Day cares in Oregon have medical pot provisions

'It's baffling this is allowed'

SALEM, Ore. (KOIN 6) — Following a KOIN 6 News investigation that showed day care managers in Salem taking bong hits with kids nearby, new information reveals more Oregon day care providers have provisions that allow medical marijuana to be smoked.

The investigation into the Alphabet Academy Learning Center in Salem continues by both the Department of Human Services and the Oregon Office of Child Care.

KOIN 6 News cameras caught manager Charity Araujo and owner Moriah Jaeger – mother and daughter — smoking from a bong while kids were at the facility.

A play area at the Alphabet Academy Learning Center in Salem, June 2014 (KOIN 6 News)
A play area at the Alphabet Academy Learning Center in Salem, June 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

Child care leaders from across the region told KOIN 6 News the Alphabet Academy’s provision to smoke medical marijuana is just one day care out of many.

Oregon officials have not yet told KOIN 6 News how many day cares have this provision.

One father’s worries

A father who spoke with KOIN 6 News — and asked to keep his anonymity — picked up his grade school children from the Alphabet Academy the day KOIN 6 News cameras caught them using a bong at the facility.

Looking back, he said, he worries about the second-hand marijuana smoke around his children.

“My kids were saying things like, ‘it always smells like skunk over there’ and I didn’t think anything of it, until I was notified of what they were doing on the premises,” the father said.

He also said he was not told the two women had provisions to smoke medical marijuana at the day care until the day their license was suspended.

Jaeger denies that.

“It’s on our records, it’s on our provisions license,” she said. “They all should know about it.”

Each day care provider is required to post their license for parents to see, and those medical marijuana provisions should be listed at the bottom of the license, according to the board of Oregon’s Family Child Care organization.

But the provisions are something that board only learned about after seeing the KOIN 6 News investigation.

‘Baffling this is allowed’

“It’s just baffling to me that this is allowed,” said Becky Goodman, the chair of the Provider Resource Organization.

“Many of us were surprised the provisions were even available,” she said. “I had no idea that the Office of Childcare, that these provisions were even attainable because the rules have been very clear that using tobacco on the premises is not allowed. So to me this is worse.”

The board members told KOIN 6 News they’ve since found out several more day care providers have the same provision as the Alphabet Academy owner and manager.

Board member Hilary Gibbons said the entire five-member board is still unclear on all the rules and awaiting an explanation from Oregon Office of Child Care on how they are justifying giving the provision “especially since marijuana has a lingering effect.”

Gibbons said “day care providers or anyone in the home is not allowed to consume a single beer around day care children.”

Repeated calls to the Office of Child Care were not returned by this writing.

Parents do have options for finding out about a daycare provider’s history, including past complaints, at the Office of Child Care website.

There is also an optional Quality Rating and Improvement System for the some 4,300 certified day care providers in Oregon.

“We’ve worked really hard to be seen as professionals and that just set us so far back as a profession of family childcare providers,” said board member Shelly Campbell.

The PRO board members who spoke with KOIN 6 News explained they spend countless hours volunteering to help providers reach their goals to get achieve a rating. The minimum for a three-star rating is an associate degree.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle told KOIN 6 News they are working on a bill which would ban the provision to allow medical marijuana use at day cares. Marijuana, they said, is not considered a prescription medication.

Gov. John Kitzhaber, who oversees both DHS and the Office of Education, declined to be interviewed for this story.

But in a statement released Thursday, the governor said:

“Marijuana consumption should not and cannot be tolerated within a child care environment licensed by the state. We entrust our providers to maintain safe learning environments where our children can thrive. There is a loophole that needs to be closed. I want that addressed immediately, and have directed the Early Learning Council to take the necessary regulatory action.”

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