The first time I ever encountered weed was when I came to Yale. I was pregaming in an Old Campus suite when I detected an odd smell coming from a strange-looking water pipe. “What hookah flavor is that?” I asked. One of the smokers chuckled.
“Hookah?” he said. “This is not hookah. It’s weed!”
His answer struck me as a complete surprise. I expected weed to be in the form of a joint, rolled up and small like the ones in the movies, but never in the form of something as sophisticated as a water pipe — a vaporizer, as someone would later correct me.
My host proceeded to explain the benefits of using vaporizers compared to smoking joints, even pulling a joint from his room to show me how to assemble it. But back in my bed, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed.
The ubiquity of marijuana on campus still makes me uncomfortable. More importantly, it disappoints me. Widespread and uncritical acceptance of weed overshadows the reality of how much violence the drug trade causes on the other side of the border.
For the past several years, Mexico has experienced unprecedented levels of violence stemming from the drug trade. I know this from the newspaper articles that I read back home, describing mass murders, mutilated bodies and the constant threat of drug cartels. I know this from personal stories of relatives being kidnapped and of family friends being murdered. I know this from the fear that my family experiences every day as the cartels’ attacks become increasingly random and gruesome.
The numbers don’t lie. According to Mexico’s Secretariat of Public Security, over 50,000 people have been killed because of drug-related violence over the past six years — that’s more than the casualties of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. Ciudad Juarez, known worldwide as a symbol of the harrowing consequences of the drug trade, is one of the least safe cities in the world.
To many Americans, these facts are just statistics. But the painful realities of the drug war have become embedded in the Mexican consciousness: We must carry them everywhere we go.
With stakes this high, no one can afford to be ignorant. Unfortunately, many Yalies still are.
And that’s why Yale students need to consider one last fact before taking their next puff. According to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, U.S. consumers account for the majority of marijuana exports from Mexico. Their actions, regardless of intent, fuel the violence that has empowered drug cartels, ravaged my country and harmed its national spirit.
For a school that prides itself on its commitment to global volunteerism, the fact that so many students consume and condone a substance that’s violently destroying a nation shocks me. At first, I tried to tolerate weed, to pretend that it didn’t make me feel uncomfortable. But I can’t anymore.
I’m not ashamed of walking out of parties where people are smoking. When they ask why I don’t smoke, I tell them about Mexico’s dire situation.
I’m not going to lie: Smoking has been very tempting. Weed is everywhere. But thinking of the violence that I experience back home is enough to make me say “No.”
We need to briefly consider the great damage that consuming weed perpetrates. I know that being sympathetic is difficult. Most students have never been to Mexico (and will probably not go anytime soon after reading this). Yet Mexico is not “the rest of the world,” as the history department categorizes it. Its problems affect all of us.
If we are willing to put the time and effort to build health clinics in Peru and to feed hungry children in Africa, I hope we can be sensitive enough to care for the people living next to the country we live in now. If we truly are caring citizens of the world, as Yale prepares us to be, we should have no problem putting down a joint and knowing that we’ll help to end the violence by doing so.
Murat Dagli is a junior in Pierson College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.