Baker City Police Chief Wyn Lohner is concerned because he and his officers cited 22 juveniles for possession of marijuana last year, more than twice as many as in 2015.

We understand why he’s worried.

But we’re disturbed not solely because the drug involved is marijuana, or because, as Lohner points out, the percentage of citations has shifted away from alcohol and to marijuana.

The greater problem is that the number of minors cited for possession of either marijuana or alcohol has also been on a generally upward trend countywide over the past several years.

Both substances, along with tobacco, are illegal for people younger than 21. All three pose potential dangers to children and our communities, and police should continue to focus on all of them.

According to the Baker County Juvenile Court, in 2017 a total of six minors were cited for possession of alcohol, along with 27 cited for possession of marijuana. The total of 33 citations is more than any other year in the past five except 2016, when police busted up one underage drinking party that boosted that year’s alcohol citations to 30 (there were 28 marijuana possession citations that year as well).

Lohner told the Herald last week that he believes that since July 1, 2015, when recreational use of marijuana became legal for people 21 and older in Oregon, people haven’t felt the need to, in effect, hide the drug — “it’s gone from the top of the closet to the top of the dresser,” is how Lohner put it.

It’s difficult to say how widespread that problem is, but there’s ample reason to believe it exists.

We understand, too, that because marijuana is available in forms that alcohol is not — candies and other edible products, for instance — it’s possible that children can more easily bring the drug to school and share it with friends compared with, say, a bottle of liquor.

The statistics that Lohner and Juvenile Court officials have compiled over the past few years justify the chief’s concern about the growing prevalence of marijuana.

But we think it’s important that police officers and others who deal with minors also continue to emphasize why it’s dangerous — and of course illegal — for them to use or to possess any illicit substance.

And we agree wholeheartedly with Lohner that the ultimate responsibility lies with parents, who need to be as diligent in restricting access to their marijuana as they are with their cigarettes, the liquor in their cabinets or the beer or wine in their refrigerators.

From the Baker City Herald editorial board. The board consists of editor Jayson Jacoby and reporter Chris Collins.

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