Colorado Schools Are Using THC Test Strips to Find Out What Students Are Vaping
As marijuana and nicotine vaporizers become more technologically advanced and harder to distinguish, school administrators are trying their best to stay one step ahead of teenage consumption habits.
Published on June 26, 2018

In 2018, the idea of high schoolers sneaking a cigarette or lighting joint behind the bleachers before fifth period is as antiquated as sock hops and landlines. Instead, teenage students today puff on vaporizers stocked with nicotine e-juice or THC oil, often indistinguishable from each other.

To combat the modernized version of bathroom smoke breaks, administrators at one Colorado high school are employing a newly-developed cannabis detection test strip, allowing educators to find out for themselves what students are vaping without police intervention.

According to Denver's local CBS affiliate, Leigh McGown, principal of Yampah Mountain High School in Glenwood Springs, CO, has a drawer full of confiscated vaporizers, and uses the THC test strips on every device she finds.

"It would be very hard for me to know if these containers have marijuana in them," McGown told CBS4. Thanks to the new drug test tool, though, the principal can simply dab a Q-tip inside the mouthpiece of the vaporizer and swab it on the test kit, with any THC products turning up bright red.

Administrators at Yampah Mountain High rely on cannabis detection products from S2 Detection Technologies, a Denver-based firm that produces rapid result test strips for both narcotics and explosives. Similar devices have been used at airports across the world to find dangerous weapons and chemicals for years.

S2 says that their products also work in determining whether a food product contains THC, potentially allowing school administrators or TSA agents to confiscate any and every brownie or bag of gummies for a swabbing, too.

"This is ground breaking technology," S2 managing director Miles Callahan told CBS4.

For the past few years, schools around the country, particularly in states with legal cannabis, have tried a variety of methods to stamp out student vaping, including installing vapor detectors and other THC detection devices in bathrooms. At one New Mexico high school, administrators are so frustrated by the inconspicuous devices that they physically break open every oil container and cartridge to test the contents.

At Yampah Mountain High in Colorado, McGown did not specify what the consequences are for students caught with nicotine or cannabis vaporizers — though she admitted that she destroys any confiscated vape or e-cig with a hammer. That said, prior to using the S2 test strips, the administrator would call police to have potential pot products tested.

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Zach Harris
Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.
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