Towson University student Laura majors in Psychology and plans to graduate within two years. She is somewhat involved on campus, but she mainly focuses on her studies. She is in a loving relationship, and has been for over two years now.
Laura also has a hobby that many people aren’t willing to share. Laura is part of a minority of women who use marijuana.
“I smoke marijuana up to four times a week, sometimes more,” she says. “I’ll sometimes smoke when I wake up and carry on about my day like anybody else would.”
“I smoked for the first time when I was 15, and I didn’t feel anything. I smoked again two years later, got really high and have been smoking ever since.”
Even though she is open about her usage to friends, marijuana is not something she talks about with her family.
“Growing up, I was told that all drugs were bad.” She said. “I saw marijuana as just another drug and assumed it was bad.
“My parents are old-fashioned and they don’t understand. I could give them hundreds of studies about marijuana and they still wouldn’t change their mind. I wish they were more open-minded about these things.”
Laura feels as though she has nothing to be ashamed of regarding her use of marijuana.
“There’s nothing wrong with it besides that it’s illegal,” she said. “There’s nothing to hide when it comes to my usage.
“I’ve smoked with a whole bunch of people. I don’t know many people that don’t smoke, but men are more open about it for some reason.”
* * *
Statistically, more men use, smoke and get arrested for marijuana usage than women.
In the United States, 11.2 percent of males smoke marijuana while only 6.8 percent of females use the drug, according to the results from the 2012 national survey on drug use and health. Over the past ten years there has been little movement in these numbers.
Marie Lilly, Associate Director for Women’s Resources at Towson University says a much of the reason for the disparity in numbers of men and women who smoke marijuana is the perception of someone who uses the drug.
“The image that society has of a ‘stoner’ is either a black male or a white male that lives in his mother’s basement, doing nothing with his life,” Lilly said. “Women have to work harder in order to be considered a stoner. Typically pills are the drug of choice for women.”
Lisa Flank, the director of guidance at a Baltimore high school, agrees that pills are the drug of choice for women.
“Honestly I have dealt more with girls who are having problems with pills, whether prescription or even diet pills,” Flank said. “Even cocaine is a bigger issue when it comes to girls and substance abuse.
Lilly says that women are given different messages about marijuana.
“Growing up men are told that weed is much less dangerous and used to relax,” Lilly said. “Women are told that drugs will make you lose control and could lead to things such as sexual assault. They are also told that it leads to loose behavior and that leads to being labeled as a ‘whore.’ ”
Flank believes that the media also gives messages about women and marijuana.
“When do you see a stoner woman in a movie? Rarely,” she said. “Women don’t see other women on TV doing it.”
Theweedblog.com, a humorous blog about marijuana usage, lists its top reasons as to why women don’t smoke, including fear of being judged, family reasons and for-profit sexual objectification of women.
While the post is meant to be comical, Fink thinks that these are true reasons as to why women don’t use marijuana as often as men.
“Most people that don’t smoke pot don’t do it because it is illegal or they simply don’t like the effects,” she said. “When it comes to a girl deciding whether or not to smoke, there are a lot more factors that may play into her decision.”
In an article by Hayley Krischer, titled “ Why female potheads still feel ashamed, “ Krischer, a marijuana user, discusses the how men talk openly about their marijuana use while women tend to not discuss it.
“Along with relying on men for it, I also don’t discuss smoking with girlfriends,” she writes. “I wouldn’t meet up with another woman to get high the way I would, say, for a glass of Shiraz.
“There’s probably only been a handful of times in the past 10 years have I gotten high with a group of women to simply relax.”
* * *
Stevenson University student Emily Sheen is a Towson native and has lived in the area her whole life.
Unlike Laura, Emily has a less favorable view of marijuana.
“When I was in high school I tried it a couple of times with a few of my guy friends but that’s it really,” she said. “Honestly, I didn’t like the way it made me feel. I don’t like smoking things in general.
“I also just don’t like the drug scene. I think guys who sit around all day and smoke themselves stupid are very unattractive.”
Emily feels as though the marijuana doesn’t appeal to her.
“When I think of the marijuana scene, I see a bunch of dudes acting like idiots, sitting around passing a joint around,” she said. “I mean, I know a lot of people do it to relax or for medical purposes or whatever but when I think of smoking weed I just think of a bunch of lazy guys sitting around. It just doesn’t appeal to me at all.”
Emily also sees marijuana as a cry for attention.
“I think there is a certain view of girls who smoke like they are just doing it to fit in with the guys or maybe doing it around a guy they like to seem cool,” she said “I know there are girls who do it simply just because they enjoy it but I just think that is the perception a lot of the time.
“I also think that girls feel like smoking weed isn’t really a sexy thing to do at all. When I was younger saw a girl smoking weed with a bunch of guys, I would think she must want attention or to be liked by the guys,” she said.
* * *
Despite the push for legalization of marijuana growing in the United States, marijuana remains a taboo subject for women.
According to statistics released by Arizona and Colorado, the only two states to publish patient gender statistics, legalization isn’t changing the numbers.
In Arizona, 73 percent of legal medicinal marijuana users are male, while 68 percent of users are male in Colorado. In the beginning of the year, Colorado became the first state to not only legalize marijuana, but also to sell and tax it. Washington? How many states is possession legal, or how many medical marijuana?
Lilly, is a strong proponent in the legalization of marijuana. She says that the drug is mostly harmless.
“Marijuana is non-addictive, non-violent and has many medical uses,” she said. “The usage of it crosses all gender and racial borders. It seems like only young black males are punished for marijuana.”
Before coming to Towson, Lilly worked with female drug addicts for six years in Baltimore.
“Many of the addicts would smoke because it was safer and not as addictive,” she said. “It was a way to get high for them without fearing death or other severe consequences.”
Fink believes that legalizing marijuana won’t change the attitudes of women towards the drug.
“I think that maybe some people are swayed by the law,” she said. “For the most part I feel like if you aren’t interested in smoking marijuana now then you probably won’t be even if it is legal.”
Whether the reason is ideals, legality, health, interest, or fear of being judged, fewer women smoke marijuana than men and the statistics aren’t changing even though the laws may be.
* * *
Although she is open to the idea, Emily said legalization won’t change her mind about marijuana.
“I honestly don’t care either way,” she said. “I guess it’d be perfectly okay to legalize it, I still will refuse to smoke it.”
Emily said she feels marijuana usage is on par with cigarettes or alcohol.
“People are going to smoke it regardless,” she said. “I don’t see it as a huge danger to society, so why not legalize it?”
Laura said the time for marijuana legalization is long overdue.
“It makes no sense that people are being punished for something that does more good than harm,” she said. “There is no evidence of people dying because they smoked too much.”
Laura said resources such as taxes should be put to better use.
“More focus should be put on those drugs that are more dangerous, like prescription meds,” she said. “Why am I paying taxes to have someone in jail for smoking a blunt?”
Ultimately, Laura said she sees the potential marijuana has towards helping others.
“I really wish people were more open about marijuana,” she said. “It can do so much good, yet people don’t see that because it’s illegal.”