Hoping to quell the citys nickname of Sherweed, Police Chief Jeff Groth moves to address growing pot problems among youth

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Jeff GrothHoping to put a dent in what he says is a growing marijuana problem among Sherwood’s young people, the city’s police chief is putting together a Youth Substance Abuse Team to address the issue.

Consisting of members of the Sherwood Police Department, Sherwood School District and Washington County juvenile authorities, police Chief Jeff Groth plans to gather those groups together to help reduce the numbers of student who smoke pot.

“My hope is by the start of the school next fall we’d have something to run with,” said Groth.

Although Groth isn’t sure how widespread the problem is in other communities, Groth said marijuana use is clearly a growing concern in Sherwood, a community that has been nicknamed by some local youths as “Sherweed.”

“We just know it’s a problem here,” he said. “It’s not my intent to paint Sherwood worse than any other community.” Drug complaints in 2012 were up by 40 percent (by both adults and juveniles) over the previous year.

In 2010, six youths were taken into custody for possession of a controlled substance (possessing less than an ounce of marijuana) compared to 16 in 2012.

While alcohol remains a major problem among youth as well, Groth said “the issue with marijuana is that it’s a moving target,” meaning that in the last decade rules about the controlled substance have changed.

During a recent work session with the Sherwood City Council, Groth pointed out that many of today’s fifth- and sixth-graders were born in 1999, the same year the use of medical marijuana became legal in Oregon.

“So those young people, some of them are receiving a mixed message,” he said.

Groth said medical marijuana caregivers who illegally distribute the substance outnumber the legal ones three-to-one, and that marijuana is still a federally controlled, “schedule 1” drug with a high level of abuse.

“It’s still a gateway drug,” said Groth, adding that experts say there’s a major link between marijuana and heroin use.

“There’s clearly a problem,” said Groth. He said the ultimate goal is to create a “one-stop resource” where referrals can come from a variety of sources and then be dealt with accordingly.

Meanwhile, Groth said busting dealers is always a tough scenario.

“If you bust somebody here, somebody else is going to take your place,” said Groth.

The chief said not long ago an illegal marijuana growing operation was discovered off of Murdock Road, distributing the product to a Tigard medical marijuana dispensary.

“Ultimately we hope this program is going to do a couple of things,” said Groth, saying that reducing the rate of usage among Sherwood is a top priority while at the same time creating a resource and response program to help those who use the drug. In addition, plans are to create a preventative piece to keep young people from smoking the drug.

“That’s what should happen,” he said.

Sherwood School Superintendent Heather Cordie said the district is supportive of the chief’s plans.

“The district is thrilled to be a part of the creation of the Youth Substance Abuse Team…” said Cordie. “Chief Groth started with a vision about how we can work together more purposefully to help combat substance abuse among our youth, in our community. From there, a diverse group of stakeholders (including a city councilor, a school board member, city manager and many others) is now working together on this critical cause.”

At a glance

Drug and alcohol incidents involving minors

2010: 22

2012: 59

Arrests for minors in possession of less than an ounce of marijuana

2010: 6

2012: 16

Arrests for minors in possession of less than an ounce of marijuana near a school

2010: 0

2012: 4

Arrests for minors in possession of alcohol

2010: 15

2012: 29

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