Young adults are more likely to smoke marijuana for recreational or medical purposes than the national average, according to a 2016 Gallup report. Recreational use of marijuana is still illegal in Arkansas despite efforts to decriminalize the drug this year.

After his breakup in high school, he began smoking marijuana to relieve his stress. Now, Corey, 19, smokes marijuana for more than stress. When he was diagnosed with anxiety and depression, he began smoking an eighth to a quarter of an ounce of marijuana per day.

Around 13% of people in the U.S. said they smoke marijuana, according to a 2016 Gallup report. Around 19% of 18-to-29-year-olds like Corey smoke marijuana.

Corey, who is only identified by one of his names to protect his identity from legal ramifications, is a sophomore majoring in political science. He primarily smokes hybrid or sativa strains of marijuana, which he thinks are more energizing, he said.

Corey thinks that smoking sativa strains of marijuana have more of a mental high than a physical high, he said.

Corey also sold marijuana, primarily to college students, and thinks that although it can help people like himself, marijuana can be a vice for habitual users, he said.

Brad, who is only identified by one of his names to protect his identity from legal ramifications, is a senior who is majoring in electrical engineering. Brad first smoked marijuana the summer before he started attending college, and the experience was underwhelming, he said. Now, several years later, he thinks moderation is key.

“I've definitely seen people that smoked too much, and they lose track of their goals in life,” Brad said. “But that's true with a lot of things. So, I really don't see a problem with it, other than it's still illegal recreationally.”

Before Brad smoked for the first time, he had been told marijuana users were unsuccessful, and smoking it would ruin his life, he said.

“I've been told my whole life it was awful for you, and it was life changing and all this stuff,” Brad said. “And when I finally did it, it was just, it wasn't as crazy as I thought it would be.”

Zac Brown, assistant director of communications at the UA Pat Walker Health Center, thinks that recreational marijuana has some positive aspects for students, he said.

“I think that the one thing that students need to understand is that mental health is something that should be taken seriously, and that you should absolutely look at what’s going to be the best method for you,” Brown said.

Medication may not be the best option for some people, which is something people forget, Brown said.

“It’s not necessarily for everybody, so that’s just something that I think people need to kind of take into consideration when they look at different ways to treat their mental health issues,” Brown said.

Erin, who is a senior majoring in biomedical engineering, is identified by only one of her names to protect her identity from legal ramifications. Erin is indifferent about the legalization of recreational marijuana in Arkansas because she does not smoke as much as she used to, but she thinks that there is a negative stigma surrounding marijuana, she said.

“I know people who say that it helps them focus, and some people can be very high functioning, and they smoke every day,” Erin said. She thinks people who do not smoke at all can be just as lazy.

Erin does not think smoking recreationally is a bad thing as long as it is done in moderation, she said. In the next 5-10 years, Erin thinks that if Arkansas legalized recreational marijuana, then more states would follow, she said.

Scott Hardin, spokesperson for the Arkansas Medical Marijuana commission, thinks that Arkansas residents might be coming around to the idea of legalized recreational usage because of the active polling for it, he said.

“I think that over the last three years as we’ve worked to implement the medical marijuana amendment, there are whispers of those that are interested in introducing a recreational amendment, and yet we’ve only just implemented medical,” Hardin said.

Rep. Charles Blake (D) and Rep. Vivian Flowers (D) proposed House Bill 1972 April 1 that would have decriminalized possession of recreational marijuana and lowered the number of criminal drug possession charges in the state. However, the Arkansas bill died April 24, according to the Arkansas State Legislature.

When a bill dies in the House, this means that the bill has not yet been passed in the Senate and still needs a hearing. The purpose of the hearing is to discuss the content of proposed bills and either reject or adopt them into legislation, according to the Arkansas State Website.

House Bill 1972 would have lessened the sentence to a misdemeanor if a person was arrested with less than one ounce of recreational marijuana on them.

Erin thinks that Arkansas legislators should have looked over the bill because they could have heard a good argument, she said.

Erin thinks that the reason senators would not review the bill is because of the stigma surrounding smoking marijuana, she said. The bill might have had a real chance at passing.


Caitlin Lane is a staff reporter for the Arkansas Traveler, where she has been a staff reporter since April 2019.

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