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Statistics show Fallbrook has a marijuana problem

This is the first installment of a three-part series on marijuana and its relationship to the Fallbrook community, specifically the community’s youth.

Last month, Fallbrook’s pot shop was forced to close its doors after its owners received a cease-and-desist order from the County of San Diego. County authorities said the Mother Earth Alternative Healing Cooperative, located at 434 East Mission Avenue, didn’t have the proper permits to make adjustments to their interior walls. In addition to that, the business was in violation of a County-issued moratorium.

Fearing the proliferation of marijuana shops and co-ops, the County Board of Supervisors passed an emergency moratorium last summer which prohibits the establishment of marijuana outlets and dispensaries in the unincorporated areas of the county, including the Fallbrook community.

“Fallbrook is a safer place without the dispensary,” said Lt. Phil Brust, who runs the Fallbrook Sheriff’s Substation. “Most medical marijuana cooperatives have the potential to create dangerous environments and can be a magnet for increased criminal activities.” Lt. Brust further noted that while increases in criminal activity are typical around marijuana dispensaries, there was not a significant increase specifically associated with the Mother Earth dispensary during the short time they were open.

When the County Board of Supervisors issued the moratorium on pot businesses last June, it cited several concerns about the effects of marijuana on communities, including the illegal nature of marijuana sales, the presence of weapons and large amounts of cash which can make these businesses targets for criminal activity.

In referencing the moratorium, county leaders expressed concern that pot shops could also cause an increase in burglaries, robberies, and attacks on individuals entering and exiting the dispensaries as well as citations for driving under the influence of marijuana.

A look at the crime stats regarding marijuana-related crimes is telling. According to Lt. Brust, there were 32 felony marijuana offenses in Fallbrook in 2008 and that number increased to 44 in 2009, an increase of more than 37-percent. To date, deputies have already logged eight felony marijuana offenses in 2010.

The number of marijuana misdemeanor citations in Fallbrook decreased from 81 in 2008 to 70 in 2009. But 2010 has already seen 21 marijuana misdemeanor tickets.

Pot is also showing up at Fallbrook schools. According to the sheriff’s department, there were 34 misdemeanor offenses involving minors in possession of marijuana on school grounds in 2008. Last year, 20 students were caught with pot on campus and in 2010 there have already been seven.

“This isn’t an epidemic, but it’s very disturbing that some students think it’s acceptable to bring marijuana onto school property,” said Lt. Brust. “We are making a concerted effort to proactively work with our schools to minimize these incidents.”

The 2007 California Healthy Kids Survey confirms that marijuana is a serious issue in Fallbrook. According to the survey, 30-percent of the 11th grade respondents had used marijuana once in their life, 16-percent used marijuana in the month prior to taking the survey and 6-percent had smoked marijuana on school property in the month prior to taking the survey. Of the 7th grade respondents, 10-percent claimed they got high using drugs.

“We’re like any other comprehensive high school. We have our issues with marijuana. But we do everything in our power to ensure that it doesn’t get onto school property,” says Fallbrook High School Principal Rod King. “We do sweeps of the bathroom. The sheriffs bring a drug sniffing dog on campus and our administrators are constantly on alert. When we identify things of that nature, we take the disciplinary steps so that students suffer the consequences of making bad choices.”

The survey also noted that 86-percent of Fallbrook 11th graders and 88-percent of 9th graders perceived that frequent use of marijuana is harmful. So while the majority of Fallbrook High school students are aware that smoking marijuana is harmful, the specific reasons why may not be widely known.

The next installment in this series will examine the harmful and potentially permanent effects marijuana can have on the body.

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