Plans are to tighten up youth e-cigarette restrictions

Sherwood Police Chief Jeff Groth is hoping he will soon have a program in place to address growing concerns about drug and alcohol abuse among city youth by providing preventative and other measures to deal with those problems.

Groth recently told Sherwood City Council members his goal is to implement a Youth Substance Abuse Team to address those issues using a team consisting of the Sherwood Police Department, the Sherwood School District and Washington County juvenile authorities.Chief Jeff Groth

When announcing plans to form the team last year, Groth said increasing local marijuana use had some youths referring to the city as “Sherweed,” a moniker that he says isn’t correct because the vast majority of students are making good decisions.

“So it’s a perception that more people are using (marijuana) than actually are,” said Groth.

Still, the chief said the first part of forming a Youth Substance Abuse Team would be to implement an intervention component to the program, which would include accepting and processing referrals, something that could come from the schools, the police department or even parents.

“They could be any number of sources,” said Groth.

Groth said an estimated $21,000 would be needed for funding to pay for Sherwood School District classified staff to administer the intervention component.

The enforcement part of the program would include signing an intergovernmental agreement with the city, the school district and Washington County. The city also wants to sign an intergovernmental agreement with Washington County’s Health and Human Services in efforts to secure $4,000, money that would go for support equipment and enforcement of underage drinking and drug use.

Groth said that money could be used to purchase such items as mobile intoxication equipment or cameras needed to run the GAZETTE FILE PHOTO - A Youth Substance Abuse Team would include a variety of departments including the Sherwood Police Department, the Sherwood School District and Washington County juvenile authorities. The goal would be both preventative as well as punitive measures.

The city has been conducting undercover decoy missions in local bars and retail establishments that serve alcohol to underage youth with plans to expand that program to reduce sources of tobacco and liquor availability, he said. Police also are responding to reports of planned underage drinking parties.

Meanwhile, the chief said he also wants to address concerns about the growing use of e-cigarettes among youth.

“Those are becoming a huge problem,” Groth said of the devices that are no longer used only for smoking cessation, and are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

According to the Oregon Youth Authority, the e-cigarettes were originally designed to mimic the act of smoking a cigarette without inhaling smoke, instead inhaling a vapor consisting of nicotine and other additives and chemicals.

Groth said that the problem is that the burning chamber of those devices can be filled with something like hash oil, which could be passed around among a group of students who might not know “they’re getting baked.”

To resolve problems of abuse, Groth said he hopes to tighten up city code language to close loopholes regarding e-cigarette use.

Finally, Groth wants an education and prevention element to the Youth Substance Abuse Team, ideally including a 501-C nonprofit group that would support prevention programs and address community norms.

Groth said one of the best programs he has seen is Tigard Turns the Tide.

“It’s a very good model,” said Groth. What Groth would like to see is a group of community members who could build a new set of community norms or beliefs around underage drinking and drug use. He added that the community shouldn’t be afraid to talk about the issue.

During a May 6 work session, Matt Langer, a Sherwood City Council member, said he liked the idea that instead of busting kids and removing them from classes if they’re involved with drugs or alcohol (which, he said, makes the situation worst), students would remain in school.

While Groth had hoped to have the program up and running last school year, “it’s proven to be a project that’s taken longer than we hoped,” he said.

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