9 Investigates drug use in schools using vape pens



ORLANDO, Fla. - 9 Investigates learned local teens are using a convenient and secretive device to get high in drug-free zones such as our local high schools.

The so-called “vape pens” make drug use very hard to spot. In fact, one teenager told Channel 9's Vanessa Welch the devices hide the scent so well he was able to smoke concentrated marijuana in the middle of his classroom.

Videos of people blowing vapor rings are all over Vine and YouTube. Many of them are using hookah and vaporizer pens to do the tricks.

What looks like a teenage gimmick, however, can easily turn into something much more sinister.

James, a teenager Welch met at a local home for troubled teens, told her, “Anybody can do it and get away with it.”

James explained how he first experimented with smoke or vapor rings and then started using vaporizer pens to smoke dab, a highly concentrated, highly potent form of marijuana.

“It’s really convenient,” James said. “You can do it anywhere and not get in trouble.”

James explained that the devices throw off little odor, and the pens are so secretive he was able to inhale marijuana during class at his central Florida high school.

James even explained to Welch how he was able to get away with getting high at school.

"You just put your head in your backpack, like you are looking for something, and take a hit and exhale in your backpack,” James said. “It’s pretty easy.”

He said his teacher had no idea what he was doing.

Vaporizer pens and "G pens" resemble fountain pens, but they contain no ink and have nothing to do with writing. The devices are sold in smoke shops and online and many have a USB port and adapter so their batteries can be recharged through a laptop.

James said some students also sell the pens and the pot at school.

"A lot of people at school sell dabs,” he said. “It’s a way to get a lot higher than you could get off normal marijuana.”

John Cox is a certified addiction specialist who worked with James at House of Hope, a Christian home for troubled teens.

"One hit of dab could be equivalent of smoking up to 20 joints going into the brain," Cox said.

Another one of his patients, Daniel, was abusing drugs using vape pens.

Daniel explained how he and his friends dumped out the liquid that came with the pens and filled the empty cartridges with crushed-up pills and alcohol.

His drug use was easy to hide.

 “Most of the time, parents wouldn’t really recognize what it looks like because it looks like pens,” Daniel said.

Cox said parents need to do their research.

“If your kids are abusing their brains with these things, you have a responsibility to step in and stop it,” Cox said.

“It’s just a little pen with a button,” James said. “It doesn't look like pot, doesn't smell like pot.”

9 Investigates found there are many different brands of hookah pens and vaporizer pens.

Experts said teens usually start with the hookah pens, which can be purchased at gas stations and convenience stores for about $10. Some of them contain nicotine and are loaded with fruit-flavored liquids.

Then teens often move on to more expensive “vape” pens. Those are the devices that can be packed with the highly concentrated marijuana or other drugs.

We bought one for $74 at an Orlando-area smoke shop. The store clerk told us it’s the kind of pen you fill with dab.

So there is no secret these devices are being sold for drug use, and so far there is little regulation of the devices.