I don’t remember everything from when I was a high school student in the late 90’s, but one thing that I will never forget is how much reefer madness was attempted to be shoved down my throat by the time I was a senior in high school. I had gone through D.A.R.E. when I was younger, and had guest speakers come to my middle school and high school to talk about the dangers of marijuana. The gateway drug theory, the slower reaction time, the horror stories and scare tactics – I had heard them all.
I, like many of my classmates, had consumed marijuana in my youth. I was an exceptional student who participated in extra curricular activities and played basketball. I was not as much of a model student as some, but I was by no means a horrible teenager. Here I am as an adult, and I think I turned out alright. I always felt that the difference between me and some of my friends that didn’t succeed was that I was not caught with marijuana in my youth. I was caught later as an adult, and paid my decriminalization fine that was on the books at the time in Oregon, but by then I was a responsible adult and didn’t incur many issues related to getting caught.
But my friends that got caught in high school basically had their lives turned upside down. They got suspended or even kicked out of school. They weren’t able to go to college because they lost out on their right to get student aid. It was hard for them to find jobs because they were basically labeled ‘undesirable’ by school officials and had a record. Marijuana opponents want to act like getting caught with marijuana in a prohibition state is not a big deal, but it very much is. So much so that even teenagers that don’t consume marijuana are harshly penalized simply for the suspicion of them being around it.
An example of that is on display in Missouri where a high school student named Gavin Devic has been suspended from school and stripped of school leadership positions because he was accepted a ride from another student who had been consuming marijuana in the car. Per the Springfield News-Leader:
Gavin Devic made a split-second decision that tarnished his reputation at Parkview High School, compromised his academic and athletic standing and may cost him thousands of dollars in college scholarships.
That decision? Catching a ride to a school dance with a friend who had allegedly been smoking pot.
Devic, a senior and three-sport athlete at Parkview, admits he should not have entered a car that reeked of marijuana but believes the punishment he received — a 10-day out-of-school suspension, 28-day athletic suspension and loss of A+ scholarship eligibility — was excessive.
Mr. Devic maintains that he had not consumed any marijuana and can prove it. Unfortunately his calls for a review of his situation seem to have been ignored by school officials. In every measurable way this kid is a good kid, yet his life is essentially being destroyed because the level of reefer madness is so strong in his school. The overly harsh penalties do nothing to help Mr. Devic ‘learn his lesson’ because the only lesson being handed down is that if you are around marijuana in any way, nothing else matters. Not your grades, not the leadership and sacrifice that the student dedicated to his school, not even the fact that he hadn’t consumed marijuana.
This is a sad story that I hope receives more attention and results in pressure being placed on school officials. Any lawyers out there willing to help Mr. Devic with his battle? Even if Mr. Devic had consumed marijuana, he shouldn’t be treated the way that he is. But the fact that he didn’t even consume marijuana makes this story that much more troubling.