“This,” said Exeter Township Detective Sergeant Rocco DeCamillo as he pointed to a table filled with confiscated THC-laced gummies, brownies, cookies and treats, “was not manufactured to appeal to adults. It was manufactured to look like candy to appeal to kids.”
As part of the district’s professional development sessions with educators and staff last month, Detective Sergeant DeCamillo spent his day walking teachers, administrators and staff through the ever-complex and constantly-changing landscape of what drugs police are seeing being sold and being used in Exeter Township by adults and minors alike. “Things have drastically changed in the last 20 years. When the majority of us were in high school, marijuana was natural and looked like pot. Now, there’s so much synthetic stuff out there that’s chemically-produced with no regulation or oversight–and much of it’s been disguised to look like candy.”
Superintendent Dr. Christy Haller and Assistant Superintendent Mrs. Dawn Harris organized the session with Detective Sergeant DeCamillo and the district’s Student Services Coordinator, Mrs. Alycia Lenart, to bring a greater awareness to teachers of what’s out there, what it looks like, and how to engage students and their families with help for substance abuse. The sessions proved to be so popular with educators that Detective Sergeant DeCamillo and Mrs. Lenart decided to offer a similar session to parents and families so that they, too, could learn what police are seeing in the local community, and how to receive support through the district when families are faced with substance abuse. The parent and family session will be held on Thursday, January 12, 2023 at 7PM in Exeter Township Senior High School’s Large Group Instruction (LGI) room.
During his presentation to teachers, Detective Sergeant DeCamillo said navigating the “new normal” of drug use and drug accessibility is not easy. Oftentimes, he said as he pointed to all of the items on the table, local retailers don’t even know what’s legal to sell and what isn’t since laws vary from state to state. “Most of this stuff is perfectly legal in New Jersey,” he said. Mrs. Lenart added, “I think there’s also a perception that since it’s legal in certain states, it must be perfectly safe, and it’s really not,” she said, as she ticked off statistics that indicate that 90% of ER admittance for marijuana or THC overdoses are from edibles. “It takes anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours for kids to feel the effect from an edible. Since most teens don’t have great patience, they think it’s not working, so they eat more, and more and more and then wind up in the hospital. That’s why it’s so important to bring awareness to this very scary issue.”