At age 15, I can list most of the risks and side effects of alcohol, cocaine, and a wide variety of other hardcore drugs—thanks to numerous mandatory health classes and workshops. Yet, the drug that I have been least educated about in school is marijuana. How is it possible that one of the most widely used drugs in America, the subject of great legal controversy, and arguably the “gateway for teens to all other drugs” is not adequately discussed in schools? If media organizations like The New York Times are supporting the potential nationwide legalization of this drug, then why not educate the children of its generation about both the dangers and medical benefits of its use? When marijuana comes up in conversation, I am often unable to convincingly express my ideas about the drug because of my lack of knowledge on the facts and figures of the current debate.
For a long time, I believed that smoking marijuana was not as harmful as cigarette smoking. However, an article on the Test Country website, an organization that outlines drug symptoms and testing, stated that there was a higher amount of a potent carcinogen (benzo[a]pyrene) in marijuana than tobacco. This is because to get the “hit” from the drug, marijuana smokers usually hold the smoke in their lungs longer than cigarette smokers, leaving more tar behind. This statistic remains the only real substantial thing I know about the dangers of marijuana usage, though there must be more. As high school students, we are constantly influenced by conflicting advice and experience from media, peers, and parents. In order to make responsible decisions about marijuana usage, I believe high schools should provide their students with the opportunity to openly discuss the range of opinions about the drug in a school classroom.