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Detroit public schools says student marijuana use becoming a serious problem, causing hospitalizations

Detroit Public Schools Community District calling on state leaders for policy intervention
Posted at 10:18 PM, May 02, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-02 23:24:47-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Detroit Public Schools Community District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti says marijuana use among students has skyrocketed since the legalization of the drug in 2018 and is calling on state leaders to intervene.

Vitti says from 2019 to 2021, the district recorded 289 drug-related incidents within its schools. From 2021 to 2023, that number jumped to 1,735 and just this school year alone, there have been 745 incidents. He says a week of school rarely passes without a student being hospitalized for intentionally or unintentionally consuming edible marijuana, or edibles.

DPSCD Drug-Related Incidents
DPSCD Drug-Related Incidents

DPSCD parents like Brandi Merriweather say those numbers are alarming. Having five children in the school system herself, she's worried what happens at school when she drops off her children.

“That’s crazy. We have to do something. Something has to be done immediately," she said.

What alarms Merriweather and the school district most is how some marijuana packaging looks like actual candy.

Packaging of some marijuana edibles
Packaging of some marijuana edibles

“I have a preteen and a teenager and they wouldn’t know, I wouldn’t know, they could come home with that and I wouldn't know what that was. I would assume that it was candy," Merriweather said.

Merriweather's 16-year-old son has a medical condition where if he ingested marijuana accidentally, his life could be in danger. Not only that, but other parents fear how this affects students' education overall.

“Them having access to that candy at this young age, what is it doing to their brain? To their focus," DPSCD parent Arkesha Merriweather asked. “I really don’t know how they would have access to it, you have to be an adult to purchase it, but kids are innovative, we know that.”

We decided to inquire a local dispensary so parents know what to look out for. Manager at House of Dank in Detroit Brandon Shaouni says parents need to look for a numerical value on packaging. Numbers indicate how much THC is in the edibles. He recommends parents lock up their marijuana in a safe or storage container out of reach for children. Just like alcohol, it is illegal for those under the age of 21 to buy or consume the product.

"Parents want to look out for...the warning label. Warning labels will have an upside-down yield sign," Shaouni said.

Marijuana product label
Marijuana product label

And while there are clear warnings on some products, other marijuana companies make it a point to look like real candy. That's why Detroit Schools are calling on the state and Governor Whitmer to require laws that all marijuana products are clearly labeled unmistakably and want to prohibit marijuana companies from purposefully looking like real candy products.

The district is also calling on the state to provide funding for detection systems at schools to pick up on vape pens and marijuana and invest in public awareness campaigns.

"Your prompt and decisive action on this matter is not only appreciated but necessary. School day-to-day operations are being significantly disrupted as a result of the unintended consequences of properly legalizing marijuana," Superintendent Vitti wrote in an open letter to state leaders.