Barack Obama once said, “when I was a kid I inhaled frequently. That was the point.” And as the debate rages regarding the legalization of weed most people wonder if Obama’s statement proves beneficial or not and almost every individual seems to have a say in this.
Weed, popularly known as Marijuana, is a combination of dried green herbs/leaves/flowers. This common Cannabis Sativa or Cannabis Indica flowering plant is known for its medicinal and psychoactive purposes.
Let us delve deeper (or higher) into this!
Facts Around Weed
The origins of weed are still a bit hazy. The colloquial term for weed is ‘pot’ and it is widely popular among age groups of 18 years and above. There are multiple ways of ‘smoking up’. Hand-rolled cigarettes also known as joints, bongs (water pipes), pipes, vaporizers, etc., are the commonly used ways.
Weed can be reduced to different forms such as oils and edibles. It can also be combined with food such as brownies, cookies, brewed in coffee or tea, and candies.
According to a 2019 poll, 61% of Americans believed that the use of weed should be legal. At this time, 9 states in the US allowed the possession of weed for recreational purposes and 29 states allowed it for medicinal usage. But let’s first get to the most commonly asked question.
Is Weed Addictive?
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that about 30% of marijuana users suffer from marijuana use disorder while 10 to 30% of users are expected to develop some dependency. However, the NIDA also estimates that only 9% may actually develop an addiction.
The reason for users to keep going back to weed lies in its core. The plant produces a chemical called THC that is responsible for the psychoactive, mind-altering effects in the brain. It is the quick passing of THC from your lungs into the bloodstream that results in a high.
Weed hits differently depending on its form of consumption. The high is achieved comparatively quickly when smoked causing it to spread through the bloodstream within minutes. When smoked, the blood carries the chemical THC to the brain.
On the other hand, when weed is ingested either in food or drinks, it takes a considerable amount of time for it to be absorbed. Generally, the effects start showing within 30 minutes to an hour.
To answer the question at hand, there do not seem to be specific sources that throw any light on the addiction to weed, yet. Although usage of weed can result in heavy dependency, there is very little evidence of addiction.
Here, you should understand the difference between addiction and dependence. There is a thin line between addiction and dependence. Addiction is problematic. It interferes with a person’s everyday life, disrupting his behavior and relationships with others. Whereas dependence, usually, refers to physically depending on the substance.
The outcomes of dependence can be withdrawals and tolerance. When there is mental dependence, it alters the responses to feelings or events. With weed, there is more physical dependence.
Scientifically speaking, long-term weed users are prone to dependency troubles. According to DSM V of the American Psychiatric Association, cannabis users can develop substance use disorders. The dependency arises from THC potency. The stronger the chemical, the higher the dependency rates.
While a consensus on addiction to weed has not been arrived at primarily due to the absence of scientific evidence, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a renowned doctor in the United States stated that there were never any cases of overdoses of weed. However, withdrawal symptoms of curbing weed usually present themselves within 2 days and can last up to 14 days.
The severity levels of withdrawals associated with weed start to show when there is intense dysregulation in the daily routine of the user. Although not impossible, the connection between weed and addiction is barely noticeable. The latter can bring out some neurophysiological changes in the body though.
Side Effects of Marijuana
The differences in consumption of marijuana can lead to different and obviously varying levels of side effects. That said, it is also essential to differentiate side effects depending on the source of marijuana. For example, store-bought marijuana is usually considered safe. Side effects depend on the amount of consumption.
Regular doses can lead to side effects as follows:
• Dry mouth
• Dry eyes
• Mild headaches
• Urge to eat (constant increase in appetite)
• Short term memory impairment
• Increase in blood pressure,
• Changes in mood
• Lethargy or impaired movements
• Difficulties in thinking
• Difficulties in problem-solving
Heavier doses, on the other hand, lead to side effects such as:
• Psychosis (Extreme cases) *
* Some experts have stated that psychosis due to marijuana may happen only if the user already has a history of psychosis.
People experiencing disorders like Bipolar disorder are warned about weed. Weed may increase the dissociation levels in a bipolar patient worsening their manic state of mind. In depressive patients, the usage of marijuana will further lead to a worsening of their mental health condition. Excessive usage may also repress one’s serotonin levels.
It is vital to know that combining weed with other psychoactive drugs can be dangerous and may also prove fatal for some.
Consumption should always be in quantities you know you can handle. Being self-aware with substances and dosage is an important criterion.
Please keep in mind that side effects can vary from person to person and can be temporary.
These are some of the common misconceptions associated with most substances including weed.
Weed improves creativity
While supporters of weed are quick to affirm that weed makes one more (with an emphasis on the word ‘more’) creative, it has not been scientifically proven as yet. Smoking weed makes you fixate on one constant thought signifying it through your experience. This is the reason why when a thought strikes, it stays. While some choose to act on it, others do not. Weed does not alter creativity either.
Weed makes you lazier and stupid
Weed does not make you lazy or stupid either. Although there might be a lack of motivation and a decrease in dopamine levels, it is all temporary and truly depends on the dosage.
Weed does not cause lung problems
It is a popular misconception that people who smoke marijuana do not experience lung issues. Smoking is bad for your health and ultimately affects your lungs. Smoking marijuana daily may only make your lungs more tolerant and not make them immune to problems.
Names of weed
Contrary to popular expectations and baring marijuana, the other names for weed like pot are not known universally.
Weed is a dangerous drug
Weed can cause harm to the brain and alter thoughts when taken in excessive and unnecessary amounts. But to be clear, anything in general, whether substance, alcohol or even medicines when taken in excess can cause damage. It cannot be concluded that marijuana is dangerous or deadly.
Arguments Against Marijuana Legalization
While public support in the country in favor of weed jumped to almost 66%, almost one-third of Americans not in favor of legalizing weed cited safety especially driver safety as the paramount concern. Most highlighted the increasing number of accidents involving people driving under the influence of marijuana as the main factor.
While a majority of people have conflicting views about the legalization of marijuana major arguments against legalizing marijuana stem from using it for recreational purposes rather than medicinal use. Opponents argue that legalizing weed for recreational purposes will only encourage junkies to try more drugs.
More discussions have highlighted the need to differentiate between recreational and medicinal marijuana and restricting its usage.
Quotes About Legalizing Weed
#1. “Legalizing marijuana would make a lot of sense; I don’t think there is a single case of marijuana overdose on record and tens of millions of users. It is much less dangerous than alcohol, for example.” ― Noam Chomsky
Like American Linguist, Chomsky, a lot of supporters of legalizing weed compare it with other dangerous substances to justify their points.
#2. “Herb is the healing of a nation; alcohol is the destruction.” ― Bob Marley
#3. “When you smoke the herb, it reveals you to yourself.” ― Bob Marley
Bob Marley was always at the forefront of legalizing marijuana. He always preached that the medicinal and recreational purposes of weed were only to help individuals to understand themselves better.
#4. “When I was a kid I inhaled frequently. That was the point.” ― Barack Obama
#5. “The legalization of marijuana is not a dangerous experiment – the prohibition is the experiment, and it has failed dramatically, with millions of victims all around the world.” ― Sebastian Marincolo
#6. “Federal and state laws (should) be changed to no longer make it a crime to possess marijuana for private use.” ― Richard Nixon
#7. “Marijuana will be legal someday because the many law students who now smoke pot will someday become Congressmen and legalize it in order to protect themselves.” ― Lenny Bruce
#8. “Marijuana is never going to have the devastating effects on us that alcohol and tobacco have on us. If marijuana is legalized, alcohol abuse goes down, because people will have a substance choice.” ― Gary Johnson
Pros and Cons of Legalizing Weed
While the debate over legalizing weed continues, a pertinent question to ask here is―will legalizing weed help society or ruin it?
Economic Benefits of Legalizing Weed
Yes, legalizing weed does have economic benefits and it could definitely boost the economy. Take for example Canada, where legalizing marijuana has proven advantageous. According to reports, the country’s GDP skyrocketed to 8.3 billion dollars in the first year of legalizing it. If you are thinking of setting up a shop in Canada, you need to think again. As of now, it is only the government-run stores that are authorized to sell weed in Canada.
Although there are economic benefits to legalizing weed, bear in mind that the marijuana demand of each region may vary. This may result in disparities in projected and actual tax revenues.
On the other hand, legalization is said to reduce criminal activities too. Now that is an in-between situation for the economy.
Social Pros and Cons of Legalizing Weed
In a society that strives to maintain a balance between juggling mental health and suppressing criminal and harmful activities, legalizing weed has its own share of advantages and disadvantages.
• Stigma and stereotype around marijuana will decline
• Legality will help people be more open about the usage
• Patients who need it for medicinal purposes will be able to acquire it easily
• Better societal substance intake than alcohol and tobacco
• It can lead to substance abuse among teenagers and youngsters at an early age since it will be easily and openly available
• In employees, the usage of weed can impact their productivity.
• A social stigma around marijuana use often draws a line between managers and workers.
• Driving under influence can impact road safety
Medical Pros and Cons of Legalizing Weed
There are conflicting estimates regarding the medical effects of marijuana use. Detractors claim that prolonged marijuana use can result in mental health conditions such as psychosis while supporters argue that the substance can provide health benefits and relief to patients diagnosed with cancer and epilepsy.
While no official, conclusive medical data exists, marijuana has certainly entered the mainstream as an effective pain treatment tool, with studies to support the fact. Several people afflicted with multiple sclerosis, migraines, and other chronic pain conditions claim that weed is an effective treatment.
Should Marijuana Be Legalized?
The legalization of marijuana, be it medicinal or recreational, should be assessed in a cautioned manner. Due to lower criminal penalties and an increase in economic benefits through government taxation, it could be considered favorable to legalize it as a cash crop.
It should also be taken into account that the US federal permission to legalize medicinal marijuana in the 1990s has led to other governments, local and global, discussing its decriminalization.
If legalized, it is safer for users to purchase marijuana from legally sanctioned and regulated shops―preventing any potential cases of poisoning or other health hazards associated with marijuana sold illegally.
Marijuana Legalization Statistics
States Where Recreational Marijuana is Legal
Recreational marijuana alters the brain and its thoughts. Harvested from industrial hemp, recreational marijuana can induce a sense of relaxation. It can also produce mild hallucinations.
For ages 21 years and above, recreational marijuana can be bought legally in 15 states. This does not require a doctor’s signature on any prescription.
Most of these states permit users to grow plants at home, too:
• DC or District of Columbia
• New Jersey
• South Dakota
• Washington (can possess weed, but is illegal to grow plants at home)
States Where Medical Marijuana is Legal
Medical marijuana is used to treat illnesses and up to a certain point, mental conditions. Chemically, the product is the same as recreational marijuana―the only difference is that the weed is consumed under a doctor’s supervision and prescription. Generally, marijuana is prescribed for illnesses such as schizophrenia, PTSD, Epilepsy, Anorexia, Cancer, and Glaucoma.
According to a 2020 survey, the following 20 U.S. states have legalized medicinal marijuana:
• New Hampshire
• New Mexico
• New York
• North Dakota
• Rhode Island
• West Virginia
Countries Where Marijuana is Legal
After an outburst of legalization of weed in the U.S., the question of legalization was raised in several other countries too. Age restrictions vary from one country to another, although decriminalization has certainly picked up steam across the world.
Weed is now legal in:
• The Netherlands
• South Africa
• Costa Rica
• The Czech Republic
The Bottom Line
While the jury is still out on whether or not weed should be legalized, I leave you with a quote by none other than Thomas Jefferson, the founding father of the country to rest my case— “hemp is of first necessity to the wealth and protection of the country.”