Spend thirty seconds speaking to anyone about the legalization of recreational marijuana and the topic of kids will come up. But while youth accessibility and use are noble issues of concern, there are many other ways youths’ lives are affected by marijuana. Today, youth caught with marijuana can face school expulsion, suspension, criminal sanctions, incarceration, or facility committal, all of which severely disrupt a youth’s education, socialization, and sense of community. Regulating adult use has the potential to nonetheless drastically change some of these consequences for youth.
My name is Clare McKendry, and I am a third year law student at Santa Clara University. Last year I began working at Fresh Lifelines for Youth, or FLY, a nonprofit based in San Jose, California, dedicated to breaking the cycle of violence, crime, and incarceration of teens. I work for their Law Program, which teaches youth ages 14-17 who are on probation, at risk of probation, or incarcerated, practical information about the laws that affect their lives. Working at FLY and at the Santa Clara County Public Defender’s Office exposed me to the life-altering changes a marijuana conviction can create. My hope with this blog series is to gain a better understanding of all the ways marijuana affects youth, beyond just the cognitive consequences of use, and the ways those consequences may change if California chooses to legally regulate recreational marijuana for adults.
 In the 2013-2014 school year, 1,737 students were expelled for drug and alcohol related offenses, while only 110 students were expelled for tobacco use or possession. The only offense that garnered more expulsions in the 2013-2014 school year than drug and alcohol offenses was “disruption or defiance.” Disruption and defiance expulsions have been hotly criticized in California as being extremely racially biased and targeted by civil rights groups for their “catchall” application to justify expulsions.