I have been a part of and observed a handful of conversations about marijuana, and in each of them, there has been a bit of fibbing on each side of the debate over legalization.
The anti-legalization skeptic will imply that legalization will lead to unfettered access of marijuana to children and the legalization proponent will imply that there is absolutely no downside to smoking pot. While I find the former position—and a number of other silly suggestions from the anti-legalization folks—unfounded and ridiculous, I find the latter to be understandably disingenuous. If pro-legalization folks admit any faults, particularly during an ongoing campaign, the anti-legalization folks will likely take those words out of context, repackage them, and use them as ammunition somewhere down the line. In this way, the realities of campaign scumbaggery often stand in the way of speaking openly and honestly about the issues at hand.
Before I proceed, let me state unequivocally that I am a proponent of legalization. I think that problems posed by marijuana use are far, far less severe than the problems posed by prohibition. Further, the problems posed by marijuana use are not curbed by criminalization, they are compounded. Also, there are some acknowledged benefits of marijuana use in particular contexts. It is also important to note that I have smoked a lot of pot in the past, and while I do not use it with regularity at present, doing so is not out of the question.
With all of that all of the way, let’s be real for a second and acknowledge that habitual use of marijuana can turn some people into total bummers. I have known those bummers and I have been that bummer. It has been known to make my brain slow, my personality dull, and my motivation stunted. I have been known to get a bag that I promise I will smoke here and there, but I am a “to the bottom” type of guy and so I have found myself smoking until its gone. As I do not engage when our daughter is home, my intake has remained relatively low over the past handful of years, but I have been known to ingest great qualities in the past. Since largely laying off, I have noticed it easier to maintain a satisfactory bodyweight, a clearer head-space, and an overall sense of forward momentum.
We should not look exclusively to anecdotal evidence, though. This piece in the Times (which was brought to my attention by Ethan Strimling) indicates some of the acknowledged harms of regular marijuana use, as well as its psychologically addictive qualities. It also resonates with what I recall of my regular use.
“Marijuana isn’t addictive in the same sense as heroin, from which withdrawal is an agonizing, physical ordeal. But it can interact with pleasure centers in the brain and can create a strong sense of psychological dependence that addiction experts say can be very difficult to break. Heavy users may find they need to take larger and larger doses to get the effects they want. When they try to stop, some get withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, sleeping difficulties and anxiety that are usually described as relatively mild… 9 percent of users develop a dependence”
That piece about the increasingly larger doses speaks especially to my experience, and to the experiences of many people I am close to and have smoked pot with.
It is also important to note that the withdrawal descriptions also describe the relationship between some folks I know and their 5-6 cup a day coffee habit.
So marijuana use can make you slower, less disciplined and more dependent, but it can also be a lot of fun, aid you in chilling the eff out, and open your mind a little. It is totally okay to acknowledge these things in the same breath. Doing so doesn’t make the acknowledged ridiculousness of prolonged criminalization any less real.
We must legalize marijuana immediately, but we shouldn’t let the darker side of campaigning get in the way of us speaking openly and honestly.