In the last few months, local officials have passed a number of measures to combat vaping among teens, an issue many parents and school officials say is an epidemic impacting students’ health and well-being.
Milton and Alpharetta have or are in the process of banning any new vape shops from doing business in the city. Johns Creek is considering an ordinance that would limit the amount of floor space that can be dedicated to vaping products, and at least one Forsyth County official recently expressed support for a total ban on new shops.
It has been fairly obvious that many elected officials simply do not want vape shops in their city — have to keep up appearances of the well-to-do area, don’t you know. But instead of coming out and saying so, they are going to the classic catch-all: “We need to protect the kids.”
But with their pitchforks sharpened and torches blazing, eventually this effective ban on legal substances will go too far. And it did May 16 when the Cherokee County School Board approved changes to its disciplinary code to address vaping.
What could have been a positive move to possibly curtail some teens from vaping was done in such a ham-fisted way that its impacts will likely be incredibly subjective and unjust.
The ordinance states that there is no way to quickly and accurately test vape juices to determine if they are simply flavored juice, if they contain nicotine or if they contain CBD or THC oils. Because of a lack of such testing measures, Cherokee County has chosen to simply assume, “absent clear and convincing evidence to the contrary,” that any juice is laced with THC or CBD oils and the student will face, in effect, marijuana charges.
So instead of punishing a student for breaking a school rule, an 18-year old in possession of a legal substance containing no THC oil or cannabinoids will be treated as a criminal.
Yes, the language states the student can prove the juice in his vape does not contain illegal substances, but what if he or she fills the vape up in the morning and leaves the bottle at home? What if the strawberry juice in his vape has a different color and smell than the bottle of peach juice in his possession?
He will face immediate external suspension, and a tribunal will be held “with a recommendation for a long-term assignment to alternative school or expulsion.”
A student expelled and sent to alternative school, completely changing the trajectory of his high school years and likely having lasting impacts well beyond, because he could not immediately prove his vape juice did not contain THC.
I do not condone vaping for teens, but Cherokee County School Board’s new policy will likely result in unjust punishments being served on teens when the infraction has no true supporting evidence, only speculation.
The board’s chair was quoted as saying the measure is “extreme,” but it is deserving given vaping is an “extreme situation.”
But it should be considered that teens do not have the same understanding of risk vs. reward we have as adults. And if the ultimate goal is to protect teens, it is asinine to slap a student with a marijuana charge when the school administration cannot confirm its presence in the vape juice.
Officials are sitting on their holier-than-thou thrones where vaping is concerned, but they need to watch how high they raise themselves before the bottom falls out and teens are facing serious criminal charges for possessing flavored juice.