A drug culture exists in every community across the country, but because people are unaware of the signs, they often can’t even see its existence.

A former Boise, Idaho, police officer spends his days trying to make it a little more visible to the public.

“We all want to think that it is this far away thing, that it’s at the back of the room, but it’s not, it’s sitting right next to you,” said Jermaine Galloway, the man behind the Tall Cop Says Stop organization.

Galloway’s seminar, which he brought to Seymour High School this past week, included information about some of the different methods of identifying the underlying drug culture in any community.

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He said that the drug culture is ever changing.

People with a little knowledge of that culture might, for instance, know the number 4:20, or 420, is a reference to drug use and more specifically marijuana usage, he said.

They might not know, however, that 710, the word OIL upside down, also is a reference to marijuana use, specifically the use of a THC oil extract sometimes called wax, oil or concentrate.

Similarly innocuous slogans that appear on clothing, bumper stickers, flags and others items,  such as “Dab Life,” “I drink the Purple Stuff” and “Got Molly?” also are all drug references. “Dab Life” refers to THC oil; “The Purple Stuff” is a drink laced with codeine or cough syrup; and “Got Molly?” is a reference to MDMA, also known as ecstasy or X, Galloway said.

He said if a person using drugs is uprooted and moved, these signs would make it easier for them to connect with the drug culture in their new community.

He also dismissed the myths that drugs aren’t present in Jackson County.

“You’re between two major cities — we call that a corridor in law enforcement,” said Galloway, “You are not off the beaten path.”

Galloway said that every place has its own drug culture with references for those who know it.

That’s not any different than people who connect through other shared interests.

He said he usually doesn’t see references on shirts to cocaine (called Coco on the shirts) in many places.

“Of the four times I’ve have seen it, three of them were in Jackson County,” Galloway said. He’s conducted previous seminars in this area.

Keith Williams, school resource officer at Seymour, said that was one of the goals of the seminar was to help shine a spotlight on the drug challenges facing Jackson County.

“Everybody says we have a drug problem, but people don’t know what the drug problem looks like,” Williams said. “Our goal is to give people information to stay ahead of the drug problems.”

Galloway showed photos of teens to dispel the myth that drug users look any different than everyone else.

The legalization of marijuana in several states has led people to start using the green cross, a medical marijuana dispensary symbol, and the state flag of Colorado to become symbols or signs of the drug culture, Galloway said.

Electronic cigarettes, or vaping pens, are a prime example of something that can be seen in everyday life that have been adapted either by manufacturers or by owners to allow them to smoke different substances besides nicotine and flavoring. There’s also bottle openers that don’t open bottles but are used for huffing nitrous oxide or “whip-it” and butane, which can used in the production of THC oil.

“If you get the concepts, it’s not hard to see the game being played,” said Galloway, who added this method of hiding in plain sight is one of the first defenses of drug culture.

Galloway said he learned most of the things about the trends in the drug culture by simply asking people wearing the clothing with symbols and by being aware of what is being sold in stores that could be used by drug users.

The social prevalence of the drug culture in communities across the U.S. has lessened the perceived danger of drugs for many individuals, especially kids and teens, he said.

Galloway said many view marijuana as a harmless; however, the marijuana and THC extracts available today are far more potent than what was available in the past.

“Maybe your grandparents smoked some weed, it might have been ‘powerful’ with 3 percent THC content,” he said. “Today’s average THC content is upwards 15 percent, and that’s not talking about oil, or concentrates, that are 70 to 90 percent THC.”

Galloway said he believes that nobody is going to know it all but that they should look for signs you do know. They also try to learn about drug references whenever possible.

“I see a lot of people from very different backgrounds here. What that tells me is that this is on the hearts and minds of lots of different people in this community,” said Tallmadge Reasoner, an assistant principal at Seymour High School.

Tony Hack, the principal at Margaret R. Brown Elementary School, said that as a principal it’s important to know about the drug culture not just for teachers but as a community as a whole.

“Not just as an administrator but as a parent and community member you want to pay more attention and be more aware of the things going on around you,” Heck said. “A majority of the drug culture is targeted toward kids, and we spend a lot of time with these same kids.”

Galloway said the drug culture caters to the younger generation by producing drugs that are sweetened or more colorful and flavorful to appeal to younger people.

On the Web

For information about the Tall CopSays Stop organization, visit www.tallcopsaysstop.com/

Aaron Piper is a photographer and reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at apiper@tribtown.com or 812-523-7057.