In Your Corner: The marijuana blues

No parent ever wants to be called to school to find out that his or her child has been arrested for possession of marijuana.

The official HRS offense name is Promoting a Detrimental Drug in the third degree (PDD3): “A person commits the offense of promoting a detrimental drug in the third degree if the person knowingly possesses any marijuana or any Schedule V substance in any amount.”

One doesn’t have to be caught smoking it. If it is on the person or in his possessions, such as a wallet, purse, backpack, or locker, (s)he can be arrested for PDD3.

Recently a case came before Teen Court where the respondent stated that in school, a student placed pot on her desk. A teacher was coming, and she panicked. She took it, and then tried to return it to the boy. She was caught with it on her.

She was told by her school administration that she could have reported it, and even taken it to the principal or vice principals, and not gotten in trouble. However, since she was caught with it on her, she then had to be suspended from school for 90 days, which is the county policy.

This time period would mean that she could not go back to her classes, or be with her school friends for the rest of the year. She had to attend night school.

When she came to Teen Court, Greg Myers was the judge for her case. He gave her the legal advice that she could make an appointment with Daniel Hamada, superintendent of schools, to appeal the decision. The family did so, but there is a 30-day window to make the appeal, and they were too late.

I checked with Lt. Jon Takamura, the director of juvenile services for KPD as to the legality and procedure for turning in marijuana if it is found at school.

Takamura’s reply was: “The proper protocol is that a student should leave the drug or paraphernalia where it’s found or not accept it from someone and quickly inform a school administrator or staff of their findings.”

“I would say that in 85 percent of the cases that we investigate where a student has illegal drugs on his/her person, the common and first utterance from their mouth is that the drugs aren’t theirs, and that they either were holding it for a friend, or that they found it. In most cases, after further investigation, the drugs do belong to them.”

At a meeting of school resource officers it was stated that sometimes students do pick up the marijuana and bring it to the office because they think that someone else will take it. While that is not the preferred means of turning it in, officers have ways of investigating, and knowing when a student is honest.

I have seen an increase in PDD3 cases coming to Teen Court this year. In my Substance Abuse Classes there is a prevalent belief that marijuana does not cause harm to the body.

This is just not true for children.

• According to the documentary “Marijuana Papers” there have been at least three cases of death by strokes in adolescent marijuana users.

• MRI results show that normal brain activity in the frontal lobes where judgment and logic occur is severely impaired.

• Memory is affected because the brain has to work harder to retrieve information that is not stored properly in the hippocampus. They are conducting research to see if children who start using at an early age may suffer some permanent damage.

• Pot erodes the will to perform. Ambition is lost. Success and achievement no longer matter to the chronic marijuana user. So no more studying or goals.

• Pot affects the sexual development hormones in adolescents causing males to be more feminine, and girls to be more masculine. Girls may develop irregular periods, and boys may become unable to perform sexually.

• Pot has five times the amount of cancer causing substances in it than tobacco.

• It impairs coordination and slows down reaction time, making driving and smoking very dangerous.

• It impairs function of the immune system.

• The marijuana that people smoke now is much more powerful than that of their parents or grandparents.

• For kids who begin using around age 12, using pot can become more important than learning how to get along with people or using higher-thinking skills. Later in life they find that they are developmentally well behind in these areas.

The Air Force will not accept any candidates who are busted for drugs. Wouldn’t it be a tragedy for a child who uses at 13 to later decide that they want to join the Air Force, but not be able to because of a PDD3 arrest?

And by the way, according to the Coalition for a Drug Free Hawaii “The distribution, or possession with the intent to distribute any controlled substance in, on or near schools or school vehicles is a class C felony. The maximum penalty is 10 years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.”

I have observed a correlation between Teen Court PDD3 arrests and respondents who write down that they have no interests in school, and few outside of school. Getting involved in healthy hobbies, sports, or activities, including volunteering for things that they believe are important, is a way to engage students in creating a positive life for themselves. Adolescence is the time to try different things, and find out what kids have passion for, and what their talents are. It is not time to create a life that goes up in smoke.

“In Your Corner” is a phrase that means support. Its origin comes from boxing. In between rounds, the boxer retires to his corner, and a group of people coach him, give him medical help, water, and cheer him on.

Several adults have “stepped into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support in the boxing ring of life. They are Catherine Stovall, community response specialist, county of Kaua‘i; Edmund Acoba, public defender; Craig DeCosta, county prosecuting attorney; Officer Paul Applegate, Kaua‘i Police Department; Daniel Hamada, superintendent of schools; Jill Yoshimatsu, director of the DOE Mokihana program; and Annaleah Atkinson, Teen Court Manager for Hale ‘Opio Kaua‘i.

If you have something to share, or have a question, contact Atkinson.

• Annaleah Atkinson can be reached at aatkinson

@haleopio.org, or Hale ‘Opio Kaua‘i Inc., 2959 Umi St., Lihu‘e, HI 96766.

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