As states increasingly weigh the merits and problems of legalizing marijuana for recreational use, the stigma against the drug has lessened. Five states, when including the District of Columbia, currently allow adult use of marijuana for non-medical reasons. California, which was the first state to permit medical cannabis 20 years ago, will vote on legalization for recreational uses this November.
Although it will be a while before legalization will be considered by state governments in the historically conservative upper Midwest, a reporter from The Fox Journal asked students to share opinions on drug and alcohol use. Nearly every student stressed the importance of moderation when using substances legally or otherwise.
UW-Fox students were asked to share their opinions on drug and alcohol use, and they generally indicated the importance of moderation instead of substance abuse.
Jake Burns, UW-Fox sophomore and treasurer of UW-Fox student government, explained his past experience with drug use and how he is able to lead a stable, productive life by setting limits and goals for himself.
Burns shared that his experience includes ecstasy, LSD and marijuana as well as alcohol. He explained that he chose to take harder drugs with the wrong people, which negatively impacted his experience with the substances.
“I knew I was going to have a bad time because I wasn’t with good people, and I wasn’t in a good state of mind when it happened. If I do take anything like acid, I always make sure I’m in a relaxed, clear state of mind and that I have a trusted, sober friend with me,” Burns said.
As a result of having a bad experience once with acid, Burns decided to move to Appleton and started taking online classes and working full time.
After the experience, Burns also quit drinking. Before the incident, he drank often with friends but decided to put a limit to that because it caused violence and was starting to have a negative effect on his life.
Although he had a negative experience with drug use, he continues to use recreational marijuana but sets limits for himself as to not let it take control of his life.
“I’m not like a wake-and-bake type of person or anything like that; that’s how it takes over your life. I use it as a reward system. After I’ve done all I need to do for the day, school, work, chores,” Burns said, “that’s when I allow myself to have a couple hits, but only after all my obligations are taken care of. It’s usually while I’m making dinner and just unwinding after my day. I don’t depend on it, I reward myself with it.”
Freshman Jared Hotz also shared his experience with drug use.
Hotz has been smoking marijuana since he was 13 years old and has tried other drugs as well, but stated he was not fond of them nor did he want to put himself in a dangerous situation.
“When I told my parents, they were really understanding. I think a main reason why so many kids get in bad situations with addiction is because they don’t have anyone they can go to for help,” Burns said. “It’s so important to let kids know they have someone to talk to. Parents can be so harsh on their kids. I think we really need to open the discussion on drug use.”
According to Wendy Seegers, UW Colleges director of prevention, marijuana is the most used and abused illegal drug. Still, she points to alcohol as having the greatest danger to academic success.
“Alcohol remains the substance that causes the most academic derailment for students. While only one-third of our students are considered high-risk drinkers, for that one-third, many will experience negative academic consequences related to their drinking,” Seegers said. “As a matter of fact, 40 percent of all academic problems faced by U.S. college students are directly related to alcohol consumption.”
Hotz indicated similarly, adding that he feels more comfortable with marijuana than harder drugs and alcohol, despite alcohol being more accepted in society.
“I can say that it really has had no negative effect on me whatsoever. … Personally, I can say weed is not much of a ‘gateway drug’ because I’d rather just smoke that than get addicted to harder drugs or drink liquor, which is not taboo at all” Hotz said.
Freshman Bailey Sweeney abstains from substance use but shares similar opinion.
“I have never personally drank or done any type of illegal drugs, but many of my close friends have experimented with drinking and drugs such as weed and LSD. … I don’t mind people who drink or do drugs. It’s their own decision and as long as they don’t try to force me into anything, it doesn’t bother me at all. I won’t tell them how to live their life if they don’t tell me how to live mine,” Sweeney said.
Sweeney may not share the same personal experience as Hotz and Burns, but he does share their standpoint.
“I’ve learned that drugs and alcohol are just a part of today’s society and have been and will be for a long time. I’ve learned to accept it and I know that drugs and alcohol aren’t going anywhere,” Sweeney said.
For more information on drug and alcohol use, visit UW Colleges wellness resource page, or pay a visit to the UW-Fox campus counselors at room 1039.
Additionally, to learn more about specific drugs and their effects and risks, visit erowid.org.