By John L. Braese
VALE – A 7-year-old not long ago brought something to a local school to share with classmates — marijuana.
The friends told and the Malheur County Juvenile Department is now involved.
The episode is the latest in a trend of juveniles engaging in drug use in sometimes imaginative ways that escape the attention of teachers and parents, according to county authorities.
According to the juvenile department, caseloads are increasing, the majority involving illegal substances.
The scene plays out in one Vale home after another – a student’s morning routine of a shower, a bite to eat, and heading out the door to school with a backpack.
Some are carrying more than homework and lunch in their packs, police say. Shuffled in with the cell phone, the pair of socks and the pens also may be “wax,” “shatter,” or a dabbing nail. All are new and more potent forms of marijuana.
And the seemingly innocent Altoids container holds more than breath mints in some instances. Such containers are being used to sneak methamphetamine and marijuana into school.
The growing concern about drugs in Vale schools prompted the Malheur County Sheriff’s Office to recently put on a clinic for high school and middle teachers and school staff.
“I appreciate the fact the Malheur County Sheriff’s Office and juvenile department are keeping our staff abreast of what is going on in our community,” said Vale High School Principal Mary Jo Sharp. “We plan on continuing updating our staff on this community problem.”
For Jeri Schaffeld, Vale Middle School principal and a former health teacher who taught drug classes, the presentation was eye opening.
“There is stuff out there I was totally unaware of,” she said. “It really shows the choices youth have to make in today’s world. The issues raised are a definite concern for both educators and parents.”
Sgt. Bob Speelman updated school staff on what is being found in the local drug scene. Using his knowledge of what is seen on the streets around Vale and the rest of the county, Speelman warned teachers that students likely are carrying and using drugs in school right under their noses.
Even methods used to sneak alcohol into a school dance or game has become harder to detect.
Speelman said alcohol remains the most commonly used drug among young people in the area. Beer, wine coolers and hard alcohol are the norm.
Students now can buy plastic tubes that can be filled with alcohol. The tube is closed and slipped into a paper jacket that looks like a tampon container. Speelman said he doubted an adult would check a tampon for alcohol and that is the reason the method is popular among students
Although legal in Oregon, marijuana remains illegal for youth.
Newer forms of the drug are being used locally, according to Speelman. One method to use the concentrated marijuana is called dabbing.
Dabs are doses of cannabis that are heated on a hot surface, usually a nail, and inhaled through a dab rig. The dab rig is usually a glass device that holds water which is then heated.
“Dabbing ups the THC level 60 to 70 percent higher than just smoking a joint,” he said. “They say you can’t overdose on marijuana, but with the level of THC in this form, it is dangerous.”
Speelman reported the rigs and dabbing nails have been found on juveniles in Vale.
He also told the teachers the way of transporting marijuana has changed. He warned them about containers appearing to be lip gloss containers that instead hold the wax form of marijuana, a thick oily substance that looks much like honey.
“Dabbing is more prevalent in this community than people think,” Speelman said.
Methamphetamine use by Vale youth continues, according to Speelman. Smoking, ingesting, snorting or injecting are the common ways to use the drug.
Methamphetamine users in Malheur County cross all economic and social levels, according to Speelman.
“We are seeing it everywhere, including good kids from good families you never would think would be in it,” he said.
Speelman advised teachers to look for cut straws or plastic ink pens cut off, needles, and aluminum cans with small burned cuts used to smoke methamphetamine.
The illegal use of prescription drugs continues to rise in the area, especially among young users. Law enforcement is seeing youth selling their prescribed medication and use of opioids such as oxycodone.
“These drugs are easy to get,” said Speelman. “Most kids are taking these drugs right out of the bathroom cabinet in their own homes.”
Clothing can signal drug use and Speelman urged the educators to be watch for certain t-shirts, belts and buckles and jewelry.
Shirts with “molly” or “kush” tell others about the acceptance of marijuana. A shirt with a purple “LEAN” signifies a potential abuser of cough syrup. And a shirt with “710” can refer to a user of marijuana oil.
The sheriff’s office provides parents home test kits that can be used to determine whether a child is using drugs. Speelman said the sheriff’s office wouldn’t charge a juvenile who tests positive for drug use.
Have a news tip? Contact reporter John L. Braese at [email protected] or call 541-473-3377.