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You can walk into a store and buy recreational marijuana. Where? Colorado now. Washington State this coming summer. Twenty other states in the USA have legalized marijuana for medical use only.

Smoking pot in Washington State (click to enlarge or to source).

I visited my doctor this week. Lots of gray hair and wisdom. He took off on marijuana (also called pot or weed).
“Marijuana use is insidious. To promote weed and say it is not harmful is dead wrong. It is addictive. It’s not called the ‘Gateway drug’ for nothing. The brain of a teenager is changing from a child to an adult: neuron connections are shifting and maturing.

Marijuana may interfere with and retard that. The teenage years are the last opportunity to make the brain as healthy and smart as possible. And it has been shown that it can lower IQ for young people who take it regularly. The greatest drop in IQ, a full 8 points, occurred for those who smoked every day. The younger their age when they started using marijuana, the greater was the IQ decline”.

Marijuana leaf (click to enlarge or to source).

A recent item from National Public Radio addresses the issue of recreational marijuana, and I have summarized by some key bullet points below:
• The legalization of recreational marijuana is taking place without much information on the possible health effects. A Columbia University psychiatrist and drug abuse researcher thinks it’s a bad idea and we don’t know what we’re getting into.
• Marijuana may seem innocuous. Jacquelene, who works for a Seattle publisher, is a user who indulges once or twice a month. “It’s just like a small pleasure”, she says. “It’s just something nice to do when you’re sitting around conversationally”.

• However, about 11 percent of marijuana users fit the definition of dependence — that is, their habit interferes with their life and they’ve been unable to cut back. That’s lower than the dependence number for heroin (23 percent), cocaine (17 percent), alcohol (15 percent) or nicotine (32 percent).
• 11% of the population is not a very high risk, but it’s a high risk if it’s you or your child or your parent or your sibling. If the price of marijuana falls too much, it could result in more dependence, especially among adolescents and low-income users.

• Marijuana smoke contains many of the same toxic chemicals as cigarette smoke. But even heavy marijuana smokers don’t seem to have more lung cancer or emphysema.
• Marijuana is much more dangerous when it accompanies even a little bit of alcohol. So the blood-alcohol limit for drivers with any level of marijuana in their blood should be set to zero. There’s also some evidence that marijuana users may be driving-impaired for hours after they think their high has worn off.

States where medical marijuana is legal (click to enlarge or to source).

I talked with a couple this week about their daughter who had been a drug addict. A heart-breaking story which involved tough love and its nerve-wracking choices. The parents insist the daughter was saved by coming to God, and affirmed their belief in the power of God to break addictions. The daughter is on the straight and narrow and, despite a waste of human time and effort along the way, appears to be heading toward a productive life. Unfortunately though, many such stories end in tragedy.

Finally, my church has a week-night service called Living Free, which is led by an ex drug dealer. About 700 people attend a general service, before breaking into groups for sharing and support and guidance. Vast numbers of young people attend.

P.S. I dropped into a ‘coffee’ shop in The Hague a few years ago, before realizing it also sold recreational marijuana. The Dutch have been doing this since the 1970s. Not exactly Starbucks! More pipes for smoking than percolators for coffee, which made me uncomfortable, and I left. The Dutch legalized marijuana to get rid of street-dealers. However in border towns where other nationalities cross to buy pot from the ‘coffee’ shops, the visitors have become disorderly.

So the government has clamped down: banned non-Dutch people from the ‘coffee’ shops, and removed the shops if too close to schools. In some places the street-dealers have returned, because buyers can purchase more pot, as well as hard drugs. The original purpose of the ‘coffee’ shops, to keep pot users away from hard drugs, and to educate users to the risks of smoking, seems to be fading away.

The Gray Nomad.
Probing the practice of Christian believers……

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians, chapter 5).

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9 Responses to Some Truths about Marijuana

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  2. Dave Nawrocki |

    Hi Ian, how are you? Thx for your thoughts on marijuana [mj]. As a clinician working in mental health, I believe recreational mj is a bad idea but strongly support medical uses: ptsd, chronic pain, anxiety, depression,also crohn’s disease. There are oral forms too, even a tincture. Imho, it needs to be regulated and prescribed by licensed providers. We also need to change laws about incarceration -but that’s another lengthy and complicated issue. Take care. Dave.

  3. Dale Bryant |

    Hi Ian… My thoughts are and always have been that mj should not be illegal. Mostly because of all the ruined lives of people sitting in prison for years and years over possessing or using it, and because of all of the drug cartel stuff. Like Prohibition was a bad idea, so is making marijuana use a crime I think. I agree with the part about younger people, though. There should be an age 21 or maybe even age 25 or 30 requirement, depending on what science shows about arrested development.

    • Thanks Dale for your views on this complex subject. I guess if mj is made legal for recreation use, that’s putting it in the same box as alcohol. Is the cost of addiction worth the other costs and factors that you mentioned? Keep coffeeing!

  4. Mary Ann Pollock |

    Very interesting blog about marijuana. I know all the years that I have dealt with pain I actually thought about trying marijuana, but I never gave in to that thought. However I don’t suppose it is any worse than people getting addicted to prescription drugs. They both are bad if one becomes addicted. Don’t get me wrong, I am against legalizing recreational pot.

    • Interesting thought Mary Ann. I suppose the risk of getting addicted has to be assessed against the intensity of the pain and how long we have to live with the pain. Might be a tough choice!

  5. Sherrie Greenville |

    Good article Ian. I think they should de-criminalize marijuana but it should be sold like liquor – no minors! From my perspective (legal) the de-criminalization would free up court docket, jail and prisons for real criminals. However, I am glad that I am not in the first state legalizing and dealing with what comes from that! I had to laugh at this sentence: “It’s just like a small pleasure”, she says. “It’s just something nice to do when you’re sitting around conversationally”. What kind of conversation would that be?

    • Sherrie, the de-criminalization of marijuana aspect that you raise does seem to be important, and I haven’t given much thought to that. Thanks for sharing.

  6. There is a place for medical marijuana depending on the nature of ones illness. I don’t think anyone advocates use for underage or free access. Prescribed by a provider who is certified to discern the need seems reasonable. From years of working with individuals that were chronic users of drugs, the access to all drugs, meds, etc is readily available. Behavior and character can not be legally defined by our laws but by our investment in our youth and education to the public.

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