Young adults support legalization as marijuana use increases

Ezra Maille 
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Photo by: Emily-Ann Trautman
A budding marijuana plant gets treated with neem oil.

Exclusive marijuana use among young adults, particularly college students, is on the rise, according to a recent study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics. However, the study stated exclusive tobacco use has decreased in the same demographic, though tobacco does remain more prominent in non-college individuals. 
Zoe Clark, a junior at UNC Asheville, said a reason for the increased marijuana use among college students in particular could be the campus setting. She said college provides a social avenue for students to try new things. 
“A big stigma around college is that people are supposed to experiment and try things to kind of figure out who they are. A non-college student might just not have the same opportunities to try marijuana due to lack of social events where it’s acceptable,” Clark said. 
Jetsun Randall-Peangmeth, a new media student at UNCA, said a factor for college marijuana use could be a diversity of people from different geographical regions in the same environment.
“If you don’t go to school and stay in your local town, you don’t really get out as much,” Randall-Peangmeth said. 
The 21-year-old Randall-Peangmeth said young adults are less inclined to smoke tobacco over marijuana since so many members of older generations have been diagnosed with lung cancer. 
“People are dying as we speak from tobacco use. And if they’re not dying, they just found out that they’re about to die,” said Devin Jones, 20, an Asheville native. “People are smoking two or three packs a day. If that was a box of joints instead of cigarettes, they’d still be living.” 
Jones said he believes marijuana should be legal because it isn’t harmful. He said the criminalization of this safe drug is unfair, especially for people of color. 
“If I got caught with two grams on my person right now, I’m going to jail for at least five years, just because of how I look,” Jones said. 
Tallis Monteiro, a junior at UNCA, said decriminalizing marijuana in the US would be very beneficial. She said the amount of people incarcerated for small amounts of marijuana possession are disproportionately black and brown people. 
“Once you get out of jail, then you have to pay all these things. You have to replace yourself back in society,” Monteiro said. 
Monteiro said many hispanic immigrants are also targeted for petty crimes such as marijuana possession. 
“Even if you’ve been living here for decades and you have citizenship, you can be deported for possession of marijuana,” she said. 
According to the UNCA crime log, there have been 19 accounts of drug related incidents so far this semester. UNCA Police Chief Eric Boyce said in 5 of these accounts, drug paraphernalia was investigated and found, and in only 4 accounts was marijuana found. 
Indigo Booher, 20, a California native living in Asheville, said it was a bit of a culture shock to move from a place where marijuana is legal to a place where it isn’t. 
“It was really weird. I used to walk around and see people smoking something right by a police officer, and they don’t care just because of some agreement that was made,” Booher said.
Jones said he thinks marijuana use has increased among young adults because the world isn’t looking so good, particularly for young people. He said the environmental issues facing the world go overlooked by older generations. 
“A lot of the time, it’s really only our age group. Commonly the only ones that give a shit,” Jones said. “Everybody that’s older than us that has actual money isn’t doing anything about it.”
Grace Kiteley, a 19-year-old Asheville native, said she thinks environmental degradation plays into ideas about marijuana and other naturally grown substances.
“It’s stupid that you can’t just walk down the street with something from the earth in your pocket,” Kiteley said. 
Jones said he doesn’t understand how alcohol can be legal when marijuana can’t. He said it is impossible to die from an overdose of marijuana but meanwhile people die from alcohol all the time. 
“It’s killing people everyday. You’d have to smoke, I think it’s 1,500 pounds in 15 minutes to actually die. The only way you die from it is if you decide to do something stupid,” Jones said. 
According to the Center for Disease Control, the harmful effects of extreme marijuana use are confusion, paranoia, anxiety, an elevated heart rate, increased blood pressure and nausea or vomiting. The CDC said sometimes these effects can lead to unintentional injury such as a car crash or fall. 
Clark said she is in favor of the legalization of marijuana on account of the economic benefits as well as it’s proven effectiveness for treating physical and mental ailments. 
“People are going to use marijuana regardless of whether it’s legal or not, so I think it only makes sense to have it regulated by the government not only for the economic benefits, but for the safety of people who use it as well,” Clark said. “At this point, I think it’s just stupid to not legalize it.”
Clark went on to say the process of legalization in North Carolina could begin soon, possibly in the next few years. 
“Since the legalization of hemp and CBD, I think people are starting to become more open to the fact that legalization would have many positive effects,” Clark said. “The war on drugs is slowly coming to an end and I think NC will eventually hop on the bandwagon.”
CBD, an extract of marijuana without THC, the part of marijuana that gets the smoker high, is widely popular in Asheville, exhibited by the numerous CBD dispensaries that have established themselves in the city. Booher said he thinks these dispensaries are the precursor to legalization in North Carolina. 
“In every single state that marijuana has become legal, CBD was first,” Booher said. 
Having witnessed the process in California, Booher said the CBD dispensaries are establishing themselves now in order to become marijuana dispensaries whenever the drug becomes legal. He said marijuana would be widely popular in North Carolina since many people who don’t consider themselves “stoners” smoke marijuana every once in a while because they need an escape.
“College students, because of the stress of school and work and living, and it can be 50-year-old ladies that are stressed about work and their kid,” Booher said. “The people that are voting about this? They probably smoke too.”