Teachers are struggling to with a surge in students turning up to school high on drugs because of the legalization of cannabis in New York City.
Illegal drugs in New York City
More than 2,000 unlicensed dispensaries have sprung up across the city since legalization in 2021 selling strains three times as powerful as those illegally available 25 years ago.
Incidents involving illegal drugs, drug paraphernalia, alcohol and unauthorized use or possession of controlled substances or prescription medications in the city’s schools have shot up 17% in the last year according to figures seen by the New York Post.
And many cannabis derivatives are now sold in smokeless form such as gummies or vapes, leaving teachers powerless to know when their students are consuming them.
‘They come in sluggish or sleepy. Their eyes are red. Sometimes you can smell it, too,’ one teacher at August Martin High School in Queens told the paper.
‘It’s not good for learning. They can’t learn if they are high.
‘I’ve never seen them smoking but I’ve seen them coming to school high,’ said one junior.
‘It’s like almost all the time. But you mostly see it on Fridays. It’s the end of the week, people are stressed out.
Children coming to school on drugs
‘The sale of cannabis products to under-21s remains illegal, but the city’s tolerance for unlicensed outlets leaves them largely unpoliced.
‘There’s so many of these shops around now and there doesn’t seem to be any real enforcement,’ said Naveed Hasan, a Harlem parent and member of the education council group for District 2 in Manhattan.
‘Then I see kids in playgrounds rolling joints.
‘The biggest change I’ve seen in the past year, year and a half, is kids saying, ‘I can get high, it’s legal”,’ one staffer told Chalkbeat New York.
‘To them it’s almost like it’s replaced nicotine.’
The number of substance abuse counselors employed in the city’s schools has nearly halved to 280 since 2006.
A teacher at August Martin said children of all grades were now coming to school on drugs.
‘It’s against our school policy so they get in trouble,’ she added.
Students said that plastic vapes containing cannabis derivatives are easy to smuggle through schools’ metal detectors.
‘They vape all the time. Everybody knows that. They go in the bathroom in groups,’ said one 11th-grader.