- LA Youth - http://www.layouth.com -

How dangerous is marijuana?

Illustration by Lily Clark, 17, Immaculate Heart HS

Next month voters will decide whether to legalize marijuana in California. If it does become legal, anyone in the state who is 21 and over could smoke it legally, just like they can drink alcohol. It would still be illegal for people under 21. That got us wondering what our staff thought about marijuana. Here’s what they had to say.

It’s no big deal

I recently watched a documentary called The Union: The Business Behind Getting High. The filmmaker interviewed experts, including doctors. I found out that no one has died from using marijuana. I also learned that marijuana’s effects aren’t as intense as other drugs like heroin or LSD. The movie said that when you’re high, you think more deeply about things that you wouldn’t necessarily think about otherwise. Some people may feel very relaxed. Most people who smoke marijuana do not become aggressive and harm others. Once I learned about the effects, I didn’t believe that marijuana was such a big deal and that it was fine to smoke.
lllllI also learned that marijuana provides medical benefits. It can help people with glaucoma, anxiety, nausea and more. It also relieves pain for people going through chemotherapy. The documentary included an interview with a medical marijuana patient with multiple sclerosis. He was shaking uncontrollably and was barely able to move or talk. They interviewed him after he smoked marijuana. He was shaking a lot less and was calm and able to speak.
lllllI don’t like that people who smoke marijuana are viewed as losers who don’t contribute to society. I know people who smoke marijuana and still graduated and are going to college.
Brett Hicks, 19, Loyola HS (2010 graduate)


It’s  effects are exaggerated

For the longest time I thought marijuana was bad. But when I got older, I noticed people smoking it without any negative consequences. I have also tried marijuana a few times and nothing bad happened to me. I don’t think marijuana is as dangerous as other drugs like Ecstasy or acid (LSD). I used to think that if you smoked marijuana or did any sort of drugs you would die. I feel that the effects of marijuana are exaggerated by teachers and parents. Yes, marijuana isn’t the smartest thing to do since it’s illegal, but it won’t kill you.
Name withheld


It can harm you in the long run

I’ve heard both sides of the issue: the one that schools and the government seem to drill into our heads (drugs will screw up your life so just say no), as well as the side my friends often take, telling me that no one has died from marijuana use and therefore it’s safe. I’m not against marijuana used for medical purposes—it’s proven to be an effective painkiller—but I don’t think anyone should smoke it just for kicks. Through some online research, I found out that smoking marijuana frequently increases the chance of a heart attack and weakens the immune system, on top of it causing breathing problems. Considering the potential consequences, I think marijuana just isn’t worth the trouble it causes.
Elliot Kwon, 18, Palos Verdes Peninsula HS


My uncle has been arrested for smoking

I don’t like what weed does to people. My uncle smokes a lot. One summer after sixth grade I was staying with my grandparents. They would get calls when my uncle was arrested for smoking. He has even come to their house when he was high. He would always fight with my grandfather. I hated it because he never was aggressive otherwise. One time he was yelling at my grandpa and he started throwing things. I was afraid and I left the room. If California legalizes marijuana I will try to move out of the state because I do not want to be around more people like my uncle.
Caitlin Bryan, 18, Valley Alternative Magnet School (2010 graduate)

It doesn’t seem as bad as I was taught

My health classes and my parents drilled into my head that marijuana was bad. My parents portrayed pot users as unsocial psychopaths who stayed in their basements getting high. I thought that doing marijuana would send me into a downward spiral and I was adamantly against it. But when I heard of medical marijuana, I was confused. I couldn’t understand how marijuana could be beneficial. I was even more confused when I found out that some people I know smoke marijuana. Some of them argue that pot is the “safest” drug, but to me, a drug is a drug. It’s still affecting the body. But I realized that marijuana isn’t as dangerous as I had thought. The users are not maniacs. I will never try marijuana, but I have a more open mind about those who choose to smoke it occasionally.
Emily He, 16, Whitney HS (Cerritos)

It’s already easy to get

Legalizing marijuana isn’t a bad idea. It’s already easy to get. If a student wants to do drugs, then somehow, they’re going to get them. Legalizing marijuana doesn’t mean that the number of kids smoking is going to increase. At my school, we were talking about drugs at a PALs (Peer Assistant Leaders) meeting and our group leaders asked some students if they knew where to get them. I was surprised to hear that many of them knew. People say that, if a student doesn’t want to do drugs, then they make the choice stay away from them, and I feel the same. I think smoking is unnecessary and unhealthy, so I won’t smoke.
Anita Wang, 13, Walnut HS

We treat marijuana use too casually

Marijuana use seems to be everywhere—music, television and even Facebook (some students from my school have posted pictures of them using marijuana at parties).
lllllMarijuana isn’t treated like other drugs. A marijuana joke about Amsterdam (a city in The Netherlands where it’s legal to smoke) draws chuckles in class from students and teachers while a joke about another illegal drug would be unheard of. Now this doesn’t mean that everyone in my class is pro-pot, but no one acts alarmed by the mentioning of marijuana since it seems like it’s part of pop culture, from Gossip Girl to whatever Michael Phelps was smoking. Teens shouldn’t be under the impression that drug use is OK. Television shows often ignore real world issues like illegal drug possession, which could lead to jail time and side effects like short-term memory loss. Although television characters don’t have to deal with these consequences, teens do.
lllllBut, I also don’t agree with the argument that marijuana is a gateway drug; someone who wants to do drugs could start with cocaine or never use anything but marijuana. If people want to do dangerous drugs, it’s because of other reasons like stress or peer pressure, not because they tried marijuana. Even though I won’t smoke, I think other teens do so as a result of the media’s glamorization of it. That’s the real problem.
Stephany Yong, 16, Walnut HS


If we make marijuana legal there could be more dangerous consequences later

I disagree with legalizing marijuana. It’s not only because my parents said, “Don’t even think about it” about a thousand times, but also because I know how easily people can get influenced. Starting high school, very few of my friends smoked cigarettes or did drugs. But junior year, more friends started smoking cigarettes, drinking and trying pot, ecstasy and cocaine. I thought, “Maybe smoking or doing drugs once in a while is fine,” since they seemed to be having so much fun. I might sound like a party pooper and a church boy (which I am), but come on, drugs can ruin your life. If pot is legalized, I worry that people will be more accepting of it.
Benjamin Bang
, 17, Palos Verdes Peninsula HS


There are better ways to relieve stress than smoking pot

I don’t understand why people like to smoke marijuana. I see no point to it. I think that people use it to “de-stress” themselves and get away from their problems. When I’m stressed, I do other things like taking a nap. After a nap I feel refreshed and I am able to finish whatever I left undone one at a time. Or sometimes I’ll just watch television because it distracts me and it makes me laugh. I think these are better ways of de-stressing than doing drugs because naps and TV are not illegal drugs that mess with my brain. I love life and being able to say that I don’t do drugs. I don’t need some silly plant to make me feel happy.
Jose Zacarias, 17, Orhopaedic Hospital Medical Magnet HS


Voting to legalize marijuana would betray our values

People in favor of legalizing marijuana argue that marijuana is not addictive and less dangerous compared to cigarettes and alcohol. But no matter what, I believe that marijuana is harmful and should remain illegal. Though I’ve heard that marijuana is less harmful than other drugs, I’ve heard more stories from classroom speakers and teachers of it leading people to try more dangerous drugs like cocaine or heroin. To me that undermines the claim that marijuana is not dangerous.
lllllSupporters of legalizing marijuana also argue that taxing marijuana sales could reap millions of dollars for the state. It’s absurd that our budget crisis is so bad that our state is actually willing to consider legalizing a drug so they might make money off of it.
lllllI believe that this proposition ignores the people who are negatively affected by marijuana. With all harmful substances, families are split apart by drug addictions. Millions of dollars go to drug rehabilitation agencies each year, money that I think will subtract from the profits made by marijuana taxation. It doesn’t feel right to me that California would compromise its healthy society for a little extra money. Marijuana is just not worth legalizing.
Amy Fan, 16, Temple City HS


Mixed messages have left me confused about what to think

The summer before I started ninth grade, I learned in health class that marijuana causes fluctuating blood pressure, hallucinations, memory loss, weakness, depression and many other health problems. The only good thing I heard was from my parents. My mom is a pharmacist and my dad is a dentist. They said that it helps people with unbearable pain. When I heard this, I thought, “How do people feel less pain from something with negative effects?”
lllllI still don’t know much about marijuana. I feel like what I know comes from the brainwashing at school, so I don’t feel like I can make a final decision on whether to legalize marijuana.
Sydney Chou, 14, Sonora HS


What the U.S. government says

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) says the short-term effects of marijuana include impaired memory, perception, judgment and motor skills. Because it affects perception and reaction time, it may play a role in car accidents.

The NIDA says marijuana can have long-term effects. Regular users often develop problems with coughing and wheezing and are at greater risk of getting lung infections like pneumonia. It also says people who have smoked marijuana for years can have problems with memory, attention and learning. The NIDA believes that some people can become addicted, in that they can’t control their urges to use marijuana.