Once upon a time, I met a girl named Mary Jane. She was fun, smelled nice and had a certain addictive quality about her. At first, I’d see her on the occasional weekend, but this soon turned into every weekend, and then some weeknights, and then every night, and now she even visits me on some fine mornings.
Lay off this chick, some would say; she’s bad for you. And while I still fail to see the point, I will admit I can be prone to the occasional sore throat and delayed response time. But she never really did me any wrong, and I’ve found no reason to drop her. Still, the dissenters pressed on, and I began to wonder just how bad MJ was for me, and for society at large.
MJ has a criminal past and present. She’s played an instrumental role in Mexico’s war on drugs, with the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy stating that 60 percent of Mexican drug cartels’ profits come from cannabis, along with 28,000 deaths in Mexico since 2006. By staying close friends with Mary Jane, I could very well be supporting a terrible cause, fattening the wallets of drug lords and their warring factions. However, legalization could mean an end to the hundreds of millions of dollars the United States spends in dealing with Mary Jane and her shady associates, as well as a major reduction of drug-related violence.
“But she’s one toxic chick,” says a concerned friend. “She’s like a bad mix of 400 different chemicals.” I considered this, and the way she makes my body feel. Well, there is the rapid heartbeat: heart patients could potentially have problems with cannabis, though in general, cannabis relieves stress, dilates the arteries, and lowers diastolic pressure. And while that pot smoke does contain cancer-causing chemicals (as does all smoke), a direct link to lung cancer has not been proven. Additionally, Dr. Donald Tashkin, a leading marijuana researcher on pulmonary functions, believes there is no way anyone can incur emphysema through the use of marijuana, unlike tobacco. Tashkin’s studies have shown that while cannabis smoke can cause pre-cancerous lesions just as tobacco does, these THC-related lesions contain no radioactivity. However, when your throat and lungs become noticeably irritated (i.e. a “bleeding” throat or a hacking cough), I’d say it’s your safest bet to give yourself a break.
She gets you high. Most naysayers to marijuana don’t deny the body of evidence that surrounds using the substance for medicinal purposes, but are more worried about the “high” effect. Short-term memory loss, a distorted sense of time, paranoia and “random” thinking are all psychological effects of weed.
There is enough social and scientific evidence out there to suggest that pot smokers can be perfectly productive members of our community, holding normal jobs and actively participating in everyday societal activities, such as school newspaper writing. UCLA’s Coptic study showed absolutely no brain differences between non-smokers and heavy smokers (and when I say heavy smoker, I mean 16 high potency spliffs a day). Furthermore, a series of studies on ganja-smoking Jamaicans by Marilyn Bowman found “no impairment of physiological, sensory and perceptual-motor performance, tests on concept formation, abstracting ability and cognitive style and tests of memory.”
She’ll lead you down a dark road… or will she? Does weed really lead you on to harder drugs? A recent University of New Hampshire study found that a number of other factors influenced the use of harder drugs more than whether or not users have tried marijuana, and as a 1999 Institute on Medicine Report states, “… it is the legal status of marijuana that makes it a gateway drug”.
Girlfriend is addictive, or perhaps I just need my pot like I need my coffee. The addictive qualities of weed are still debated, but a New York Times article on nicotine addiction analyzed the addictiveness of six drugs from the research of three prominent researchers in separate studies; all placed marijuana on the bottom of the list, right next to or underneath caffeine (heroin, and according to one doctor, nicotine, wins the first spot, followed by alcohol and cocaine, if any of you were wondering).
While I’m visibly pro-pot, I admit marijuana has its potential risks that vary greatly by individual, and that there’s still plenty to be researched and confirmed. The truth is, there’s been a lot of misinformation going around about our friend Mary Jane. I’ve provided just a smidgen of some common misconceptions about our green lady, and invite you to question the other half-truths your childhood D.A.R.E. officer and all of his friends may have told you. Enlighten yourselves, and may the green be with you.