Students use medical cards for legal marijuana use
While the availability of marijuana for recreational use will be new, medical marijuana has been legal since 1996. Since then, a variety of users – including Northgate students – have obtained medical marijuana cards. Students 18 and over with a doctor’s referral are eligible for a medical card without parent permission, but students under 18 need parent permission.
Three students who have medical cards agreed to share their experiences with The Sentinel, but asked that their names not be used since the use of medical marijuana is controversial, especially among young students.
“I decided to get my med card because I have an autoimmune disease that causes me a lot of pain in my body at times,” said a female senior.
She shared that access to marijuana for medicinal purposes has improved her mood and participation in day to day activities. “Using cannabis medicinally has made me a more calm and relaxed person,” she said. “It has greatly helped with any anxiety that I experience on a day to day basis. With less anxiety I am able to focus more on schoolwork and be a happier person in general.”
A second female senior also stated that marijuana helps with her glaucoma. “My optic nerve in the back of my eye shrinks and swells in size, creating pressure,” she said. “Marijuana lowers the pressure and helps relax and stabilize it.”
For certain ailments, medical marijuana can greatly benefit when coping with diseases and pain. While risks in marijuana use exist, scientific studies have shown that “the idea that marijuana may have therapeutic effects is rooted in solid science. Marijuana contains 60 active ingredients known as cannabinoids. The body naturally makes its own form of cannabinoids to modulate pain.”
Regardless of medical cards, state and district education policy and administrators at Northgate have a clear drug-free stance when it comes to all students.
“It doesn’t matter if they have a medical card or not, any controlled substance on school, or being under the influence at school is illegal – regardless of if they have a card or a prescription,” Vice Principal Jon Fey said.
As medical cards have become easier to obtain, some students readily admit that those without a severe medical need have easier access to the drug. One Northgate student with a medical marijuana card explained the relative ease with which he obtained his: he paid for an online video chat with a doctor.
“I got a medical marijuana card so that I could easily, quickly, and legally purchase and use cannabis. A card has given me the best way to consume cannabis,” stated a male junior.
“Cannabis helps me keep a positive attitude, gives me motivation to do activities, helps with pain, and helps me get to sleep,” added the student. He did not specify what type of pain he was referencing. “Not that there is any correlation, but my grades have actually gone up this year after my first semester of using marijuana almost daily,” he added.
Not everyone is as enthusiastic over marijuana use. Research and studies show that marijuana presents very clear possible negative side effects. THC – tetrahydrocannabinol – is the central ingredient that some say is mind-altering.
Kim Ann Zimmermann, a writer for the Live Science website dedicated to science news, states that “THC binds to cannabinoid receptors, which are concentrated in areas of the brain associated with thinking, memory, and coordination. The effects of marijuana can interfere with attention, judgment and balance.”
“Marijuana is a drug and does produce chemical changes in the brain,” Physiology teacher Cori Starr urged caution to users.
“People who are dealing with chronic illnesses benefit from the drug but that doesn’t mean they are without side effects. The side effects are just overshadowed by the relief. People who don’t need marijuana experience side effects with no trade off. Additionally, we know there are long term repercussions to marijuana use, and just because it has been legalized or provides some relief in dire situations, doesn’t mean those repercussions are no longer a concern.”
The discussion of medical cards within the Northgate population extends beyond just card holders. Senior Haley Kim expressed her view of marijuana users with medical cards, despite not having one herself.
“Under the assumption that they are going to smoke anyway, it is better (to have a card) because it would be safer and they wouldn’t have to use black market dealing,” she said.