Recreational marijuana and medical marijuana legalization has recently come up in ballots and debates throughout the United States. These debates often end up in one side or the other stating that someone is being ignorant, has their facts wrong, or isn’t being scientific.
There have been a number of studies into the safety (or lack thereof) of marijuana use, as well as the recreational use and medical use of this drug. Here are a number of facts which stem from scientific studies and government surveys regarding marijuana and its use.
How Marijuana Affects the Brain & Body
Marijuana (cannabis) has two actions. One is as a stimulant and the other is as a depressant. This is because it affects the two cannabinoid (CB) receptors within the brain and body. The CB receptors are naturally occurring in the human body and interact with naturally occurring chemicals mimicked by cannabis.
CB1 receptors are located in the brain and interact with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the psychoactive chemical found in cannabis) to create a sense of well-being (euphoria, a high). CB2 receptors are positioned throughout the nervous system. When interacting with these receptors, marijuana has a calming and numbing effect.
This interaction between the elements of marijuana and CB receptors causes a number of changes within the brain and body. Below is a breakdown of some of the responses caused by THC’s interaction with cannabinoid receptors:
- Mood changes (elevated, euphoric moods or fear-based, paranoid moods)
- Increased anxiety levels
- Hunger and increased appetite
- Short term memory loss
- Abbreviated or lost memories from the time period during which one was high
- Cognitive impairment; dulled thinking; disordered and illogical thinking
- Distorted sense of time
- Slowed reaction time
- Addictive characteristics
A number of studies have examined the ways marijuana affects the brain and influences potentially addictive traits in users. One such study recently completed by Harvard University researchers found that casual marijuana use opens up new pathways to the “reward center” of the brain and affects the brain’s physical structure. This is similar to the way in which drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine create addictive behavior. While more tests are being done, early conclusions seem to confirm marijuana as the “gateway drug” many of us have known it to be for a long time.
Studies have shown that THC remains in the fatty tissues of the body. What this essentially means is that continued use of cannabis produces a perpetually stoned and stupid person. Have you ever met a “stoner”? That’s a person who appears stoned all the time whether they’re currently high or not. A primary reason for this is that drug residuals remain in their system and can only be removed by an exact detoxification process.
THC can cause a wide variety of effects in the user – effects which can vary from one use to the next. Resultant phenomena will fluctuate depending on quantity of THC consumed, hormonal levels, the user’s physical condition and other factors. Mixing other drugs – prescription or otherwise – and alcohol with marijuana also plays a huge role and can be quite dangerous.
Government statistics show that marijuana is one of the most commonly used drugs in the United States. According to a 2013 survey, about 44% of Americans aged 12 or older have used marijuana at some point in their lifetime. 12.6% of Americans aged 12 or older tried pot in 2013 alone. That’s about 40 million people.
Marijuana itself has about a 9% addiction rate. Out of those who get addicted, 1 in 6 started in their teens and 25-50% are daily users.
Smoking weed can cause a number of lung troubles including chronic cough, bronchial infections, frequent chest illness, and has been linked to lung cancer. The problems commonly encountered by frequent smokers are similar to those experienced by cigarette smokers.
Now hitting the news is marijuana causing increased heart rate and the consequences. Three recent deaths in Colorado have been linked to marijuana use. In one instance, the heart failure was due to marijuana exacerbating an existing heart condition.
High doses of marijuana can produce a temporary psychotic reaction, hallucinations and paranoia. Marijuana use can also make schizophrenic symptoms more prevalent in individuals susceptible to the condition. Cannabis use is also associated with depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts – mainly in adolescents.
Those are just a few of the many issues indicating that marijuana is not the harmless drug propagandized by vested interests.
Recreational Marijuana Legalization
Recently recreational marijuana was legalized in Oregon, Alaska, and Washington, D.C. – joining Colorado and Washington as the only U.S. states to have legalized possession and ingestion of pot for recreational use. Legalization is risky for a few reasons. According to the White House, the public health consequences of legalization could be severe. Some statistics cited by the federal government:
- Marijuana is the second leading substance for which people receive drug treatment.
- Marijuana potency has almost tripled over the last 20 years.
- Legality of the drug increases availability and acceptability of drugs. This is likely to lead to increased use – as with tobacco and alcohol.
- Alcohol and tobacco are legal, but their societal cost is estimated to be more than 15 times the revenue gained by taxing them. This is predicted to occur with marijuana as well.
- Tellingly, marijuana is still an illicit substance on a federal level. All marijuana transactions in the U.S. – medical or otherwise – are a federal crime. Here’s a brief outline on the federal regulations regarding cannabis:
- Possession is a misdemeanor the first two times one is charged. Any subsequent offense can be labeled a misdemeanor or a felony at the discretion of the court. Jail time is required for the second and any subsequent offenses.
- Sale of marijuana or drug paraphernalia is a felony.
- Cultivation of marijuana is a felony.
- Organizing the importation, manufacture or distribution of a controlled substance can incur a sentence on a federal level.
The states that have legalized recreational marijuana have done so without federal approval. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) still has a duty to stop possession, cultivation and sale of marijuana by individuals or organizations. Technically, anyone who decides to use or sell pot recreationally is still violating the law – even if they are in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, or Washington D.C.
Dangers to Children
With increased access to marijuana, there is a higher likelihood young people will try the drug. In Colorado there has already been a debacle with marijuana “edibles” – drug-laced candy and chocolates which come in attractive packaging and look the same as regular candy.
Colorado doctors, emergency room personnel, and poison control have all noted a higher number of unintentional pediatric exposure to marijuana. This most commonly comes from a young child getting into the parent’s stash of treats – believing them to be no more harmful than your average brownie. Unfortunately, the THC exposure in some of these cases can be extremely severe. Symptoms can include sleepiness, dizziness, nausea, hallucinations, and breathing problems. Some children exposed had to be put into intensive care units in local hospitals with their condition constantly monitored.
School officials in Colorado have also noted an increase in marijuana use. Edibles are virtually undetectable, so teens can literally get high while attending class. This harms the educational system as well as the young people who can potentially use marijuana in virtually any environment.
When a pregnant woman uses cannabis, the results can include brain damage and birth defects in the newborn. Her child may suffer from memory problems, difficulty focusing, behavioral issues and poor problem-solving skills.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the unforeseen consequences and dangers of marijuana legalization far outweigh any perceived benefits, as observed by federal agencies and even the state governments that have legalized the drug.
Big Money in the Cannabis Business
There is factually a bigger picture here and it involves a lot of money.
The pot legalization campaign is funded by millions and millions of dollars and if it achieves its aims we’ll see “Big Cannabis” just like “Big Tobacco” and “Big Pharma”. We’re talking pot cookies, pot lollipops and pot soda in convenience stores. It appears there will be ample opportunity for kids to load up on pot products just like they drink booze. I’ve heard the ridiculous claim that you’ll have to be 21 or older to buy this stuff which makes it “inaccessible” to children and teens. Last I checked kids had no problem obtaining cigarettes and liquor. Then there’s the secondary smoke concern. Some argue that “public intoxication” is illegal so you need not worry about someone lighting up a joint next your kid. But last I checked, public intoxication in its many forms was commonplace.
Then there’s the comparison to Prohibition in America from 1920-1933. While I am not “pro booze” – far from it – the alcohol comparison is not accurate. Alcohol was already a social drug for centuries and Prohibition was a failed experiment. Marijuana came in from Latin America in the early 20th century.
There’s already tons of drug influence in society and I personally do not want a strong commercialized pot presence. Next it’s needle parks and state sanctioned meth shots. The cannabis now is heavy on the THC plus they have the synthetic variety which is evidently even worse. Synthetic cannabinoid pills are in the pipeline to add to the Big Pharma mix. It’s just more drugging and disabling our kids. The proliferation of drugs for profit is what we are facing here. While I don’t think people should go to prison for possession, I do not want cannabis at the local market or gas station next to the elementary school.
Then there’s driving while intoxicated. The police do not have a roadside test for marijuana use by a driver. I talked to a group of driving instructors from Washington and they were very confused about what to do about it. Kids and adults can drive completely stoned on high-grade weed and no one would know until an accident or tragedy occurs.
The top three drug classes used by teenagers are alcohol, marijuana and prescription pills – all legal or in some cases quasi-legal. One major factor is “perception of risk”. Legality lowers perception of risk considerably.
Drug education is by far the ultimate answer to this dilemma. But why fill the pockets of greedy corporations cashing in on the drug craze? Why load up the coffers of the biggest drug cartel in the world – the multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical empire?
It is true that there are components to this issue. Some of the laws in the U.S. regarding non-violent drug offenders are extremely unjust laws. A judicial system that throws an opiate addict in jail to rot for 20 years needs serious reform.
Evidence indicates the drug legalization issue is not a “grass roots” (pun intended) movement. It is carefully orchestrated just like the marketing of brain “diseases” and their psychotropic drug “treatments”. The big budget pot push is a piece of a multi-pronged biochemical marketing campaign whose goal appears to be a generation of dulled, drugged and addicted youth.
To make matters worse, this campaign has co-opted people’s natural desire for a free society. Unscrupulous individuals and groups have a habit of using the language of freedom to forward their own ends. Rolling Stone magazine, to cite one example – a publication which is supposed to be about music and creativity – pushes pot like it was a God-given mission and also features two and three-page advertisements for antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs. There’s big money in it, plain and simple.