Pubdate: Fri, 15 Apr 2016
Source: New Mexican, The (Santa Fe, NM)
Column: Generation Next, for and by teens
Copyright: 2016 The Santa Fe New Mexican
Author: Greta Brown
Note: Greta Brown is a senior at Santa Fe Prep.


Miracle Medication or Dangerous Drug? to Many Using Marijuana, It Can Be Both

It is both a plant and a drug, a recreation and a medication, and it 
is a substance weighed with both pros and cons in our society: 
marijuana. Some states have decided to legalize it while others have 
not. Marijuana, also known as weed, ganja, pot, etc., remains one of 
the most common illicit drugs in the country.

In New Mexico alone, 28 percent of teens reported using marijuana in 
2013, according to a statewide Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey. And 
New Mexico tops the list of states where teens said they started 
using marijuana before the age of 13 - at 17 percent.

Still, some see a benefit to legalizing marijuana under some circumstances.

As a member of the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program, Ryan Pierce, 
17, has been using medical marijuana to cope with his diagnosed Lyme 
disease since he was 14 years old. Marijuana helps him deal with 
chronic pain, nausea, insomnia, severe fatigue and anxiety. He uses 
marijuana in its various forms, including the nonpsychoactive CBD 
oils such as indicas, sativas and hybrids. Although cannabis has its 
positive effects and helps Pierce cope with his illness, it has not 
cured him, and his Lyme disease eventually forced him to leave his 
high school to be home-schooled.

"Cannabis doesn't cure all of my symptoms and struggles," he said. 
"I'm still very sick, but it helps me live my life and get through 
every day. That's why I'm so grateful for this plant. I honestly feel 
it's changed my life."

In addition to alleviating these specific symptoms, marijuana has 
improved his overall emotional being, he said. He feels more empathy 
toward others and has a more positive outlook on life since using the drug.

He is among a significant number of teens and adults who use 
marijuana to relieve pain. "Without question, cannabis has multiple 
valid medical uses, and though it's probably not a panacea, we're 
learning more all the time about its many benefits as a palliative to 
treat dozens of human diseases and conditions," says Santa Fe-based 
author Hampton Sides, who wrote the National Geographic article 
"Science Seeks to Unlock Marijuana's Secrets."

Conversely, marijuana can have a negative effect on individuals' 
lives, especially teenagers who are not using the drug specifically 
as a medication.

Sides - who said he stands in the middle of any argument about 
marijuana use - has done extensive research on the drug and uncovered 
some of the unfavorable effects of marijuana, particularly on young 
and developing brains. "There are strong suggestions in the medical 
literature that the prolonged regular use of cannabis, particularly 
when it comes to extremely high-THC [cannabis] strains that are now 
commonly cultivated, can have an adverse effect on the developing 
brain," he said. "Researchers can't say for sure what that adverse 
effect is, but it's pretty clear that marijuana can under certain 
circumstances change the way young brain cells grow."

Many teens might have a difficult time understanding the entirety of 
marijuana and its effects, and how its use can both benefit and harm. 
The National Institute on Drug Abuse has found that marijuana tends 
to have a negative impact on attention span and memory, lasting long 
after many would expect the effects of the drug to wear off, much 
like an extended hangover from drinking too much.

The impairments can last days or weeks until wearing off completely. 
In addition to these acute effects, the institute reports, 
"Consequently someone who smokes marijuana daily may be functioning 
at a reduced intellectual level most or all of the time."

The National Institute on Drug Abuse said many long-term and heavy 
marijuana users report the influence of cannabis having negative 
effects on their memory, social lives, career achievements, and 
physical and mental health. There are conflicting studies regarding 
whether regular use of marijuana can lower one's IQ - some say yes, 
some say no.

Efforts to legalize marijuana in New Mexico - besides for medical 
purposes - have failed. Colorado has legalized marijuana, but so far, 
statistics do not indicate that has led to an increase in marijuana 
use among teens in New Mexico.

As more states legalize the drug - or try to legalize its use - Sides 
warns, "Cannabis can be a potent and harmful drug when abused, 
especially for teenagers and young adults. How harmful? Probably not 
as harmful as alcohol, certainly not as addictive as tobacco, and 
surely nowhere near as pernicious as narcotics."

Shelley Mann-Lev, director of the Santa Fe Prevention Alliance and 
prevention coordinator in the Office of Student Support Programs for 
Santa Fe Public Schools, said if New Mexico does move forward with 
legalization of marijuana, "We need to learn from our experience with 
. the easy access to alcohol that has previously been such an issue 
in New Mexico. We need to make it highly regulated - in particular, 
we should not advertise, [we should] make it available solely through 
state-sponsored sales and create a controlled environment around the 
distribution of marijuana."

Incidentally, marijuana users from around the world consider April 20 
- - 4/20 - of each year "Weed Day," a day for getting high.


By Tyler Rowland


Whether you know someone who smokes pot, have smelled its scent on a 
stranger or been exposed to it in other scenarios, marijuana has 
become ingrained in the American culture. According to a study 
conducted through the Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, 
Ohio, the number of children exposed to marijuana is increasing at an 
alarming rate. The study (found on, found that between 
2006 and 2013, there was a 147.5 percent increase in children under 
the age of 6 being exposed to marijuana, and in 75 percent of those 
cases, the child was under 3 years old.

While I won't bemoan any of my peers for choosing to use the drug for 
more legitimate reasons - for medical purposes or relief from stress 
and anxiety - an unnamed teacher interviewed for the popular 
man-on-thestreet blog Humans of New York most clearly explains my 
take on teens using marijuana: "People say pot makes you more 
creative, but from what I've seen, it narrows my students' minds 
until they only reference the world in relation to the drug."

As humans, we can define ourselves however we please, but to allow 
oneself to be defined by a plant is simply insulting. And as an 
artist, here is one of my least favorite phrases in the English 
language: "How high were you when you made this?" That's a loaded 
question that flat-out ignores any other source of inspiration for a 
creative piece. I recognize that choosing to partake or not is 
completely up to each and every individual, but speaking from the 
perspective of someone who has been in a classroom setting where 
marijuana was ingested openly: Please keep your drugs to yourself. 
Tyler Rowland is a recent graduate of Capital High School who will 
attend The University of New Mexico.


By Alicia Sedillo


I smoke weed, and I'm not ashamed of it. Weed is not harmful in any 
way that I can tell. There are no downsides to smoking it that I feel 
- - which is probably why its called a "high."

You would have to smoke more than your body weight to overdose on it. 
It's considered a gateway drug, but most of the people I know who 
smoke pot have no plans to do cocaine. The other argument that you 
commonly hear is that pot kills brain cells. You might be interested 
to know that those brain cells can and do grow back. My grades have 
not suffered at all since I started smoking pot in my freshman year. 
In fact, smoking weed makes me more focused. It makes my day a little 
better because it puts me in a better mood.

I find weed to be really great for someone who is stressed, be it 
with school, work or family. I have a friend with Tourette syndrome 
and obsessive-compulsive disorder. For her, getting high is the only 
time she is able to stop the ticks and feel at ease. It also helps me 
to bond with friends. I feel like when you smoke weed you are more 
open with your ideas and feelings, and more able to receive others' 
thoughts and opinions.

And when I watch some movies and listen to music, smoking weed opens 
my imagination to weird and funny things I didn't experience before. 
Things are so much funnier when they really aren't that funny, and it 
creates an uplifting atmosphere. Colors are brighter, music is more 
meaningful, peanut butter tastes even better, and life is just so 
much better. It's like a dream. Alicia Sedillo is a senior at Santa 
Fe High School.
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