JOPLIN, MO.--- Robin Standridge educates kids about being drug free. She's noticed a big change in the way children view marijuana.
"The perception of drug use in the area is actually going down. The perceived risk in the area is going down," says Robin Standridge, The Alliance of Southwest Missouri.
The Alliance of Southwest Missouri gathers their data from the Missouri Student Survey provided by the Department of Mental Health.
"Kids in our area are seeing that there is less of a risk to use marijuana than there is to use cigarettes," says Standridge.
Findings from the survey show at the end of 2012, 66% of Jasper County students from 6th through 12th grade said they believe using marijuana can be harmful. That's down from 75% in 2010. Resource officer Kevin Provins says he's not seeing the same trend, thanks to the D.A.R.E. program.
"I'm finding that a lot of students through the education of the D.A.R.E. program and through other sources, that marijuana is not a safe alternative to some of the other drugs that are out there," says Kevin Provins, Carthage School Resource Officer.
Students are noticing how other states are handling the marijuana debate. Standridge and Provins both say they are fielding more questions about the legalization of the drug.
"There have been more questions by students because of recent legislation about that are legalizing marijuana and the fact that there have been efforts here in the state to try to legalize it," states Provins.
Their questions provide another opportunity to educate students and get them the facts.
"These are some of the smart kids, which I'm really glad they're questioning what they do," says Standridge.
Alliance workers say they want to beef up their education efforts to make sure students fully understand the risks of the drug, as well as inform parents how best to talk to their kids.