Local law enforcement says marijuana use is both more prevalent and more accepted among kids than ever before.
“They think because it’s legal, it’s legal for everybody,” Deputy Rob Bratch of the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office told members of the Greater Littleton Youth Initiative on March 8.
“They just think it’s normal or OK anymore,” agreed Officer Tim Fisher with the Littleton Police Department. “They don’t see how it kills their brain cells and that kind of stuff.”
On the plus side, methamphetamine use seems to be down, and police aren’t seeing too many kids drinking and driving.
“Kids who live in the neighborhood tend to use in the neighborhood,” said Fisher.
Contributing to the problem are parents who use, say police.
“The days of father does best are gone,” said Bratch. Parents often either defend the kid, deny there’s a problem or “themselves are dirtbags,” said Bratch.
“How do we compete with, ‘If mom and dad don’t care, why should we?’” he wondered.
He and LPD Cmdr. Trent Cooper agree that legalization will make matters worse.
“Drug dealers aren’t going to just magically get a job,” said Bratch — they’ll just sell different, more dangerous drugs.
“Getting out in front of it is an excellent idea,” said Cooper. “But how we do that, I don’t know.”
LPD Officer Krista Bunten says early education at home is best. She encourages parents to spy on their kids, lurk their Facebooks, read their texts — anything it takes to make sure they’re safe. She said some kids respond to before-and-after pictures of the effects drug abuse can have on a body.
“But some think, ‘That’s not going to happen to me,’” she said. “I don’t think they believe that until later in life when they start to see the effects.”
GLYI will look at adding substance-abuse prevention to its roster of data-driven programs that aim to bolster the lives of area kids.
“We know there’s no magic bullet for drugs and alcohol,” said GLYI board president Sue Chandler. “We know we can’t legislate proper parenting. But maybe we can make a difference in the community.”