High school hopes to discourage e-cigs by testing them for marijuana

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – One Albuquerque high school principal said she noticed an increase in students showing up to campus with electronic cigarettes, so she got together with her staff and came up with a bold plan parents seem to agree with.

It’s always been a policy — students are not allowed to have tobacco on campus at any Albuquerque Public School. In recent years, that policy has expanded to include electronic cigarettes (e-cigs).

Now, at La Cueva High School, if administrators catch students with one they also test it for marijuana.

“A few years ago our crossroads councilor presented a Powerpoint that actually described how e-cigarettes were being used for marijuana. In place of nicotine in an e-cig, they use marijuana oil,” Principal Dana Lee said.

Lee said that’s when administrators also noticed an increase in students bringing e-cigs to school.

“Since they were really publically accepted out there in the world, the kids started bringing them in here like they were socially accepted as well, and we were suspicious of their use,” Lee said.

Students and parents also recognize how common e-cigs are.

“They’re everywhere,” Jessica Stotz-Harrell said. “It’s really disappointing but so many kids are doing it.”

So last year, Lee and her staff started to research ways to try and decrease the presence of the devices popping up around campus. They were introduced to NIK Marijuana Test Kits.

“They’re test tubes in plastic and you pour the oil from the e-cig inside and you shake it up. If it turns a certain color, you know it’s positive.”

Now, if students at La Cueva get caught with an e-cig, they automatically get sent to Lee’s office and the e-cig gets tested.

“It’s not like we go out looking for the e-cigs, but if one comes into us we go ahead and test it and the kids know that’s what we do,” she said.

Last year, Lee got the approval to purchase the tests kits. She said she can’t go into detail if any students have been caught smoking marijuana, but confirmed they have had to use them.

“Like I said, we can’t prove that it’s decreasing use but at least it’s decreasing the number of e-cigarettes on campus,” she said.

Parents who spoke with KRQE News 13 said they were on board with Lee’s push to keep drugs out of schools.

“Whatever you can do to keep drugs out of schools, then absolutely I’m in agreement with that,” parent Stotz-Harrell said.

“I would not like for them to just be grabbing things from students at school,” Michelle Hamrick said. “However, as a concerned parent, I would be happy if they took it and contacted me to let me know that my child has this device at school and they want to test it. I would like to be part of it because I think that if parents support it, it will work 100 percent.”

If a student gets caught with an e-cig and it tests positive for marijuana, they face a three-day suspension and a 45-day suspension from any after-school activity. The case also gets turned over to Albuquerque police.

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