🔷 Cannabis gummies brought to NJ school

🔷 Middle school students sent for medical evaluation

🔷 Security checks widened in school district

PENNSAUKEN — A school district in Camden County is widening security checks after several middle school students ingested cannabis gummies that one brought to school this week.

The incident unfolded Wednesday at Phifer Middle School in Pennsauken, according to Schools Superintendent Ronnie Tarchichi, who also urged families to talk with kids about the dangers of any drug use.

School staff noticed the behavior of four students, who were first sent to the school nurse and then a “medical facility” for evaluation.

“It is essential that all parents/guardians and students understand the Pennsauken School District policies and procedures regarding drugs whether they be illegal or legal,” Tarchichi said in a letter to the school community.

Pennsauken middle school (Canva)
Pennsauken middle school (Canva)

🔷 Families urged to talk about dangers of all drugs

The superintendent also stressed the urgency of having a frank conversation with children, not to eat “any type of candy that does not come from the school or from their parents/guardians.”

He said that any such item can be laced with dangerous drugs, like opioids or fentanyl.

“For a point of reference, an amount of fentanyl no larger than a baby aspirin can kill an adult. We will be enforcing that no students eat anything outside the cafeteria,” Tarchichi continued.

He said the situation was “handled impeccably” by administrators and staff and encouraged families to be extra vigilant with their children.

“Marijuana is still considered a gateway drug and can lead children down a path that can have negative lifelong effects on their futures. Please be responsible and make sure that children know the danger of these gateway drugs,” Tarchichi said.

According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, marijuana was the most commonly used substance, after alcohol among youth ages 12 to 17.

2021 graphic by U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
2021 graphic by U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

🔷 Cannabis impact on youth brain development

There have been concerns voiced about the effects of even casual cannabis use by youth, whose brains are still developing into their mid-20s.

"Marijuana use in adolescence is associated with difficulty thinking, problem-solving, and reduced memory, as well as a risk of long-term addiction," according to an article by the Columbia University Department of Psychiatry, in covering a recent study by a team from the department.

Researchers led by Ryan Sultan with their findings published in JAMA Open Network last year found that teens who recreationally used cannabis — not including young middle schoolers — were two to four times as likely to develop psychiatric disorders.

Pennsauken (Google Maps)
Pennsauken (Google Maps)

🔷 Security checks being widened in Pennsauken district

Both Pennsauken High School and Burling High School have morning security checks for all students, and so far have not had issues such as the one in the middle school.

School officials had already planned to expand the same security checks to Phifer Middle School this coming September.

The superintendent added that there were students who helped bring more information to educators’ attention, and urged “It is essential that if you see something wrong, you say something to an adult because you can save a life.”

He also said, any student distributing any drug to other students would be “disciplined per district policy.”

Cannabis use remained stable for all three grades surveyed, with 8.3% of eighth graders, 17.8% of 10th graders, and 29.0% of 12th graders reporting cannabis use in the past year. Of note, 6.5% of eighth graders, 13.1% of 10th graders, and 19.6% of 12th graders reported vaping cannabis within the past year, reflecting a stable trend among all three grades.

UPDATE 2024: All NJ stores that sell legal cannabis

The number of recreational cannabis dispensaries continues to grow, since the first NJ adult use marijuana sales in April 2022.

Gallery Credit: Erin Vogt

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