The Devil’s Lettuce

There is nothing like reading the news first thing in the morning to get me all worked up. I shouldn’t do it. But sometimes I do. And what’s worse is when I read the comments. Oh, God help me, the comments.

This morning I happened to read several successive articles on the legalization of marijuana. Please give me a second to say more before you start pointing an accusatory finger and screeching “Prohibitionist!”…I’m about to surprise you.

If push came to shove, I would vote “Yes” for the legalization of marijuana. Why? Industrial hemp saves trees. (Heaven forbid the plant be used for more than just getting high!) Marijuana does have medical applications. And, most importantly, prohibition leads to more drug dealers and violence. I love a police officer so I like things that could help keep her safe. We could tax legal marijuana like crazy and funnel the money into badly underfunded mental health and addiction treatment programs or protective vests for our law enforcement officers and canine units.

All that being said, I am writing today because I feel like we need to dispel some common myths about marijuana and be educated about it if we are, in fact, going to legalize it. For the record, I don’t want my blog to become a political soapbox. I want it to be a venue for spreading awareness and education

When newspapers hold polls for the public to weigh in on whether or not pot should be legal, supporters often spout off about how marijuana has never killed anyone, it’s not a “real” drug”, it’s the least harmful drug, and you can’t become addicted to it.

WRONG.

“Do your research”, they say, pretentious as absolute fuck, and neglecting to remember that “doing your research” entails looking at more than one side of the picture.

I have to say that I’m surprised marijuana supporters are so rude. They call those opposed “ignorant”, “uneducated”, “stupid”, and “crusty, washed out old people”. I thought the THC inclined were supposed to be peace loving hippies? If you need to throw around insults like a petulant child, then please, by all means, smoke a bowl of your favorite Mary Jane and come back to the conversation when you’ve mellowed the eff out. What happened to “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all?”….or this crazy thing called respecting the elderly? You can disagree without being ageist or mean.

I digress.

Back to the subject at hand i.e. the “other side” of the marijuana picture. The following information is excerpted from the seventh edition of the book Drugs in Perspective by Richard Fields.

“Past month users [of marijuana] number 14.6 million (61.1 percent of U.S. population) (SAMHSA 2004)” (109).

“In the 1960s, the THC content of marijuana was 1 to 2 percent in potency…Today the THC content of marijuana averages 6 percent…hashish is 10 percent…and hash oil is 20 percent…This increase in the potency of marijuana means we are looking at a new drug with new problems” (111).

“Strong psychological dependence does develop in many regular users of marijuana, as evidenced by a need for cannabis use every day to perform certain tasks, to relax and unwind, or to sleep. The individual’s life begins to revolve around the use of marijuana as a primary activity” (111).

“Withdrawal symptoms after steady use may include irritability, decreased appetite, restlessness, sleep disturbances, sweating, nausea, or diarrhea. Hangovers are not uncommon…[and may present as] light-headedness characterized by the inability to gather thoughts…Researchers have well established the fact that chronic marijuana use can cause physical dependence by identifying full blown withdrawal symptoms in the newborn babies of marijuana dependent mothers. Treatment for the addiction to marijuana requires the support of an outpatient treatment counselor knowledgeable about alcohol/drug recovery and marijuana dependence” (111).

“The tars in cannabis smoke are 50 percent greater by weight than tobacco tars and 70 percent higher in cancer-producing substances” (112). (Less dangerous than cigarettes my ass!)

“Research suggests that cannabis, particularly when used regularly, tends to suppress the body’s immune response and ability to combat infections. Marijuana temporarily arrests the maturation of developing T cells, which protects the body from colds and other bacterial infections” (112).

“Chronic use of cannabis…[affects] fertility….Marijuana is suspected to be harmful to the fetuses in pregnant women; research with rhesus monkeys has shown pregnancy problems such as stillbirth and spontaneous abortion. Reduced birth weight is also a characteristic of surviving fetuses” (112).

“Most researchers agree that cannabis use, during the primary developmental years of 11 to 15, in particular, interferes with physical and mental maturation processes and impedes emotional development. Research describes an amotivational syndrome with symptoms of apathy, lethargy, and a general lack of involvement and motivation in growth and developmental activities” (112).

Finally AND alarmingly:

“Cannabis intoxication and chronic marijuana use impair short-term memory, alter the user’s sense of time and space, and impair overall coordination and motor functioning. The ability to track other vehicles is also impaired and is a major problem in driving a car…A study of airplane pilots reported that, after smoking marijuana, performance was impaired up to 2 to 3 days later” (112-113).

As one might have guessed, I’m not really all about criteria here at “Not Otherwise Specified”, but marijuana certainly meets the criteria for addiction with the presence of tolerance (drug seeking behaviors marked by a need for more and more of a certain substance), withdrawal symptoms, and psychological and physical dependence. So we have already dispelled the myth that it is not a “real drug”. Just because it’s from a plant doesn’t mean it can’t be dangerous if used improperly. Some kinds of alcohol are technically made from a plant if one wants to split hairs.

And please, for the love of all that’s good, don’t drive under the influence of marijuana. I am ashamed to say that in the days before I entered recovery, I drove in states of cannabis intoxication. It was always questionable, but one night in particular, I had an argument with my passenger over whether an animal in the road was a skunk or a cat. If you can’t tell the difference between a skunk or a cat, you should not be behind the wheel of a car. We don’t even want to get into what it’s like to drive both drunk and high. I didn’t know where I was and I thought I was where I wasn’t.

I’ve obviously presented a lot of information along with my own anecdotal experience. The purpose, as I stated before, is not to start a political debate. If the current trend toward legalization continues, please just take a moment to remember that marijuana does indeed carry risks that are similar to those of alcohol and other drugs. Be aware and exercise caution and moderation.

As someone in recovery who has a problem with marijuana, the idea of legalization can be terrifying. But that doesn’t stop me from keeping an open mind. I would just hope that marijuana users will respect that there are recovering addicts out in the world and refrain from smoking in public places. We are entitled to feel safe when we breathe shared air.

Every issue has pros and cons. Why not acknowledge both and be good to each other?

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