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Jeff Groth sets up group to address growing pot problem

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Jeff GrothSherwood’s police chief wants to put a dent in what he says is a growing marijuana problem among that town's young people by putting together a Youth Substance Abuse Team to address the issue.

Chief Jeff Groth said the team will include members of the Sherwood Police Department, Sherwood School District and Washington County juvenile authorities who will focus on ways to reduce the number of students who smoke pot.

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

Groth said marijuana use is 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) during the previous year.

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

While alcohol also remains a major problem among young people, Groth said “the issue with marijuana is that it’s a moving target,” meaning that in the past 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.”

He said the 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 their place.”

The chief said an illegal marijuana growing operation was recently discovered near Murdock Road, with the growers distributing the product to a Tigard medical marijuana dispensary.

“Ultimately we hope this program is going to do a couple of things,” said Groth, adding 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 supports 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.”

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