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High risk, low reward 


Ben Hurney / THE GATEPOST

By Sophia Harris

Editor-in-Chief


The legalization of recreational marijuana in Massachusetts is coming up on its eighth year.


Starting in seventh grade I began to see a lot of my peers and even some of my friends use marijuana. And I think that number only grew since the legalization of the substance.


I was in eighth grade when marijuana was legalized and since I was 12 years old I could already see the pull the substance had on my peers. I never saw the draw to it - but it seemed to overcome some of my closest friends. 


They felt cool, relaxed, and would not stop talking about this amazing newfound substance. At times, it felt like a magical drug that came straight from Mother Earth. 


Now being 20 years old and only a month away from my 21st birthday, the age I can legally use marijuana, I have been forced to do a lot of thinking about how marijuana affects a growing mind. I know all of you have heard this before, but your brain doesn't fully develop until your mid-to-late 20s and if you have ADHD this can make the process longer - up to age 35, according to Kathleen Nadeau, Ph.D., Director of Chesapeake Psychological Services of Maryland and co-author of Understanding Girls With ADHD. 


I see marijuana as a mind-altering substance, much worse than alcohol or nicotine.  


However, many of my peers do not see it the same way as I do.


It is much much more to me than that, especially when it comes to driving. 


It has been my experience that driving while high is a fairly common phenomenon among college students. Most marijuana users that I know have no problem smoking while driving or smoking right before driving.


I’m not sure why it is not as taboo as drinking and driving when I think the implications could even be slightly worse than drinking and driving.


Matter of fact, some of the people I know who would never drink and drive do not see the danger of driving while high. 


Driving while under the influence of marijuana slows your reaction time, your ability to make decisions, impairs your coordination, and distorts your perception, according to the CDC.


I want my peers to know that driving while high will still result in a DUI. Driving under the influence will result in a fine, a mandatory educational course about driving under the influence, a license suspension, and a criminal record. 


I have always been an avid spokesperson for not drinking and driving, but I feel that my focus has to shift to not driving while high, because it is more widely accepted among college students.


It is a complicated topic to talk about with my friends because many of them have ways to rationalize this behavior. 


“It's not that big of a deal, it makes me a better driver, it has probably worn off by now.”


You could use that reasoning and rationalization to justify anything. I do not think the high is worth the risk of putting yourself, your passengers, and other drivers in danger.


If you are so dependent on marijuana that you would not be able to carry out your daily tasks without being high, there are resources out there to help you.


These resources include those found online on the American Addiction Centers website and the SAMHSA helpline which is available 24/7 for anyone struggling with mental health or substance use concerns - 1 (800) 662 - HELP. 


I am truly worried about my friends and peers who are risking their lives by driving while under the influence of marijuana. I think this has become a quiet epidemic among college students that not many are talking about.  


You have to remember that when you are driving high, it’s not you driving, it’s the marijuana.

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