Headlines: July 24, 2017

Those who oppose the legalization of marijuana are losing the battle, says the nation’s first drug czar, William Bennett, who served in that capacity under President George H.W. Bush and as Secretary of Education under President Ronald Reagan.

Bennett is now the head of Conservative Leaders for Education, an organization that seeks to ensure conservative values are included in state education policies.

In hitting on the theme of “Making Goodness Fashionable,” Bennett tied both issues together as he addressed the Western Conservative Summit, sponsored by the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University. The three-day Summit concluded Sunday.

Students are not focusing and learning enough, Bennett said. “Obviously the thing to do is to give them marijuana,” he said, sarcastically. “It is time to reverse those ‘fashions’ and go in the right direction.”

He criticized those who supported marijuana legalization, asking “Why in God’s name would you make a drug available to children … that destroys or inhibits focus or attention?” Bennett claimed that a 14 year old who smokes marijuana regularly loses 8 IQ points. He did not cite a source for that claim.

In an interview with The Colorado Independent after the speech, Bennett noted that only one state – Arizona – has turned down the opportunity to make marijuana legal for recreational use, and predicted that any state that allows recreational marijuana will come to regret that decision in about a decade.

There’s no question that there will be an increase in the use of marijuana among young people, Bennett told The Colorado Independent. “It is a function not just of availability but of permission,” he said.

The 2015 Colorado Healthy Kids Survey, conducted more than a year after the state legalized recreational marijuana, showed that Colorado middle and high school students’ use of marijuana was “relatively” unchanged from use prior to legalization. The survey, which is supported by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, is conducted every two years.

The 22,000-student Greeley-Evans school district in northern Colorado will join the 55,000-student Cherry Creek district in suburban Denver in adopting later high school start times this fall.

But unlike in wealthier Cherry Creek, the change in Greeley was not the result of a lengthy process to review research and solicit community feedback. Instead, the move was made out of necessity.
Greeley voters rejected a district tax measure last November, leaving the district facing a chronic bus driver shortage. In response, the district is discontinuing busing for most high school students — part of a package of cuts that will save the district $667,000 a year.

“We were only able to move the high school start time by seriously limiting — in fact, almost eliminating — bus transportation for our high school students,” district spokeswoman Theresa Myers said.

She noted that all district students are eligible for free transportation on city buses.
Later middle and high school start times have gained traction in Colorado and nationally in recent years with mounting evidence that teens are hardwired to go to bed later and wake up later. When school schedules align with sleep patterns, research shows students are healthier, attend school more regularly and do better academically.

In Colorado, the move to later start times has been relatively slow. Until March, when both the Cherry Creek and Greeley-Evans school boards voted on the schedule changes, only a few smaller districts had made the switch. They include Montezuma-Cortez in southwest Colorado and Harrison in Colorado Springs.

In both Cherry Creek, the state’s fourth-largest district, and Greeley-Evans, the 13th largest, high school start times will shift 45 minutes to an hour later this year. In Cherry Creek, high schools will start at 8:20 a.m. and middle schools will start at 8:50 a.m., and in Greeley-Evans, high schools will start at 8 a.m. and middle schools will start at 8:30 a.m.

The Colorado Independent Ethics Commission, which is charged with reviewing violations of the state’s ethics laws, today gave state Sen. Vicki Marble of Fort Collins until September to hire attorneys to defend her on an ethics complaint.

The complaint stems from a town hall she hosted on behalf of Extraction Oil and Gas last February. Marble invited Broomfield residents to the CB & Potts restaurant to hear about oil and gas development. Extraction picked up the tab for gathering, which including two free bar drinks and an appetizer buffet.

The state limit gifts to lawmakers at $51. The event, based on research by The Colorado Independent, likely cost at least $500. Neither Marble nor Extraction officials have responded to requests for comment on the complaint.

The commission also decided to move to a formal hearing on a complaint against Rep. Kim Ransom of Lone Tree for accepting a Gold Pass, valued at $600, to attend last year’s Western Conservative Summit. Ransom received an award from Principles of Liberty at the Summit and was not a speaker at the Summit, which led to the complaint. A date for that hearing has not been determined.

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