Oh gosh, what a subject. This drug has caused a huge debate in the United States and around the world. For many it is easy to pick a side on this subject; and be all for, or all against the legalization of marijuana. As a person who does not care for the drug or use it, it is easy for me to say that it should NOT be legal. I originally thought of writing this blog post to try and convince others to feel the same way. The more people I spoke to about this topic and the more articles I have read… the more I am realizing that this is no black and white matter. (Nothing ever is, right.)
It was obvious that the friends I spoke to, that use the drug daily or even weekly were going to be all for legalization, I mean why wouldn’t they be. I was more intrigued by the conversations I have had with people like me, who do not use the drug. But they are not opposed to it, unlike me. How could they feel this way? I mean this is a DRUG that they have not succumbed too, but do not see the harm in others doing so? This obviously baffled me. Through conversations with non-avid users, I realized my view of pot smokers was based solely on a stereotype.
The stereotype that I was basing my opinion around was of those non-cancer patient users who smoke pot every single day, even though they “aren’t addicted” of course, and use it as a catalyst to deal with minor anxiety and pain that will never truly be corrected because dependence on this drug will only mask the problem not fix it. There are other ways to cope with pain and anxiety that will not make you dependent on a substance or turn you into a slow moving slug on a couch. I have also found that the stereotypical pot smoker will not live up to their full potential because they are lazier than others their age. They have a clouded vision of the world because they think they see things through some philosophical epiphany that really has no connection to deductive logic and the realities of the world, and the violence that comes with it.
I have quickly realized that this stereotype very much so exists, but is not EVERY pot smoker out there. I then reflected on the fact that my main reason for being opposed to the drug is out of fear… fear that society will succumb to the comfort of getting high and turn into the stereotype… what hope could my future children have of a successful clear-thinking life in a society like that?
This fear of mine was silly. It is an understandable fear to have, because I have seen pot ruin some people’s lives; but the idea of all of society turning into a stereotype is the farthest thing from reality. Especially in America. Americans have way too much gumption and competitive nature to conform. I mean, we ARE a country built on rebellion after all.
Another reason I am opposed to legalization is through the fear, that it will lead to an accepted high that becomes too comfortable for most users and leads to an increase of use in harder more dangerous drugs. Twenty years from now the younger generation won’t be looking to begin drug curiosity with marijuana; they will be looking to start with Molly, Shrooms, or Coke instead. Much more addictive and dangerous drugs will become the new “gateway drugs”.
So let’s recap… Fear is pushing my opposition to legalization. Fear of a certain stereotype taking over the world, and fear of more dangerous “gateway drugs”. I was voicing this to a friend of mine and he said something that really stuck with me. He told me, at what point is my fear allowed to get in the way of people’s rights? Touché’ my friend. I reflected on this and realized my fears are not concerning the general safety of a large group of people… therefor, these fears should not get in the way of people’s rights.
Marijuana is a drug that is classified by Wikipedia as… “Cannabis, also known as marijuana,and by numerous other names,is a preparation of the cannabis plant intended for use as a psychoactive drug and as medicine.Pharmacologically, the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC); it is one of 483 known compounds in the plant, including at least 84 other cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol (CBD), cannabinol (CBN), tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), and cannabigerol (CBG).”
Marijuana and health have been grouped together because of the Cannabinoids that make up the drug. Cannabinoids are “active chemicals in Cannabis that cause drug-like effects throughout the body, including the central nervous system and the immune system. They are also known as phytocannabinoids. The main active cannabinoid in Cannabis is delta-9-THC. Another active cannabinoid is cannabidiol, which may relieve pain and lower inflammation without causing the “high” of delta-9-THC.” (source: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/cam/cannabis/patient/page2)
So, THC causes the high, and cannabidiol is what is known to help medically. Well then, theoretically those who smoke pot medically shouldn’t need to smoke strains that make them high. They would need plants with higher cannabidiol levels rather than more THC levels. This is a bit of a pet peeve of mine. There are those who want pot to be legalized purely for medicinal use, and would be happy with being able to buy it and ingest it without receiving a high as long as it helped with their symptoms. And then there are those who strongly voice that pot should be legalized because of medicinal purposes, but who constantly use it to get high and not to help with symptoms. Let’s stop hiding behind the sob story. If you want pot to be legalized for recreational use, say it. Do not say that it is useful medically; because the same pot you want to smoke is not necessarily the same kind as the 12 year old cancer patient.
Many people are actually doing this exact thing. They are beginning to be more open about the fact that recreational use should be legal. The media right now is all over glorifying the use of marijuana. Acceptance of the drug habit has been touched upon on talk shows such as “The View”, and multiple late night shows. In fact, try to name a comedic movie that does not make getting high the “cool” thing to do. It is becoming more and more of a “not a big deal” kind of habit. It is hard not to relate this portrayal of the drug to the way cigarettes were portrayed back in the day. So, is this a bad thing? I don’t really know.
I know that I personally, am not fond of the fact that my 13 year old cousin is going to be not only peer pressured, but also persuaded by the media that it’s safe and ok to start smoking pot. That it is no big deal if it becomes a habit in her young life. The media has had a hand in glorifying cigarettes, alcohol, and now marijuana. Yay. Bring on the PSA’s.
Now lets move on to the whole driving while high issue. This was one of my most used combatants against the legalization of marijuana. When it comes to alcohol you cannot drive if you are over a BAC level of .08. It is also easy to quickly measure a person’s BAC with a breathalyzer test right on the side of the road. How do you regulate a level of pot in your system? And how do you measure it quickly on the side of the road? Well, you don’t. The way to test for marijuana in the system is through a urine sample or blood test. When it comes to driving; many scientist disagree with those people who say they drive better when they are high. Even if you are more “focused” driving while high still decreases reaction time.
“Still, it is clear that marijuana use causes deficits that affect driving ability, Dr. Huestis said. She noted that several researchers, working independently of one another, have come up with the same estimate: a twofold increase in the risk of an accident if there is any measurable amount of THC in the bloodstream.” (nytimes.com)
Right now a THC limit has been set to 5 nanograms per milliliter. Although, ” studies indicated that a better limit would be just one nanogram per milliliter, she said. But because THC builds up in fatty tissue and is released slowly over time, such a limit would ensnare frequent users who may not actually be high. Indeed, if you smoke often enough, your blood-THC content might still be five nanograms per milliliter a day after you last lit up.” (nytimes.com)
If pot is legalized law enforcement really does not have much of a way to test and then prove that a person was driving high. It will be much harder to punish those who decide to drive… how do you prove they were not over the THC limit while they were actually driving? Right now, as far as I know, we can’t. This bothers me. But I guess if I really think about it… It would be less risky passing someone driving 20 mph while high, than someone driving 90 mph while drunk. Actually, what would make me feel much better is being able to drive and not worry about either. But lets be real here.
If pot is legalized in the United States money will probably be spent toward preventative techniques rather than ways to prove and persecute those who drive stoned.
Now, finally, there are two main points brought up in every marijuana debate. Is it addictive? and are there health risks? it is naïve to say that marijuana is not addictive and that there are no health risks. There are possible withdrawal symptoms and yes there are health risks to smoking pot. The effects of marijuana are significantly less than effects from alcohol, tobacco, and opiate abuse; but pot is no health food either. The risks are small, but they are still there.
Withdrawal symptoms from marijuana are: “Irritability.Trouble sleeping. Restlessness. Hot flashes. Nausea and cramping (rarely occur).These symptoms are mild compared to withdrawal from opiates and usually lessen after a few days.” (source: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/cam/cannabis/patient/page2)
Side Effects, or Risks include: “Slowed digestion and movement of food by the stomach and intestines. Dizziness. Depression. Hallucinations. Paranoia. Because use of Cannabis over a long time may have harmful effects on the endocrine and reproductive systems, rates of testicular germ cell tumors (TGCTs) in Cannabis users have been studied. Larger studies that follow patients over time and laboratory studies of cannabinoid receptors in TGCTs are needed to find if there is a link between Cannabis use and a higher risk of TGCTs.” (source: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/cam/cannabis/patient/page2)
Nothing is ever completely safe, but if you are going to abuse a substance; I have to admit that marijuana seems to be the least lethal route.
My small bit of research into this subject and reaching out to people with differing opinions has SPARKED more of an open-mind within me. I have learned that my fears surrounding the legalization of the drug are due to my unfamiliarity of it and the facts about it. My own fear and discomfort do not trump the rights of those around me. I will not be in more danger if pot is legalized. Future generations will have a harder time resisting being pulled into the drug world… but hopefully the more knowledge and choices they receive, the stronger they will be against temptation. I would not run to the polls to vote “no” to legalization; but I would not vote “yes” either. I would forgo voting and let the rest of the country decide, because I am now accepting of either outcome.