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Marijuana: useful or too easily abused?

Thoughts about the use of marijuana are varied throughout society. Is it good? Is it bad? It’s illegal — but should it be? Read what Vanessa and Martin have to say about it.

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Print Edition: October 29, 2014

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Is stoner culture giving youth the wrong idea about marijuana?

By Vanessa Broadbent (The Cascade)

I still remember taking Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) classes in elementary school. Afterward I always thought drugs were the worst thing in the whole world and knew I would never ever use them because I would probably die instantly. I’m pretty sure all my classmates thought the same, yet this mindset did not stay with most of us through high school. As we got older, we also got cooler, and smoking pot seemed pretty cool. Although we didn’t always make the right decisions, there was still a healthy fear of substance abuse. This has disappeared and is no longer present in today’s youth.

A survey done by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse has shown most teens don’t view marijuana as a drug anymore. Rather, they believe it’s harmless and helps them relax and be creative. Despite drug education in schools, young people still think marijuana is a harmless herb. So what is causing teens to think this way? The answer is, we are. With the recent debate over the legalization of marijuana, society has gone from portraying drug use as dangerous and illegal to “not that bad” and “not a big deal.” How many of them actually know if they use marijuana, according to Washington Post, they’ll be 60 per cent less likely to graduate? Not enough.

Legalization of marijuana is a recent issue; it hasn’t been around that long. Think back to the ‘60s, when drugs were illegal and there was no chance of that changing. Marijuana became more common as the hippie movement progressed, but it didn’t cause the government to question whether or not they should legalize it. Refuting marijuana won’t stop young people from using it, but it will remind them it’s not a healthy habit. Legalization will only raise those numbers. Young people will see the legalization of marijuana as the government’s stamp of approval, as their way of saying, “We don’t think it’s that bad for you.”

Popular culture has also portrayed marijuana as a drug with harmless side effects. The “stoner culture” is an ever-growing industry. It’s nothing new to watch movies that show marijuana use among young people, but it’s rare films portray the harm the drug can have on them. There was no sequel to the ‘90s cult classic Dazed and Confused which showed how those drug-using characters ended up not graduating or became users of more illicit drugs. And it’s common to hear drug references on the radio as if it’s no big deal.

Is this really the message we should be sending to young people? We may not be able to stop all young people from using marijuana, the least we could do is stop negating its seriousness.

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Marijuana: next to alcohol, the lesser of two evils

By Martin Castro (The Cascade)

There are, by and large, two main substances that are abused by people ranging from their teens to adulthood: alcohol and marijuana. One of these substances is illegal, the other is not. Alcohol, though, is far more dangerous, both to the person consuming it and to those around them.

Let’s start with addiction. Marijuana is somewhat addictive; however, alcohol is far more so. Even coffee is more physically addictive than marijuana. Daily coffee drinkers will feel withdrawal symptoms in the absence of coffee for just one morning. They get headaches and become irritable. The same is true for chronic alcohol drinkers. Although there are arguably as many, (if not more) abusers of marijuana as there are of alcohol, marijuana (although still somewhat addicting,) does not cause anything that even remotely equates to alcoholism or tobacco dependence. Cannabis instills less physical dependence and causes less physical harm than either alcohol or tobacco. Does this mean marijuana is not an addictive substance? No, but it is the least harmful compared with cigarettes, coffee, and alcohol.

In an article published by Leafscience.com, Mitch Earleywine, a professor of psychology at the University at Albany, speaks on the lethality and addictiveness (or lack thereof) present in marijuana: “Although the authors pitch [pregnenolone, a hormone that weakens THC’s effects on cannabinoid receptors in the brain, which is released when the brain is stimulated by high doses of THC] as a novel way to treat cannabis abuse, it’s actually a superb — if partial — explanation for why cannabis appears to have no potential lethal dose and why its capacity for creating addiction is more like caffeine’s than that of any illicit drug.”

But there is one aspect of marijuana that is not shared by coffee and cigarettes — its psychoactive properties. This refers to the high. Where this is not present with tobacco or coffee, there is an intoxicating effect of liquor, which is comparable to the high caused by cannabis.  So why maintain marijuana’s status as an illegal drug when alcohol is so widely legal?

As a teenager, I have witnessed the effects of marijuana and alcohol on those around me at parties, and what I have seen supports my opinion that alcohol is more harmful than marijuana. I have witnessed countless fistfights where both participants were under the influence of alcohol. Marijuana, on the other hand, has never (in my immediate experience) led to any sort of violent confrontation or outburst on the part of someone under the influence of the drug. This isn’t to say that marijuana doesn’t affect people, it does. They might laugh giddily, or retreat within themselves in an introspective episode. Or depending on their state of intoxication, they might just be contemplating their situation. People who are stoned are very rarely violent; I have yet to see someone commit a violent act that stemmed from their marijuana use.

One major difference between being drunk and being high is a person’s ability to function. All of the things which might help you stay out of trouble and get home safe are compromised by your use of alcohol, but not by your use of marijuana. Your ability to speak properly, walk in a straight line, and gauge the possible danger or seriousness of a given situation are unaffected, unlike alcohol.

However, marijuana will probably distract you from your quest of arriving home safely. You’ll probably stop to eat, talk to people, and watch different things you think merit your attention, so though you might get there late,  you’ll get there safe. If you’re completely drunk, you may pass out on the street. If you have your wits about you, you might call a cab, and if you can manage to mumble your home address correctly and pay for the cab, you would get home relatively safely.

When you get up in the morning, will you have a hangover? If you drank all night long, yes, but if you smoked, ate, or vapoUrized marijuana, no. Numerous cannabis users report though there’s always the possibility of waking up still high, but there is no “marijuana hangover.”

All in all, if teenagers are going to use a substance, marijuana is a much safer choice than alcohol.

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