijuana

The Solana Beach School District (SBSD) board passed a resolution June 29 opposing youth access to marijuana storefronts and commercial cultivation, seeking to protect its students and all children from the “harmful effects of marijuana” at a young age. The resolution states that the commercialization of marijuana through storefronts and cultivation not only increases its availability but normalizes its use, leading to negative health consequences.

The San Dieguito Union High School District passed a similar resolution in May and the Solana Beach School District worked with Judi Strang, the executive director of the San Dieguito Alliance for Drug Free Youth, to craft a resolution that reflects elementary school-age students. SBSD President Debra Schade hopes that their resolution can serve as a model for other elementary districts around San Diego County.

“The challenge for our board and the professionals working with youth is protecting the youth mind,” Schade said, a nod to the resolution’s statement that youth marijuana use can affect the parts of the brain that influence memory, thinking, concentration, sensory and time perception, and coordinated movement. “(The resolution) is about being able to bring that child through their brain development in the best possible way so as they enter the classroom we’re able to teach them and they’re able to grow. This is a really important issue for me as well as other members on the board.”

Shade said the research on access included in the resolution is “startling.”

According to the California Healthy Kids Survey, youth are using marijuana more than tobacco in San Diego County. Government data shows that almost 40 percent of U.S. high school students have tried marijuana, about 20 percent are current users, and close to 10 percent first tried it before age 13.

The resolution states that in Colorado, where recreational marijuana is legal and commercialized, youth use of marijuana is 50 percent above the national average, and marijuana-related traffic deaths increased 92 percent from 2010 to 2014, while all traffic deaths increased only 8 percent during the same time period.

In Colorado and Washington, where recreational marijuana is legal and commercialized, emergency room admissions for accidental poisoning due to marijuana ingestion by children under the age of 12 has increased by 25 percent over the last three years.

While California passed Proposition 64 in November 2016 legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, Schade said each jurisdiction can put together tighter restrictions and safeguards.

Solana Beach has banned medical marijuana cultivation and dispensaries and, in March, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors banned medical and non-medical marijuana facilities in the unincorporated areas of the county.

In January, the city of San Diego legalized recreational pot dispensaries and opened up the possibility to allow farms, manufacturing facilities and testing labs. Any potential recreational marijuana shop can be within 1,000 feet of schools, parks and other sensitive uses if there is a freeway, wall or some topographical feature in between.The closest marijuana storefront location in North County is on Roselle Street in Sorrento Valley. Each City Council district will be allowed four storefronts and Strang said it appears all four of District 1’s storefronts will be in Sorrento Valley. A second proposed storefront is 1,000 feet from a building that houses a youth music program. Strang said they have argued against the location’s proximity to children but as the building also houses businesses, the city considers it a multi-use and not a minor-oriented facility.

SBSD Superintendent Terry Decker said it appears there will be a “significant concentration” of shops in that Sorrento Valley area, home to many student and family-oriented uses such as learning centers, art studios, a karate studio and a volleyball gym.

Decker said it’s important to increase awareness about their concerns and board member Richard Lieb agreed about the lack of regulation: “We need to be very vigilant about it.”

“I think the most important thing that this resolution says is that we do not want these storefronts in close proximity to our students… not only students in our schools but any institution that houses young minds,” board member Vicki King said.

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