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Students weigh in on the role of marijuana in their lives

*Source name has been changed to protect identity.

They sit around a cluttered coffee table, in an otherwise tidy home. On top of the table is a stack of textbooks and notebooks as well as an 18-inch glass bong and assorted lighters.

Mary* is a hospitality and resort management student at FGCU. She is also a habitual user of marijuana.

“I wake up; I do my normal things, and then, I will smoke,” Mary said.

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Marijuana is illegal in the state of Florida.

The only exception is the Charlotte’s Web Medical Access Act, which allows certain strains of the plant to be used for medicinal purposes. The act allows for strains high in CBD rather than THC and is usually used to treat epilepsy in children.

Although the Charlotte’s Web Medical Access Act is helpful to those who need this specific strain, the voters of Florida still hope to push the boundaries a little further. John Morgan, an Orlando-based lawyer and founder of Morgan & Morgan law firm, spoke about his interest in legalizing medical marijuana in an interview with the “Orlando Sentinel” in July 2015, and he acts as a figurehead for the whole movement.

In 2014, Amendment 2 to the Florida Constitution was put on the ballot. This vote failed by two percent. Amendment 2 would allow patients to obtain marijuana for medical purposes with a prescription from a doctor.

Despite the failed attempt in the 2014 vote, Morgan has collected enough signatures to get the amendment back on the ballot for 2016.

Medical marijuana is currently legal in 23 states and Washington, D.C. Some of these states have very strict and limited use of the herb, but others allow legal recreational use.

“It seems to me just watching the rest of the country and the direction they’re going in that there is a little bit of an inevitability about it,” said Derek Reiners, an assistant professor of political sciences at FGCU. “I feel like eventually it’s just going to become legal for medicinal purposes.”

Reiners doesn’t have much of a preference either way; however, he’s always interested to hear debates about this topic.

Lieutenant Jim Slapp of the University Police Department is also quite neutral on the topic.

“I don’t see much difference between (marijuana) and alcohol,” Slapp said.

Lieutenant Slapp said UPD will stand behind whatever the laws and school rules say. If marijuana is legalized, and the university allows students to possess marijuana on campus, the UPD will respect these rules.

Although the majority of drug crimes on campus are related to marijuana, Slapp doesn’t think that legalizing for medical purposes will lower the crime rate. Only if it is recreationally legal will the rate begin to lower.

“I’m positive that’s just a stepping stone to get it legal for recreational purposes,” Reiners said.

It took Colorado approximately 14 years to transition from strictly medical use to full-on recreational use.

“I think we’re learning slowly that weed is okay,” FGCU junior Ali Solmo said.

Solmo has been reading about the benefits of plant-based medicines for years. She also works at a pharmacy, which is what got her interested in medical marijuana in the first place.

“I see people spending so much money on these pharmaceuticals that give them all these awful side effects, when they could fix the problem with a $20 bag of weed,” Solmo said.

She’s very passionate about the issue and even hopes to one day work in Washington or Oregon to research medical marijuana.

“If you talk to anyone who smokes weed, they’ll tell you it helps with everything,” Solmo said.

Some students even say that smoking before class helps them focus.

“I almost feel like I have ADHD,” Mary said. “It makes it a lot easier to sit in class for a two hour and forty five minute period.”

Although Mary is not actually diagnosed with ADHD, she finds that self-medicating helps her focus and keeps her from going crazy watching the clock.

“I would never share such a thing,” Mary said. “I feel like it’s looked at in such a negative light. And, that’s why medical marijuana would be positive for us, who actually are day-to-day smokers.”

Mary fears that her habit is harmful to her reputation, but it hasn’t hurt her grades at all.

Mary started smoking when she was 13 years old, right before entering high school. It was during that time that she developed the habit of smoking before school. Though she smoked almost every day before school, Mary graduated high school with a 4.4 GPA.

She also went into college with more than 18 college credits because she did dual enrollment during her senior year.

Mary is excited for marijuana to be legalized. She wishes to show that you can be a “successful stoner,” rather than live the stereotypes.

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