(Courtney Reanier, 1776 Scholar) Isn’t it sad to think that we are more concerned with how many plants we are legally entitled to grow than how this drug is devastating the growth and potential of my generation and generations to come. We are growing plants yet stunting growth—and I’m sick of it.

Hiya. My name is Courtney Reanier, and I am a 19-year-old college student who is absolutely heartbroken at how marijuana is consuming the identity of our culture and the identities of countless kids with boundless futures. Well, at least, these kids used to have boundless futures. That was until the tobacco 2.0 industry came in and insisted on commercially capitalizing on emotionally unstable, undeveloped, hurting and increasingly broken young kids. Do we not understand that by down-playing the catastrophic consequences of marijuana and broadcasting to the world how “great” it is, that we are ultimately hurting the potential of our society to create a better tomorrow? We no longer seem interested in producing a generation of leaders but are rather focused on making a profit by saturating culture in a clearly distorted lie.

I am not saying that marijuana dealers are bad people. I am saying that they are great people stuck in a bad lie. And, the biggest lie that I refuse to accept is the idea that it’s okay to persuade teens to think they could finally be happy by choosing to “relax and take a hit.” I also reject the claim that, “If you are unhappy, who cares? Smoke a joint, and all your problems will eventually go away.”

Initially, it may seem like marijuana helps solves people’s problems. But, I have seen countless broken teenagers who struggle with anxiety, depression, and incredibly low self-esteem come to find their worth in something as worthless as pot. Often, the higher kids are getting, the lower their self-esteem becomes. And yes, smoking may actually help you forget about your burdens for a little while. But, it also causes you to forget what really matters. And that is you, what God thinks of you, and what you’re really capable of—all of which are far more significant than getting high.

Some people might scoff under their breath, thinking, “How would you know?” Well, I have seen the way that this drug has extinguished the fire of potential I saw in my twin sister. Marijuana has devastated my best friends, my high school classmates, my community, and even me. I have seen firsthand how marijuana shifts students’ focus from a life of fulfillment toward a life of distractions away from what really matters. Marijuana replaces true happiness and the struggle to find it with short-lived, empty feelings. It doesn’t matter if any big-name industry, dispensary, or pot user actually openly says this—Colorado is clearly cultivating a culture that preaches the message of artificial happiness.

And guess what: I am not happy. In fact, I’m sick of it. I am sick of being told that this is what young people want and even crave. As a 19-year-old girl, I am craving cultural redemption and a redefined identity for Colorado. I want my sister back, I want my friends back, I want my classmates back, and, more importantly, I want my society back.

So, I guess I’ll be a little blunt for a second (yeah, I know, terrible pun). I guess the reason why I am writing and why I care about marijuana commercialization is that I refuse to give up on a generation of leaders that can and will change the world. I refuse to stand by and let something that is far from true define the identity of our kids’ futures. You may disagree with these ideas and tell me I’m wrong—go ahead. But silence is no longer an option.

I want Colorado to start growing again.