LEWISTON — Following an increase in student discipline because of marijuana brought to school, parents of Lewiston students and community members are invited to a school–parent–community forum on drugs Thursday night at Lewiston High School.

The forum will be held from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the multipurpose room.

It will feature a panel discussion with drug experts, students, school leaders and police giving an overview of the problem, followed by a question-and-answer segment with the audience, Lewiston High School substance abuse counselor Vicky Wiegman said.

This year, Lewiston has seen a rise in the number of students disciplined for possessing or distributing marijuana, Superintendent Bill Webster said.

Wiegman has seen the change, too. “There seems to be a lot more bravado of students bringing it to school.”

Part of the problem, they said, is a more accepted attitude about marijuana use by adults.

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Medicinal marijuana use is legal statewide.

In November, Portland residents voted to make small amounts of marijuana legal, and marijuana supporters plan a similar referendum in other communities and want to bring it to a statewide referendum in 2016.

That’s having an impact with students, educators said. Some of the student offenders are the children of adult users, Webster said last month.

And too many students “believe marijuana will not cause harm, that there’s little to no risk, that it’s natural and a medicine,” Wiegman said. “There is confusion about the risk associated with marijuana,” she said. It’s not harmless, especially to youth.

When Lewiston students are asked about substance use in the past 30 days, smoking and drinking is going down, but marijuana is on the rise, Wiegman said.

Marijuana poses “a real risk with teens,” Wiegman said. “It affects every kid differently. In my career I’ve seen teens lose a lot, their education, relationships, from marijuana use. I worry about a global message that ‘this is OK; it may be good for you.’ I encourage parents to talk to their children.”

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Webster, who has responded to the situation by dispatching drug-sniffing police dogs in schools for random searches, encourages parents to attend Thursday’s forum.

The use of drugs and alcohol in society “are a major issue that relates to education,” Webster said. “I hope parents attend and better understand the consequences and what they can do to help.”

As society has a more accepted view of marijuana use, he said “we need to pay double attention on the impact on learning.”

The snow date for Thursday’s forum is Jan. 30.

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