The reason for this is that the drug business is controlled by gangs like the Mongrel Mob. They run their drug business like any other successful business enterprise, except more ruthlessly.
They target teenagers for their customers because teenagers are risk-takers. If it’s dangerous or forbidden, teenagers think it’s cool to do it. Teenagers like to challenge authority, including their parents and their teachers. And where do you find lots of teenagers conveniently gathered together? Why at school of course, and that is where the gangs concentrate their marketing efforts.
Are our students already using drugs? The answer is yes, some of them are using marijuana. But the more important question is, are they buying drugs at school? Again, I believe the answer is that marijuana is being sold in our schools, but not meth. Not yet, anyway.
I don’t think anyone believes we can stop marijuana in the Cook Islands. It has been available for a long time and in my opinion it hasn’t done a lot of harm. There is a warning however. Modern strains of marijuana are not the same as the original type. The drug cartels in central America have spent millions of dollars modifying the genetics of marijuana to make it stronger, much stronger! There is sound medical evidence to show these new varieties can cause severe mental issues, particularly to younger children and teenagers.
There is also a connection between marijuana and meth. If there is a distribution network for marijuana, then it is very attractive for a gang to take over the same network to distribute meth, probably to the same customers.
These gangs have huge financial resources to spend on marketing their drugs. They can outspend the education department to make sure they capture their customers. If they can get 20 students addicted each year, then after 5 years they will have 100 addicts spending $300 per week. That gives them $1,500,000 income in each year.
They can easily afford to pay a couple of students $5000 per month to sell their drugs at school. So while the education department is trying to educate our children about the dangers of meth, the gangs will be actively working against the department and they are going to outspend the department.
You might ask, do we have gangs in the Cook Islands?. Unfortunately the answer is, yes. There are several gang members in New Zealand and Australia who are of Cook Islands descent. There are at least two who head the local chapter of their gangs and regularly visit Rarotonga (one of them was recently shot in Auckland!).
So the distribution network for drugs is in place in our schools, and the gang contacts for the supply of meth are likewise in place. We are ripe for the picking.
What can the education department do to stop this invasion? I am not a teacher but my wife is, and I have learned to listen to her over the years.
The syllabus needs to include units dedicated to making sure students are aware of the dangers of drugs in general, but meth in particular. There should be posters on classroom walls reminding students. The syllabus should be taught not just by teachers, but also by people in the community who teenagers look up to and respect.
Sporting heroes can talk about what drugs do to your body and your future in sports. Doctors can describe how meth destroys your body and brain. Social workers can talk about how addicts behave in their incessant need for meth.
There also need to be new procedures adopted by the schools to identify drug users and dealing at schools. Can a teacher search a student’s bag? If a student or parent wants to report drug use at school, who do they go to? Will the Police be informed or will it be handled within the school?
I suggest first priority for the education department is to fix up their procedures for dealing with drugs at school right now, and not in “due course”. I suspect a couple of phone calls to a south Auckland school would get the department all the information they need within a week.