November 27, 1998
By : Timothy W. Shire
This morning Sheila Coles, CBCs morning show host, did a story on a Vice Principal and an RCMP officer doing a search of a teenage high school student who was found to have some marijuana in his sock that he planned to sell at a school dance. The story was not so much about marijuana as it was about the court ruling and the appropriateness of searching. Though an interesting problem, it reminded me of some of the confusion and misinformation that seems to relate to what many consider as a mild drug that should be decriminalised. Here, as best as I can recall, is an incident that took place in a high school seventeen years ago.
The business education teacher reported the smell of marijuana in her classroom which was next to the boys washroom, as the principal I went down to investigate but there was nothing but the lingering odour in the washroom. I came out of the washroom and the business education teacher met me to tell me what she new and reported the absence of one particular student who had not been there for role call at the start of the morning. Our short discussion was interrupted as the physical education teacher came out of the gym, which was only fifteen feet away with two high school boys who had just been in a fight.
I left the business education teacher and what I thought was a separate problem and went to the office with the physical education teacher and the two grade ten boys. The one, the victim of what had seemed like an unprovoked attack, was calm and not badly hurt, the other was vocal and agitated. In my office I quickly made notes of what looked like a pretty unusual fight as the physical education teacher recounted what he seen of the incident.
As a warm up to the morning basketball activity he had dispatched his class to a series of laps to be run around the circumference of the gym. The boys were fairly spaced out between one another but as they rounded the corner near the main door into the gym one boy passed another on the corner, the boy he passed stumbled and nearly fell. The passing boy turned briefly about three meters ahead to see what had happened and as the other had recovered he jogged on. When he reached the half way mark up the other side of the room he was attacked by the boy who stumbled, who upon regaining his footing, had charged straight across the room and began hitting the boy who had passed him. The physical education teacher was able to intervene and stop the attack.
Statements from both boys were most unusual. The boy who had passed the other recalled a minor normal jostle had occurred on the corner but nothing deliberate or unusual, but the sort of thing that occurs when a group of people are jogging along. The attacker described a much different scene. He had the impression that the boy who passed him had deliberately bumped him and had turned around and laughed at him as he was falling. He felt he had to teach him a lesson for what he had done and had launched the attack.
In the mean time the business education teacher had followed up on the marijuana smell and was able to determine with certainty from other students that the assailant in my office was the culprit. She came to the office told me what she knew and according to our school policy, when a crime is committed in a school, of this nature, it is reported to the police. The RCMP were called.
The RCMP Sergeant, an experience individual, came over and talked with the boy briefly and then took the boy home to interview his mother. As it turned out the mother had just experienced the pleasure of having enjoyed marijuana herself and admitted to having given her son a “joint” that morning and he had gone to school just a bit late, missing the first part of the first period, went directly to the washroom where he smoked the joint, then went directly to his second class of the day, the physical education class, where he was involved in an altercation only minutes after the class had begun.
After the incident my inexperience showed when I discussed the situation with the RCMP Sergeant. I told him that this all puzzled me because I was under the impression that marijuana was a pacific substance and a person under its influence would act somewhat subdued and pleasant. But it was clear from this incident that quite the opposite had occurred, the user had been aggressive and violent. The Sergeant patiently explained that there was much I had to learn about this chemical.
Marijuana is a very powerful substance it appears to cause several affects that the users finds enjoyable but these effects profoundly affect the person’s behaviour and what he or she interprets as reality. One of the most impressive affects is that time appears to be somewhat altered, the user experiences things happening at a slightly slower rate. The second affect seems to relate to the first and that is the user, because time is distorted, may draw incorrect conclusions from what he or she sees. And, like other chemicals that affect the central nervous system, the person’s coordination is impaired as is their judgment.
In our incident, the boy had consumed a full joint of marijuana and had immediately gone to phys. ed. class so the full effects were being felt at the time. His class mates noticed his boisterous behaviour in the change room prior to class but this fellow was a usually jovial type and he was just more so that morning. During the warm up he was some what unsteady on his feet and the minor brush with another student on a corner had knocked him off his feet. As he was in the act of falling he saw the guy who had bumped him turning to look back and interpreted the facial expression as one of jeering and then acted upon his miss-interpretation. Violent behaviour was the result.
Those who advocate the recreational use of this substance know of the euphoria that seems to come from its use and are willing to accept the trade off that comes from that pleasure and the decreased mental sharpness that results. When you hear people making their case for its legalisation, consider the evidence in this incident, indeed it may offer the person suffering from a painful illness some relief, but for others who only seek a bit of amusement, the costs could be very high. As a principal I have had a lot of situations with broken lives, people who turned to alcohol and other substances to find relief from the situations in which they would find themselves and I can site no positive results.
10 Things Every Teen Should Know About Marijuana
Three things Marijuana Doesn't Do
Marijuana: A case for and against
All You Ever Wanted To Know Aboit Marijuana But Were Afraid To Ask
Excellent straightforward answers on all drugs including marijuana Columbia University's Go Ask Alice!
Drug Watch Oregon - a series of scientific reports on Marijuana
Schaffer Library of Drug Policy - Marijuana and the Human Body , The Common Sense Series These folks are attempting to get the drug legalised.
Marijuana is NOT a medicine - from the league against intoxicants.
Marijuana: Facts for Teens - Outstanding source for information for teenagers on Marijuana
Marijuana: Facts Parents Need to Know - Also by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, excellent material.
Environmental Factors Influence Adolescent Behavior - The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, US Department of Health and Human Services
Reasons Not to Legalize Drugs…:Greenville Family Partnership This simple article is well worth looking over.