Marijuana isn’t the danger so many people think it is. Even though it’s illegal, most of that is due to tradition – a tradition primarily rooted in fear, misunderstanding, and misinformation.
When reading a study, use your brain!
The Gateway Drug Theory is barely more than an unlikely possibility. Studies that prove marijuana influences substance abuse should be carefully scrutinized, as there are “hidden” factors that must be considered.
- Since the intense crackdown on pot in the late 1990s, pot prices have risen, making harder drugs like cocaine a lot more affordable.
- Most studies are based on young people in their teens and early 20s – arguably the most risk-taking demographic that exists. This makes it very difficult to determine if marijuana users who use harder drugs were actually affected by the use of marijuana. I’d like to see a study of people in their thirties and older who use marijuana.
- Some people even claim to have used marijuana to get off harder drugs, as the medicinal effects can help fight withdrawals.
- Most proponents of legalization state that it should have an age limit, and be regulated and taxed. This effectively nullifies any study that claims a link exists between adolescents and substance abuse, as that demographic still wouldn’t be allowed to have marijuana legally.
- The mere fact that marijuana is 100% illegal introduces variables — some people would try it if it weren’t for all the anti-pot propaganda, and those people are obviously not considered in any gateway studies; some users end up having much easier access to other illegal drugs because of the measures they have to take to get marijuana, and easy access to hard drugs is a known factor to increase substance abuse; a wise dealer would know that pot won’t hook a client, and offer his marijuana customers a small amount of something that will.
The common claim about brain damage is based on a study that essentially suffocated monkeys with marijuana smoke.
- The monkeys were given the equivalent of 20-60 strong joints (depending on what you read) daily. This is a huge amount of pot. People just don’t consume this kind of quantity.
- More interestingly, the study forced monkeys to inhale marijuana smoke and virtually nothing else for five minutes straight!
- This happened exactly once a day for the monkeys.
- By cleverly writing out the conclusion, it sounds pretty awful: monkeys exposed to X joints a day are significantly more brain-damaged than those not exposed. Clearly the monkeys would have reacted differently had the smoke been given to them over a ten-hour period!
- Let’s look at this from another perspective. I want to prove that drinking too much water is dangerous.
- I get a bunch of healthy adults and split them into two groups: one gets the recommended amount of 8 cups (64 fluid ounces, or about 2 liters) daily. The other gets just a little bit more.
- To make sure I can prove my point, I give the first group one cup (~235ml) every hour for eight hours. I give the second group 2.5 liters to drink first thing in the morning. They are required to drink it all within an hour, and have nothing else the rest of the day.
- This regiment happens for 6 weeks.
- When I publish my study, which group do you suppose will fare the best in terms of overall health?
Moral: always critically analyze the facts – find out how the research was done before believing any study.
Other facts of interest
- Marijuana, at a typical dose, has a calming effect in most users. Some get anxious or paranoid (though this more often happens in an overdose), but you never hear about marijuana causing rage or violence, because that’s just not how it works.
- Marijuana has very few side-effects that pose a risk to the user. Chronic smokers probably have lung problems, though not nearly as bad as chronic tobacco smokers, simply because you can’t smoke that much pot. Smoking 20 cigarettes in a day isn’t all that uncommon. For marijuana users, 20 joints of equal size in one day would be ridiculous. Smoking five joints of good marijuana is plenty (and even too much) from what I’ve heard (asking people I know as well as reading when we were researching the good and bad of marijuana for Alex).
- Along those lines, there are claims that smoking weed is far worse on the lungs than smoking tobacco. The worst claim I’ve seen “proves” that marijuana users smoking three joints a day are causing the same damage as 20 cigarettes. Even if that were true: marijuana isn’t nearly as addictive as nicotine, and a single joint in a day is plenty for a good number of recreational users.
- Marijuana doesn’t just get people high. People in chronic pain actually hit a point of simply feeling relief while still being able to function, which a lot of people don’t realize — and the same seems to be true of people like Alex in a state on constant anxiety or agitation.
- Marijuana is addictive, but far less so than alcohol or tobacco. The side-effects are so mild that even opponents admit it’s not much of a concern: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/all-about-addiction/201001/is-marijuana-addictive-you-can-bet-your-heroin (read the article, then the comments where the author states he never claimed it was highly addictive, just that it can be addictive by the clinical definition)
- Marinol is definitely not a good substitute. It’s missing the many cannabinoids that marijuana has, as it’s just pure THC. It’s only available in pill form, which is worthless to people like Alex – if it doesn’t taste good, he won’t eat it. This also makes it terrible for treating nausea associated with various ailments, as the patient can’t keep it down. Smoking or vaporizing marijuana is also much faster than ingesting Marinol, so people in intense pain can feel relief in minutes rather than an hour or two.
- Some people report crimes related to marijuana. Read those reports carefully – it’s often the case that the value of the pot is to blame, not the pot itself. When an ounce of a substance can fetch anywhere from $40 to $500 on the black market, it’s going to tempt people who are already willing to commit crimes for money. Imagine trying to outlaw diamond rings based on the fact that people steal and even kill over diamonds.
- There are a lot of different kinds of marijuana. One woman reports that her autistic child did well only with a particular strain. It isn’t “just pot”. The more Indica in a strain, the more you get the sleepy effect. Sativa, on the other hand, is good for keeping your mind active while under the influence. For a child like Alex, a careful mix of the two is probably necessary.