Kyle Spencer | Managing Editor | @kyledspencer
John’s room inside an apartment built in the 1980s off Orem Center Street is cluttered with bags and boxes of snacks, clothes, video games and school supplies. On top of a bookshelf, littered with textbooks and paperback novels stacked on top of one another, are a bong and a pipe.
“Sorry about the mess. I just moved into this room at the beginning of the month and haven’t had time to organize it,” John says three days prior to the beginning of October.
He removes a pile of literature stationed on a desk chair and rolls it nearby his perch—a cushioned chair with an ottoman on wheels that has a few stains which appears to be the remnants of a dark red liquid; wine possibly, or perhaps blood.
“Do you mind if I smoke?” John asks, as he stands ready to choose from the collection of devices.
John, whose name has been changed per his request, hasn’t decided what he wants to study at UVU. He’s working on his generals and consumes marijuana multiple times a day.
An affinity for the crystal-covered, shredded green flower he sparks distinguishes him from the majority of his classmates.
Out of 364 UVU students surveyed, 12—six men and six women—said they used marijuana at least once in the past 30 days, according to data collected by the American College Health Association. An additional 39 reportedly consumed it, but not within the last 30 days.
One woman marked that she, like John, used THC, or tetrahydrocannibinol—the psychoactive compound in cannabis that provides the user’s high—daily.
“I have a couple of buddies that smoke too, but I think most people there look at it as, like, some sort of Satanic ritual,” John said.
Of the valid responses, 133 students estimated that one to 10 percent of the 31,500-plus who take classes here have consumed marijuana in the past 30 days. Ninety-three said they believe 11 to 20 percent used it over that period, and another 122 said 21 percent or more of students have.
Nine said they think no one enrolled at the university with Utah’s second-largest student population used marijuana.
John serves at an Italian restaurant to pay tuition, paints in his spare time and is still getting accustomed to Utah County since moving to Orem from Oregon two years ago.
The pot smoking, he says, has alienated former friends. “People are naïve when it comes to the actual effects,” John adds.
Nearly 70 percent—252, to be exact—of the students who participated in the National College Health Assessment said they did not receive any information on drug or alcohol use from UVU.
Not that any of them want the institution to offer knowledge on the subject.
The ACHA found that 275 of the same group, or 75.6 percent, stated they weren’t interested in receiving drug and alcohol schooling.
A search of on-campus resources provided little in terms of material on marijuana. A woman at the front desk of Student Health Services will instruct one to search a wall of brochures for information, which is completed without any success.
“I’ve tried to quit three or four times,” John said after recounting his first time smoking the plant at age 17. “I actually didn’t smoke for about nine months a couple years ago. It’s hard, though. I don’t know that I can, or even want to, give it up for good.”
If students, who believe they’re having a problem with the substance, ask Student Health Services for help they can meet with the director of therapy, who couldn’t be reached for comment.
Sarah Graves, coordinator for university wellness programs, said individuals who “need more in-depth therapy/recovery help” than their office pamphlets provide, then those students are referred to the Utah County Health Department.
A large amount of students consider classmates occasional weed smokers, when hypothetically measuring their use.
Those who said their peers never indulged made up 25.6 percent of the answers. Comparatively, almost 40 percent reported they think the typical UVU student uses marijuana every three days or more, and 16.1 percent said they expect fellow attendees to be consuming it daily or every one to two days.
John says he isn’t always as productive when he “tokes” recreationally, but he assures that it helps him put things in perspective.
Standing alongside an easel propping up a rectangular canvas, which displays the beginnings of a watercolor orange and yellow sunset, he advocates for the legalization of his drug du jour, and berates the Utah government for not completely decriminalizing its use.
“It’s a release, definitely. But also, you know, there’s a lot that we don’t understand, can’t comprehend, because we take too much time worrying about the small stuff,” John offers. “You have to learn to find a different point of view.”
In March, Gov. Herbert signed HB 105 into law, which legalized the medicinal use of hemp extract containing 0.3 percent THC by people suffering from intractable epilepsy.
John wasn’t impressed. A decent step, he says, but one that won’t affect the stereotypes or change the fact that the misdemeanor offense for possessing less than 1 ounce carries a maximum six-month jail sentence and $1,000 fine.
“The fascists won’t ever catch me again,” John said in reference to a $1,300 ticket he paid after he was pulled over, handcuffed and cited for possession last year.
Unless fate brings him a similar replay of that day, he’ll likely continue to perpetuate the apparent difference between he and his peers by remaining a connoisseur of imported and homegrown marijuana.
Kyle is a junior at UVU, studying journalism. He works at KSL as a writer/content manager and previously wrote for weareutahjazz.com. He is originally from Colorado Springs, Colo., where most of his family resides. In his free time Kyle enjoys hiking, playing the sports he writes about, reading and obsessively following his professional teams, to which he is unwaveringly loyal. You can follow him @kyledspencer.