The Student News Site of Dillard University


The Student News Site of Dillard University


The Student News Site of Dillard University


    Marijuana’s prevalence on campus stirs debate on health impact

    Commonly known as green, gunja, weed, pot, and herb, marijuana continues to be prevalent on college campuses across the nation. Results from a survey of 100 Dillard University students found that 20 percent of the students are current marijuana smokers, and 56 percent have tried smoking marijuana at least once in their lives.

    Marijuana, a mixture of dried flowers and leaves from the hemp plant cannabis satira, is the most frequently used illicit drug in the United States, said Several studies show growing numbers of students who continue to use this “harmless” drug.

    Several students stated that smoking “cleared their minds” and made them “stress free.” According to, it is the THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) chemical that marijuana contains that causes the “high” feeling.

    Besides feeling “high,” there are several other short term effects of marijuana. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, paranoia, sleepiness, increased heart-rate and short-term memory are just a few of the short term effects felt when smoking. Marijuana is a mild hallucinogen and has disinhibiting and depressant qualities similar to that of alcohol, according to the American Council for Drug Education.

    “The problem is that it [marijuana] impairs your judgment, decreases reaction time and distorts your thoughts, making you incapable of making sound judgment,” said Shirley Brown, MSN, nursing educator and counselor.

    “I see no harm in smoking marijuana. I think that this substance has a negative connotation just because it is illegal,” said a participant of the Dillard survey.

    Five percent of students surveyed said they smoke daily, another five percent smoke at least once a week, while three percent smoke every other week and three percent at least once a month. The result is that 16 percent of the students surveyed smoke at least every month.

    “The perception of the younger generation is that marijuana is a harmless, feel-good drug, and the only bad guys are cocaine and heroine,” said Brown. She also added that some smoke because they feel like everyone else smokes. Thirty seven percent of students surveyed said that at least three of their friends are marijuana smokers.

    Medical studies’ results do not prove marijuana to be a harmless drug. The irritants and carcinogens contained in marijuana smoke have the potential to cause cancer of the lungs and other parts of the respiratory system. Marijuana smoke contains 50 to 70 percent more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than does tobacco smoke, according to

    Marijuana users expose their lungs to carcinogenic smoke more because they usually inhale more deeply and hold their breath longer than other smoke users in order to increase impact. According to, “puff for puff” smoking marijuana may be more harmful to the lungs than smoking tobacco.

    Not only are marijuana smokers more susceptible to chest colds, bronchitis and emphysema, but their brains are also attacked by smoking. The THC in the smoke is rapidly carried to all organs, including the brain, after it is inhaled and quickly carried into the bloodstream. According to, as the THC connects to cannabinoid receptors on nerve cells in the brain, it influences activity of those cells. These receptors in the brain influence memory, concentration and coordinated movement.

    “THC decreases your brain cells and decreases how fast your neurons can fire impulses,” said anesthesiologist Dr. Jeff Blalack of the Regional Medical Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.

    For college students, the effects of smoking can greatly interfere with their success in school. According to the American Council for Drug Education, studies show heavy marijuana users have an inability to focus and sustain attention. Even though some students may think that smoking is relaxing, it can be detrimental to studies.

    Forty eight percent of the students who participated in the Dillard survey were between ages 18 and 19. These are the ages of students who are at the beginning of their college career.

    Some smokers may not know that marijuana is not harmless. A common statement amongst the Dillard students who were surveyed was: “Smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol are just as harmful and are legal, so smoking marijuana should be too.”

    “We allow other dangerous habit forming things to be legal, like caffeine, coffee, alcohol and cigarettes, so why not marijuana?” said Alafia Stewart, junior criminal justice major. She added, “In regards to it being a natural herb, marijuana is an untapped, taxable commodity that could help the nation’s community.”

    “The illegal business of selling marijuana is profitable but the government cannot regulate it as closely as alcohol,” said Dr. Sandra Howard who works in the Trauma Intensive Care Unit of the Regional Medical Center in Memphis, Tenn. “People can grow marijuana in their backyards, whereas the manufacturing of alcohol is not so simple, it requires multiple products,” added Dr. Howard.

    Actually, there is a somewhat “legal” form of marijuana, but it is not smoked. It is called Marinol. It is a pharmaceutical product that is only available through prescription, said the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Synthetic THC is the active ingredient in Marinol.

    “The medical establishment lobbied for the legalization of marijuana for glaucoma and cancer patients to improve their appetites,” said anesthesiologist Dr. Jeff Blalack.

    The THC in Marinol was also found to relieve nausea and vomiting associated with the chemotherapy for cancer patients. The THC in Marinol is synthetic, so it is not as harmful as the THC in marijuana, said Shirley Brown, MSN. However, she added that it can also deteriorate brain cells after long-term usage.

    Unlike smoked marijuana, Marinol has been studied and approved by the FDA, said the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. There are currently no FDA-approved medications that are smoked. Marijuana can become habit forming, causing negative effects on other facets of life, such as financial, social and professional,” said Brown, MSN. Facts and studies have proven harmful effects of smoking marijuana, but personal health is up to each individual.

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    Marijuana’s prevalence on campus stirs debate on health impact