Chasing after the infamous hazy high is a popular pastime for youths. For some, it is a controlled act, but for others, it is a habit that interferes with their lives. The burgeoning use of marijuana is prevalent across the country and the drug has quickly become a national favorite, particularly in California. “Hell yeah, it’s the Bay Area,” class of 2011 alumnus Mark Hyde (name has been changed) said. “[People] already know we keep it lit over here, and I know for a fact that Gunn [students] are among the many that use [marijuana] on a regular basis.”
[pullquote]”[People] already know we keep it lit over here, and I know for a fact that Gunn [students] are among the many that use [marijuana] on a regular basis,” class of 2011 alumnus Mark Hyde (name has been changed) said.[/pullquote]
It should come as no surprise that drug use is common amongst teenagers. With the recent decline in cigarette use, marijuana has become the most popular drug for youth. The National Institute on Drug Abuse’s 2010 Monitoring the Future study found that on average, 38 percent of high schoolers use marijuana on a monthly basis and, according to a 2011 study published by The Journal of Addiction Medicine, the most likely users would be upperclassmen, as well as students who maintain a B average or lower. At Gunn, while drug use is still prevalent, the 2009 Palo Alto Reality Check Survey reported that 81 percent of students have never tried marijuana.
Hyde does not believe that there is any real merit in these studies, using himself as an example of someone who can enjoy smoking while also doing well in school. “I want to just stress the un-importance of marijuana,” he said. “Marijuana doesn’t make decisions for people, people make those decisions.” He also feels the stereotypes associated with “stoners” or “pot heads” are unfounded. While Hyde smoked frequently during his junior and senior year at Gunn, he says it didn’t really affect any other part of his life such as family and academics and that he did not become dependent on it. “It’s all about knowing your priorities,” he said. “Responsibilities should always come first. I smoked frequently but I also managed to get into the University of Southern California, because I was able to sort what was important and what wasn’t. All marijuana can really do for you is help you feel good or relieve your stress.”
Although the Gunn average of stoners is reported to be low, there have been a number of incidents with marijuana in recent years that have not gone unnoticed by the Dean of Students James Lubbe, who recalls a slight increase in drug use on campus. “There were more students caught under the influence or in possession last year than there was in my last four years here,” he said.
The consequences for selling or using marijuana vary depending on the location. School policy states that a first time offense is met with a three-day suspension and three sessions of Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment (ASAT) classes, a service provided by Gunn’s Adolescent Counseling Service (ACS). A second strike, though, results in a five-day suspension. “Our only goal,” Lubbe said, “is to make sure that every student gets the help that they need.”
Joe Sung (name has been changed), a junior, has been suspended twice for being caught with marijuana. “The first was [sophomore year] when I walked into a class late after smoking,” he said. “Sanchez pulled me out of class and took me to Mr. Lubbe’s office, where they searched me.” They didn’t find any marijuana on his person at the time, but Sung still smelled like weed and his eyes were glaringly red due to the high. “The second time they caught me was earlier this year before the semester ended,” he said. “I deal a little bit on the side, and I had left a scale in a class that day, so I went back to get it. They called me in the next day and found a gram or so left on my person.” Sung was placed on a five day suspension both times, and police action was also involved in the second suspension. He is currently on probation and is required to do community service.
While there are serious ramifications of marijuana use, students tend to brush these concerns aside. Senior Calvin Kooper (name has been changed) sees his usage of marijuana as just a recreational activity as well as a way to socialize with people. “I think that all of that anti-weed stuff is all BS,” he said. “I don’t think it’s affected me negatively, and it’s actually a great de-stresser in my opinion. It sure beats drinking every weekend and destroying my liver.” Kooper estimates that he smokes three to four times a week regularly.
[pullquote] “People who don’t know me that well would spread rumors about me and blow things out of proportion. I’m judged by everyone I meet based on a bad reputation: teachers, students, family, you name it,” Senior Calvin Kooper (name has been changed) said.[/pullquote]
Sung, on the other hand, has had a troubled life at home and at school due to his usage and dealings with marijuana. “I feel like my parents hated me at times [because of the marijuana], so sometimes when they couldn’t deal with it, they’d just kick me out of the house,” he said. “People who don’t know me that well would spread rumors about me and blow things out of proportion. I’m judged by everyone I meet based on a bad reputation: teachers, students, family, you name it.” Sung’s teachers are required to know about his past drug use, and he feels that because of this he isn’t able to have any good relationships with them as a student.
On plans for the future, Sung is excited to be applying to colleges next year; however, he has to send an essay to each college he is applying to, to explain his suspensions along with the regular college essays that every college requires.
Parents and disciplinarians believe this disregard for the consequences of using or selling marijuana are related to the increased popularity of medical marijuana. It’s becoming increasingly popular for students to obtain ID cards to purchase medicinal marijuana. In fact, all that is needed is a doctor’s signature to treat ailments such as anxiety, chronic pain or glaucoma. Many of these conditions are faked by teens, and doctors have not placed a screening process to regulate the amount of medicinal cards issued. “The system is being abused by everyone,” Lubbe said. “It’s a shared blame across the students, marijuana dispensaries and doctors.”
In the rush to gain access to marijuana, teens often overlook the safety hazards in taking this drug. “I know that the preconception of marijuana is that it’s safe,” Lubbe said. “But you don’t always know what is in the drugs you take, and you don’t know what your own side effects could be.” John Nores, a California fish and game warden, agrees. “The dangers of smoking marijuana are alarming,” he said. “Before working in this area of environmental crime, I had no idea of the extensive poisons that are left on the marijuana plants sold and used by the consumer.” According to Nores, the harvest phase of the process allow toxic substances to be left on the final product that is smoked and ingested by the end user. Approximately 80 percent of the nation’s marijuana that is produced in California and used illegally is done by drug trafficking organizations out of Mexico that have no regard for human health or safety, so they use severely toxic poisons on their plants that are then ingested by the user after purchase.
Despite the controversy over the benefits of marijuana, teen drug use is a problem that requires a strict, in-depth solution that will take time and effort. It is imperative for teens to be aware of the risks of this black market good. “If you are using marijuana for any reason, be sure you know where it is coming from and what it has been treated with,” Nores said.