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Oakland Unified School District

Drugs Trends Facts & Politics


Every year since 1999, OUSD conducts the California Healthy Kids Survey, an anonymous survey of youth resiliency, school climate and risk behaviors. Students, staff, and families can all access the full CHKS survey and learn more about their individual school results.

The most recent district-wide data from CHKS shows that:


Teen Brain Development

The consumption of drugs at any stage on the spectrum carries risk, but particularly for teenagers, it can be detrimental and should be discouraged. The teenage years are some of the most important as it relates to brain development, building skills, and experiences that can translate to successful adulthood. Unfortunately, drugs are disrupting the neuroarchitecture of the brain in a way that can jeopardize not just cognitive abilities, but emotions and resilience in the face of life’s stressors. Most of all, because the developing brain is primed for expedited learning and habit forming, people who begin using drugs as teenagers are more likely to develop a substance misuse problem later in life. One study found that 1 out of 7 people who start drinking by age 14 eventually develop alcohol misuse problems, compared to 1 out of 50 people who wait to start drinking until they are 21 or older. To learn more about the teenage brain, check out this resource through the Partnership for Drug Free Kids.

Effects of Drugs

The brain is an organ made of neurons. It is the center of our intelligence. It interprets the senses, initiates body movement, and controls behavior. Neurons communicate with each other using neurotransmitters, chemicals that cross tiny gaps called synapses. Drugs make changes to our brains by interacting with neurons and neurotransmitters. Drug use will change the chemical messages that tell the body what to do and how to feel. Drug use can affect your senses, breathing, heart rate, movement, mood, and much more.


Different drugs affect our brains and bodies differently. Because everybody is different, no two people will have the same reaction to the same drug.

Click on the specific drug classes below to learn more.

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Drug Laws

It is a crime for people under the age of 18 to be in possession of a drug without a legal or medical reason, and one that can lead to harsh penalties. If caught, teens could be arrested, barred from playing sports, lose their driver’s license, denied a college loan, and/or rejected from college. While the laws have changed to legalize the sale and possession of recreational marijuana for adults who are 21 years of age, in California, the CA Ed Code has not changed. No one can have marijuana on School District properties or School Sponsored events.


For young people of color, the legal risks of drug use, possession, and distribution can be more dangerous to their health and life opportunities, than the use of drugs themselves. The reality is that even though Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) use and sell marijuana at similar rates to whites, BIPOC are disproportionately targeted by police and are more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested, convicted, harshly sentenced, and saddled with a lifelong criminal record for drug law violations.

Check out our Racist Drug Policies page to learn more about the history of racism and the War on Drugs.

Marijuana Intervention Policy

OUSD is a sanctuary school district, committed to addressing racism in all its forms. OUSD works to disrupt the "school to prison pipeline" and reduce racial disparities in disciplinary practices. One of the strategies we use is an "alternative to suspension" model where a person who uses tobacco and/or marijuana, is met with supportive services, not punishment. (Federal and state laws do not offer these protections for Schedule 1 drugs like heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, PCP, MDMA, etc.)

OUSD's Drug & Alcohol disciplinary policy requires that a student who is in possession of a personal use amount of marijuana or tobacco, has paraphernalia such as a blunt wrap, vaping device, pipe, etc. ought to be offered intervention coaching or mental health services in lieu of suspension. However, if the student is found to be distributing or selling marijuana on school campuses and any OUSD related events, to any person, then the district will exercise disciplinary measures necessary (including expulsion) to protect all persons and maintain a safe and sober learning environment.