By Lilly Behbehani, Iman Khosrodad, and Neva Jane Maldonado
On a Wednesday afternoon, Leslie* was sitting in her usual homework spot at a local Starbucks. Right before she had started her homework, she just finished picking up new carts, or marijuana filled pods, from a new dealer who swore there were no harmful chemicals in the carts he was selling. He had promised her they came from a trusted source as he turned the cart upside down and told her to see if there were any air bubbles in the small cylinder filled with a clear orange liquid, which there were not, according to her. This small flip of the cart was enough to sell her on purchasing more carts for her weed pen.
“Funny story, the only reason I started smoking weed was that I didn’t want to go into college without having tried weed. So I was like I need to try it,” Leslie leaned further back into her chair and shrugged her shoulders, “And I did. And I thought, ‘that is good.’”
Often, there is a misconception that boys are typically stoners and that girls are the “goody two shoes.” However, marijuana usage does not restrict itself to one singular gender. Official data often merges the genders together to create one statistic about adolescents across the board, not acknowledging the difference in numbers between boys and girls who smoke weed on a regular basis. In teenage life today, it is not uncommon to see a girl smoking weed at a party, with her friends, or at her home.
Since the use of marijuana, specifically marijuana vapes, were not commonly used and some not even invented when our parents were teenagers themselves, many find the unknown aspects of these products extremely worrying. Julie*, a parent of a fellow student expressed that “I worry that [marijuana vapes are] being overly used without knowing the long term effects in the younger generations. The biggest concern about weed is that many people become a gateway to other drugs that at best involve life-long addictions and at worst are life ending.”
For some students, there is a common peer pressure about trying out illegal substances such as alcohol and weed. However, with all the recent reports of marijuana and vape related illnesses, many students have taken precautions in no longer purchasing and/or being more careful in knowing what they are actually buying when it comes to weed. Rachel*, a student at B-CC, said that, “The recent news reports don’t really scare me. I know that I should be scared but I’m just not.” Another student, Sara*, agrees saying that “all that stuff doesn't really scare me.”
Teenage weed use has decreased according to a study conducted by The Journal of the American Medical Association. However, one significant aspect that studies such as the one conducted by the Journal of the American Medical Association do not take into consideration is the increase in the use of marijuana vapes. Marijuana vapes have recently become more and more popular as it is seen to be an easier and safer way of getting high. In 2018, a school-based survey estimated 1 in 11 students in the U.S. uses marijuana vapes rather than the weed itself.The lack of measurement about marijuana vapes when conducting research about teen marijuana use could explain the decrease in marijuana use altogether.
In contrast, other studies have shown an increase in daily marijuana use amongst teens. In a 2016 study published by NSUDH, it was found that 6.5 percent of adolescents aged 12 to 17 were current users of marijuana, meaning 1.6 million adolescents have used marijuana in the past month. A study conducted by the University of Michigan reported that teenage marijuana use is at its all-time high in 30 years. The study attributes this rise to the difficulty of alcohol consumption. As it has become more difficult for teens to have access to alcohol, more teens turn to marijuana due to its somewhat easy access. Teens also do not view marijuana as dangerous, which allows them to smoke weed frequently in any setting. The same study found that teens often smoke marijuana under any circumstance: boredom, sleep, fun, etc.
The appeal that smoking weed holds among teens differs from person to person. Some find it “cool” and use the fact that they smoke to show off to their peers. Others use it as a form of “anxiety relief,” and some just use it to have fun or pass the time. Overall the desire surrounding the marijuana use of teens stems from personal wants. As Rachel said, “Smoking weed has affected my life both in a positive and negative way. Negatively in the sense that whenever I get caught there tends to be consequences, but positively in how it has increased my sociability.” Sara also explained that “Smoking weed helps me relax and have more fun. Okay, yeah, when I have really bad depression it’s easy to use it a lot and will end up negatively affecting me, but it’s like an escape.”
Obstacles teens face when it comes to marijuana is not the typical “it’s hard to find” obstacle. Marijuana is easily accessible. As Leslie put it, “Everyone f****** sells it so it’s so easy to get. Literally anyone, anywhere, anytime.” The obstacle, however, is getting away with it and keeping marijuana hidden. The introduction of marijuana vapes solved the problem of the smell, but as the death toll for vape related deaths rise, many teens turn back to real, “unprocessed” marijuana. The obstacle, in this case, is hiding marijuana itself and the marijuana smell from parents and the police. If the police catch teens smoking marijuana in Montgomery County, they may receive a citation. The teen may have to go to court based off of the amount of citations they have previously received.
The fear of becoming overly dependent is one of many for habitual marijuana smokers. For some, the thought of going a day, or even a couple hours without being high seems impossible. Constantly thinking of where and when the next time they smoke will be, or how they can get out of the house to do so. Since marijuana is considered an “addictive” substance, the strong dependence of this drug that many smokers develop, forms into a major fear.
It's no secret that any kind of recurring smoking does damage to your lungs, but recent outbreaks in marijuana vapes have created a new health issue. The use of marijuana vapes is a fairly new way to smoke weed, but it has quickly become one of the most popular among high schoolers. All over the news, there have been reports of illnesses and hospitalizations due to these THC vapes, yet many choose to continue to use them. From the girls interviewed, it seemed evident that smoking is a part of their life which is not going to go away anytime soon, and as Emily remarked, “If I'm not smoking in the morning and before bed, I'm not getting anything done.”
*all names have been changed.
Graphic by Molly Busis