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Is Weed So Bad? Well ...

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Dear Joe,
I’m in my first year at University and I have noticed that a lot of people smoke marijuana—like a lot. I was always told that it was like the end of your life if you did it. There are people that are always high and still get good grades and stuff. I hear that it’s not as bad as alcohol. Why do our parents and the government tell us it’s so bad if it really isn’t? There’s medical marijuana and successful people that do it. So what’s the deal? Why do they tell us it’s so bad?—Wendy 


Well Wendy,
First of all, I know this line of questioning. It’s a bit of a baiting and it often used by people to prove a point, that weed isn’t bad. Yes, I am just going to call it weed. Saying marijuana or cannabis doesn’t make it more legitimate. I will still give you an honest answer to your questions and do my best to hope that it is a real concern of yours and not just a joke.


I remember my first year at a university. I actually went to a school that is considered a “drug” school, so I saw many people using and abusing drugs. It gave me firsthand experience to reinforce my organized learning. It’s a big subject and I’ll try to give it as much time and respect as it deserves.


You say that you are taught that smoking weed is the end of your life. Smoking, in and of itself, is not the end of anyone’s life. The problems people have do not arise from the substance, but in their poor decisions and actions. Place some weed on a table, leave it there for a week and when you come back nothing bad will happen. Weed is not the problem it is the person. I have seen those ridiculous D.A.R.E. presentations that are given at schools. They do more to get kids doing drugs than stop them. They tell you that weed is the end of your life and you will be in jail or selling your body if you see it or touch it.


However, probably close to half of the kids sitting there are thinking that their parents or older siblings smoke weed and aren’t doing donkey shows for crack now. I have even seen kids in eigth grade who challenge the information directly, because they have experience with weed first hand as smokers. The Nancy Regan “just say no” campaign of drug prevention started this trend.   


Here is a personal story: Growing up there was a kid that did very well. He was the class president in my junior high and high school. He went to a very good college and was successful there as well. He smoked weed all the time. It wasn’t the end of his life. No, the end of his life was from a driving accident while driving under the influence. It wasn’t the weed that killed him and it did not prevent him from being successful, but he made poor decisions in the end.


Many of the people I knew, first tried smoking because they saw him do it and he was successful and popular. He stood in stark contrast to the end of your life lie, but he also proves that you must make your timeline much longer than shortsighted future of a teenager’s perspective. Weed will not end your life, but it won’t do anything great for you either. You will get high. That’s all.


Now for the people they talk about in the D.A.R.E speeches, the addictive personality, there is a big underlying problem. About 10 percent of people have addictive personalities. This is a rough estimate, because it is hard to find reliable data on addiction. One way of knowing if you are at risk is to look at your family history. Addictive personalities on your family usually mean you are more likely to have one yourself. When an addictive personality smokes weed it is very different from a normal person.


The addictive person will fall into a pattern of psychological reinforcement and habitual actions. For a normal person the diminishing returns of weed (yes it becomes less effective over time) lead to boredom and sparse usage. The addictive individual will find the diminishing returns as a loss to, and need more to, find that initial high. This is usually also tied to an underlying psychological issue that the substance becomes an escape or distraction from the issue they don’t want to deal with. Yet, it is not weed that causes this, any substance, action, or dysfunction can take this role. Weed is the second most accessible thing to fill role, alcohol being the first. So no, it won’t end your life, but neither will eating dirt if you only eat a little every once in a while.


You also talked about people that still do well in school when they are high. This is a weird phenomenon where people that learn are better at taking tests and other assessments when they are in the same state as when they learned it. Study high and you’ll do better when you take a test on the material high. The only glitch is that you will remember less and do worse than if you study sober and take the test sober. A person that gets 100 percent sober can pull off 95 percent high. Two percent isn’t much, but it is the difference between perfect (A) and not quite (A-). It is still better than study high and taking the test sober or vise versa—doesn’t really make weed better or worse. The same holds true for things like caffeine and cigarettes. It’s not really a quality of weed as much as a quality of the human mind.


As for the not as bad as alcohol … That is a matter of opinion. “As bad as” is not a scientific way of looking at it. It is also not as bad as shooting yourself in the face with a forty-five, but worse than looking at the stars. Everything holds a risk and a set of potential outcomes. Alcohol messes with different parts of the body than weed. An example would be the engine in your car and comparing the effect of water in the gas tank versus a set of bad tires on the car. They effect different parts and have some similarities, but you can’t determine the effect of one by comparing it to the other.


Alcohol and weed both have adverse effects. Plain and simple, neither is good for you. That also goes for medical marijuana. Just because it is used medically does not make it harmless. You shouldn’t take morphine because it is used medically or abuse any other medicine. Medical benefit does not mean harmless. It just means medically useful. Go ask somebody on chemotherapy if they would like to use it all the time for fun.


Why do they say it is so bad? That’s a big question and unfortunately it is a matter of misinformation. They just don’t want you to use weed. Adults can be dicks in that way. They should be more honest with you. Unfortunately the anti-marijuana campaign goes back a long way to some racist laws from 1937 that became laws passed by the Nixon administration and later became ultra paranoid Regan propaganda. Along the line nobody ever revised the ideas to better reflect the reality of weed. No weed won’t do all those bad things they have told you, but you should find something better to do with your time and if you have an addictive personality find something less destructive than substances you will abuse to manage your addictive traits.


Your parents have smoked, your friends have smoked, and you might have smoked. Be responsible and adult about it though, life is not a party. It’s a big deal and there are no do-overs. Part of that means that every minute wasted on getting high are lost. Smoke weed or don’t, but you feel like you need to use it all of the time you need to take a long hard look at your life and consider why you need to detach yourself from reality so often. For more information, I recommend frank.com, but like most things, it has a slant. Get informed on both sides and by people with experience. Find somebody you truly respect and ask them. Ask a successful person who smokes about their experience. You will most often find people that smoked in their youth and got bored with it. It quickly loses its coolness and become uninteresting for most people. It’s part of the maturing process. I hope this has all helped a little and that it encourages you to find out more on your own.

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