Drug use by young people is something of serious concern in any community. If it escalates because of our own decisions, what does that say about our attitude toward our youths? The medical marijuana industry that has flourished in Routt County in recent years has had a direct impact on our access to the drug. As a senior at Steamboat Springs High School, I have heard other students talking about going to dispensaries to buy the drug not only for themselves but to sell to friends. Last spring, a student my age was caught with hash oil from a dispensary in the high school. Talk about students getting what are referred to now as “green cards” for fake injuries is regular conversation in the hallways. What does it say about the medical marijuana industry when the youth drug market becomes fed by legal means?
There may be a time and place for medical marijuana use. However, it must be tightly regulated and distributed solely to those who are responsible and in fact require it. When high school students regularly and successfully fake injuries or medical conditions to get drugs, I think that says something about the industry that supplies them. Other medications most likely exist for the same symptoms and, unlike smoked marijuana, do not have proven cancer-causing compounds. According to the Chicago Smoking Cessation Program, marijuana smoke contains 50 to 70 percent more carcinogens than tobacco smoke, which is responsible for an estimated 400,000 deaths and 8.6 million people with smoking-related sicknesses per year.
As local law enforcement officials Joel Rae, JD Hays, Garrett Wiggins and Ray Birch wrote recently, “It is unreasonable to think law enforcement has the ability to increase staffing and work cases that involve the selling of medical marijuana to nonpatients.” Aside from the enforcement aspects, does society have the funds to pay for that many more future cancer patients?
Users and proponents of medical marijuana have not demonstrated responsibility. DUIDs have increased 64 percent between 2009 and 2010 and since have doubled. Considering the timeframe of dispensaries arriving in Routt County, coincidence is illogical. If users are so quick to support their dispensaries, at a minimum they ought to show they are able to act responsibly under the influence of their medication. I, personally, do not want to have to worry about being hit by a driver under the influence of drugs.
Apart from the various carcinogens in marijuana smoke, the health risks of smoked marijuana include damage to the brain, heart, lungs and immune system, according to John Walters of the Office of Drug Control Policy. It also impairs learning and interferes with memory, perception and judgment.
If not for the health reasons or danger to others on the road, we should prevent marijuana access to our youths because of its gateway quality, leading to the use of more harmful and dangerous drugs.
Marijuana has been shown to be addictive in and of itself in clinical studies, and has been reported to invoke aggression, irritability and loss of ambition in long-term users. By making marijuana a medicinal drug, young people may begin to perceive it as medicine and not for what it is — a drug.
Vice president of the Steamboat Springs Teen Council; vice president of the Steamboat Springs High School National Honor Society; and member of the N-CTRL Leadership Team