How dangerous is marijuana?

By Author's name withheld
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Editor’s note: L.A. Youth is withholding the author’s name to protect her identity. Names have been changed.

Illustration by Angelica Conde, 17, Los Angeles HS

In middle school, I knew some of my classmates were smoking weed. I would overhear them brag about getting high with their friends. I’d also smell the strong scent of marijuana in the girl’s restroom and I loved it. It reminded me of incense.

One day during December of freshman year, a girl I sat next to in class named Michelle asked me whether I had smoked weed before. I told her no, but that I always wanted to. She invited me to smoke with her friends some time. I said yes immediately.

During lunch the next day Michelle asked me if I wanted to smoke. I was hesitant since we were at school, but she said that they had a hidden spot. Now I was excited. I walked with Michelle and her friend Bernice to the soccer field where there was hardly any supervision.

I watched them each take a puff. It looked easy—just suck it in and blow it out. When they passed the pipe to me, I put it against my lips and inhaled. The smoke stung my lungs and I coughed. The next time I sucked in deeper to get a faster high, but it hurt more. My eyes started to water and I was coughing uncontrollably. Michelle and Bernice laughed at me and told me to stop coughing. I forced myself to hold it in.

I coughed less after the next few inhales. When the bell rang I felt lightheaded. Michelle and Bernice said that they felt the high already and I said I did too. They didn’t believe me. They said that since I smoked only a little I couldn’t have been high. But I knew I felt something.

When I got to my next class I sat in my seat and put my head down. I stared at the floor and I could smell weed on my clothes. I felt like I was hovering on my chair, like everything was happening in slow motion. I liked it, but the high wore off next period.

I’d smoke right before class

During the next few weeks, I would sometimes arrive late to first period because I was smoking with Michelle and her friends. When I would get to class, I couldn’t think straight and all I wanted to do was rest my head on my desk and sleep. Sometimes I’d do it after school right before picking up my little brother. I always looked forward to getting high.

When I invited some of my other friends to join me, they said no because they were “straight edge,” meaning they don’t do drugs. Then they would say I shouldn’t be doing it either. I felt bummed when they rejected me because it meant that me smoking weed kept them from hanging out with me. After three rejections, I didn’t tell any of them when I smoked.

There were bad things about smoking weed. I liked to inhale the weed really deeply, which would make my head throb and I’d get anxious. When I felt like that, I wouldn’t lay a finger on my homework.

When I didn’t have a chance to smoke with Michelle, I would sometimes smoke in my bedroom using the weed I was holding for her (she was afraid her parents would find the weed so I kept it for her). Since my mom wouldn’t be home from work until 8 p.m. I had enough time to let my room air out and for my high to wear off.

One time I smoked right before I had to pick up my little brother from school. As I walked to his elementary school, I was afraid I would get hit by a car or that I’d make it obvious to someone that I was high. I fidgeted a lot because I was anxious. Once I got to my brother’s school, I had to ask an afterschool supervisor to help me find him. I tried really hard to act normal by looking her straight in the eyes while talking to her. But the supervisor noticed my uneasiness and looked at me in a weird way every so often. She must have at least noticed the marijuana smell from my clothes. When I finally found my brother he was too young to notice I was high. Even though we got home safely, I felt embarrassed and irresponsible for being high while picking him up from school.

My life was better without weed

When second semester started and our classes changed, I hung out less with Michelle and her friends so I no longer had access to marijuana. I started hanging out with my old friends again and I joined the marching band. I realized that using marijuana was not worth the high, especially considering I had responsibilities like homework and taking care of my little brother. I felt stupid; I had been smoking something that was harmful to my health and illegal. Thankfully my grades were not affected since I had very little homework. I told myself I wouldn’t smoke again. I didn’t want my friends to be disappointed in me anymore.

It wasn’t hard to stop since I didn’t know anyone who sold drugs and I didn’t have any money to buy it. I’m thankful that I stopped smoking before 10th grade when my schedule became a lot more demanding. Had I kept smoking, my grades would have eventually been affected and I probably would have gotten caught. I’m glad I never got caught because I know that it would only devastate my parents if they knew I had smoked.

How many teens smoke marijuana?

Not as many as you probably think. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a 2009 survey found about 7 percent of eighth graders, 16 percent of 10th graders, and 21 percent of 12th graders had used marijuana in the month before the survey.