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Marijuana edibles, vape pens in Michigan schools prompt calls for reform

rows of CBD gummy bears candy with some buds of cannabis
Detroit Superintendent Nikolai Vitti is calling on Michigan officials to combat marijuana use in schools. (Shutterstock)
  • The superintendent of Michigan’s largest school district says marijuana legalization has ‘significantly disrupted’ learning
  • Nikolai Vitti of Detroit is calling for more state funding, detection systems and packaging rules to address ‘alarming’ pot use
  • Other Michigan school leaders share his concern but say they are especially worried about the proliferation of vape pens

Six years after Michigan voters chose to legalize recreational marijuana, some education leaders are calling on the state to do more to combat use in schools. 

There's been an "alarming" rise in student consumption of pot edibles and use of vape pens, Detroit Superintendent Nikolai Vitti wrote last week in a letter to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other state officials. 

"This trend is unacceptable and calls for immediate policy intervention," he added, pleading for state funding to help districts purchase detection systems, public awareness campaigns and new packaging rules to limit appeal to minors.


Bridge Michigan spoke with several other school leaders across the state who said they too have concerns about pot edibles in schools but are also concerned by vape pens, otherwise known as e-cigarettes, which can be used relatively discreetly to vaporize either nicotine or marijuana products. 


National surveys suggest teen marijuana use has remained relatively steady over the past decade – and remains far below peak usage of the 1970s – despite 24 states so far legalizing recreational sales and others allowing medical use.

But in Detroit, Vitti said the district has already recorded 745 drug-related offenses this year, up from an average of 578 the prior three years and an average of 144 during the first two-years of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

At Holly Area Schools in northern Oakland County, there have been 95 student code of conduct violations involving nicotine vapes, THC vapes or cannabis edibles this year, according to Superintendent Scott Roper. 

That's up from 30 incidents last year and 18 in the 2021-22 school year.

“We need others outside of the school to work with us in providing awareness to our youth,” he told Bridge. “I believe there should be an emphasis in our state to educate our families on the dangers of these products.” 

While recreational marijuana use is legal in Michigan for adults who are at least 21-years-old, school leaders said parents should still take steps to ensure students do not have access to the product. 

Roper has sent letters to parents urging them to speak to their children about vaping and marijuana. An April 2024 letter includes research from Johns Hopkins University and the American Heart Association along with resources to help people quit vaping

“The long-term effects of vaping on the developing bodies and brains of adolescents are particularly concerning,” Roper says in the letter. 

Detection systems

In his letter to state officials, Vitti urged policymakers to use marijuana taxes to help schools buy detection systems for both vape pens and marijuana. 

It’s unclear exactly what detection systems Vitti would like, and the Detroit Public Schools Community District did not respond to follow up questions from Bridge.

But Amy Kruppe, superintendent of Hazel Park Schools, told Bridge her district has vape detection software with sensors that can detect someone using a vape in a middle or high school bathroom, which triggers an alert to administrators. 

School employees then watch videos of students going in and out of the bathroom to try to determine which student was in the bathroom, she said. They then speak with students and may ask them to empty their pockets. 

Last year, Hazel Park Schools had 44 instances where a student was caught with a vape that included THC. This year, the district has had 62 instances and two instances with marijuana gummies.

Kruppe said the district is working with a community organization to put in preventative programming for students and she hopes to add parenting classes next school year. 

“Life gets really busy and I think, you know, parents need a little help to support what's happening in this day and age.” 

Hazel Park students who vape during school must pay a ticket and for those who vape with a marijuana product, they face a ticket, 10-day suspension and a meeting with the superintendent. Students can reduce their suspension time by meeting with the superintendent earlier, Kruppe said. 

“We do that specifically (because) my hope is that by having kids come and meet with me, that the conversation might at least turn one or two kids into stop using drugs,” Kruppe said. 

Eva Worthing, a Flint City Council member and high school math teacher, said metal detectors do help catch students trying to bring in vape pens.

"The problem is that students have a hard time staying in school the full day because they don’t have their vapes,” she told Bridge. “They tend to leave early so that they can get high."

Funding, packaging

Asked about Vitti’s letter, Whitmer’s office referred Bridge to the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Agency. There, a spokesperson noted that a portion of marijuana taxes are already used to support Michigan schools through an annual deposit into the School Aid Fund. 

That meant $101.6 million for Michigan schools in fiscal year 2023, said David Harns of the Cannabis Regulatory Agency. 

Vitti is also calling on the state to forbid marijuana packaging that “imitates non-marijuana candy” and initiate public awareness campaigns about safely storing edibles and the risk associated with children having access to them. 

State leaders and industry representatives say they are already working to ensure marijuana products are not marketed toward children. And they pointed out that a photo of marijuana Skittles that Vitti included in his letter was not actually from Michigan, despite his claim it was supplied by Detroit police. 

An administrative rule in Michigan prohibits companies from producing an edible marijuana product “that is associated with or has cartoons, caricatures, toys, designs, shapes, labels, or packaging that would appeal to minors.”

Marijuana producers also cannot use the word “candy” or “candies” in packaging or labeling.

Robin Schneider, executive director of the Michigan Cannabis Industry Association, told Bridge that “the regulatory agency has consistently come down very hard on our industry to ensure that the packaging on the products that we produce are not attractive to children.” 

But she said, the industry “would support” using marijuana tax revenue to fund drug prevention programs in schools. 

At Westwood Community School District in Dearborn Heights, Superintendent Stiles Simmons applauded Vitti for writing the letter. 

“I think it's detestable to package such harmful products as candy, you know, I think it's irresponsible,” he said. 


Since the COVID-19 pandemic, some students have gotten “a bit bolder” with marijuana use, Simmons said, noting there have been isolated instances at the middle school level.

If a student uses a marijuana edible or is caught with a vape pen with cannabis, they face a minimum 10-day suspension, undergoes an administrative hearing and the suspension may be extended up to 60 days, he said. 

Simmons said he supports Vitti’s ideas of funding detection systems and public service announcements but believes people generally know when they are consuming marijuana products.

“This is going to be...a hard road to travel,” he said, “ just given the pervasiveness of marijuana products and the irresponsible marketing of such products and then the attitude that some of our parents have towards marijuana.”

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