After months of uncertainty, District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett's office will not pursue criminal charges in the incident involving
“North Andover police conducted an investigation, but there was insufficient evidence to bring charges," spokesman Steve O'Connell said. "Witnesses were not forthcoming during the investigation, and without their cooperation we could not proceed.”
On April 1, several students at the junior prom at Atkinson Country Club in New Hampshire became ill and were rushed to Lawrence General Hospital after reportedly ingesting brownies laced with marijuana, causing Superintendent Chris Hottel and NAHS Principal Carla Scuzzarella to end the prom early.
Students had been taken to the country club by bus from North Andover High School, and it was determined that the students affected had eaten the brownies at the high school before going to the event. It was also discovered that as many as 19 students may have eaten the brownies.
Up in Smoke
Police questioned the affected students as well as several others and launched an investigation into the matter to determine who distributed the brownies and where. But witnesses were not cooperating, O'Connell said, and the evidence for a criminal case just wasn't there.
However, just two weeks after the incident, Hottel announced that students involved in the incident
"Students who were found to have taken part in the incident have been issued disciplinary consequences consistent with the student handbook," Hottel wrote in a statement in April.
Hottel did not go into specifics about who the students were or what disciplinary action was taken against the students. and it is unclear if the findings in the school hearings were used by the district attorney's office in trying to build a criminal case.
Another obstacle to marijuana law enforcement in general -- which was not cited in this case and may or may not have played a factor in the lack of evidence -- is the state's lenient marijuana possession law.
In 2009, a law went into effect decriminalizing possession of an ounce or less of pot. Anyone caught with an ounce or less is given a $100 ticket ($1,000 for juveniles) similar to a traffic citation.
It is unknown how much marijuana may have been in the brownies at the NAHS prom or how much the distributor may have possessed, since the incident was not discovered until after the physical evidence was consumed. The new marijuana law was not specifically cited by the district attorney's office as a factor in dropping the case, however.
Teenage marijuana use has seen recent increase after years of decline, according to a 2010 study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The sharpest increase has been among eighth-graders; in 2010, 16 percent of students in that grade said they had used marijuana, up from 14 percent in 2009. The study also showed that nearly 22 percent of all high school seniors reported having used marijuana, up from just over 19 percent the previous year.