From stress to chronic, more than one third of college students in the United States have smoked marijuana at least once in 2003, according to the annual survey on drug and alcohol use in college. Statistics were drawn from 89 two- and four-year colleges across the country that conducted the Core Institute’s survey in 2003.
According to the Core Institute, marijuana use among people between 18 and 25 has risen from 26.4 percent in 1989, to 34.4 percent in 2000 and 34.8 percent in 2003.
“Weed is a healthier choice than cigarettes,” said Cerritos Community College student, Jermie Reed, 21. “It doesn’t mess you up forever, only for a moment in time.” Although case control studies show that marijuana leads to risk of respiratory cancer in humans, extensive studies lack enough convincing evidence to make their findings anything more than a hypothesis.
Many students who do smoke marijuana also have no inhibitions about going to school while under the influence of the drug. “Of course I’ve gone to school high,” said Reed. “They can’t catch me because they need evidence and the evidence is in my lungs.”
College students between 18 and 25 who smoke tobacco in the United States make up 42.4 percent of the college campus communities which is only slightly more than marijuana, considering that marijuana is an illegal substance.
Skyler Elliot (not her real name) is a 20-year-old scholars student at GCC and has been smoking marijuana for three years. “The feeling I get from cigarettes is incomparable to the feeling that I get when I smoke weed,” said Elliot. “But I can’t be high all the time. If I could — I would. But I have to do things with my time, otherwise I wouldn’t get anything done ever.”
Elliot said that due to her high-strung nature, marijuana helps her relax. She plans to quit smoking when she grows out of it, which she is certain is going to happen eventually. “I started smoking because of a boy, but weed does not hold or lack appeal for me. It just is what it is. I suppose the appeal that it has is that it’s illegal.”
Elliot is unaware of any health concerns the use of marijuana might present. “I’ll tell you why weed is illegal. Weed is illegal for arbitrary reasons. Jazz was causing political stir in the ’20s so they [the government] were looking for an arbitrary reason to arrest the people who listen to jazz. And who listened to jazz in the ’20s? Black people. They were just looking for a reason to arrest minorities,” Elliot said.
“I don’t think weed has negative effects. It’s how I chose to let weed affect my life and my existence,that affects me,” Elliot said. She believes if marijuana becomes legalized the “weed problem” will subside because it will no longer be an issue. “They feel that weed is an epidemic that’s sweeping the nation and it’s keeping kids from studying.” But, Elliot believes, marijuana is only a form of rebelling. “If it’s made legal, it will not be about kids rebelling anymore. Smoking weed will be like smoking cigarettes. The rebellious factor of it will go away and a lot less people will smoke it.”
Recent studies also show that marijuana and drug use are on the rise on college campuses. While these statistics show a decrease of marijuana and drug use in the ’80s, they have been rising throughout the ’90s and are still increasing.
“Once, I saw my friend walking by in school with this huge bong that was already packed, and I couldn’t resist,” Elliot said. “We smoked and then went to a club meeting where we watched a movie.”
James Charles, a 19-year-old GCC student also admits to attending classes while under the influence of marijuana. “I am more relaxed in class. It’s easier to focus.” Other students however do not welcome the idea of having a classmate that is high. Keisha Hernandez is a 19-year-old Cal State L.A. student who does not agree with students who smoke. “I think it’s stupid. You come to class to learn and weed is distracting you. It’s also inconsiderate to the teacher,” said Hernandez. “People say it’s to help them relax and forget, but I don’t need anything to handle my problems for me.”
For her and other students, such as 20-year-old Quentin Juarez, marijuana is not a luxury they chose to partake in. “I don’t understand why people smoke weed,” said Juarez. “It’s not for me I don’t need to alter my state of mind. I’m not one to fall into the hype and I’d rather not play into it.” But Juarez has other reasons for not wanting to experience the drug. “I’d rather live. Weed kills the purpose of living.”
“The legalization of weed is an excuse for people to smoke,” he continued. “If it’s really for medicinal purposes, I guess… I have yet to meet anyone who has medicinal purposes for smoking weed though.”
According to Lester Grinspoon, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School: polls conducted by Medscape, a Web site aimed at health care providers, in 2003, show marijuana was considered by 76 percent of physicians and 89 percent of nurses a less toxic and more effective treatment than traditional medicines for multiple sclerosis, the AIDS wasting syndrome, Crohn’s disease and migraine headaches.
Khalil Adams, 21, has seen his younger brother pressured by friends into smoking. As a result, his brother now enjoys the drug. “It’s good that it’s not legal,” said Adams. “It has poisoned a lot of people. They think they depend on it and then they want to get other people to do it. People think they need it but they really don’t.”
Adams is strongly opposed to the use of marijuana. “There is so much corruption already and that’s a habit that comes with a consequence.” he said.
He believes marijuana acts as a gateway drug and after getting tired of it, people will move on to more dangerous drugs. “They want something that will take them higher than marijuana did,” said Adams. “People are quick to say they don’t need it, and they are not potheads but then they say it helps them think. So you need weed to help you think? That’s the stupidest thing I’ve heard.”