Guest Opinion: Cultural shift supporting marijuana is misguided
By Will Wooton
In recent years attitudes toward the use of cannabis have shifted. This is mostly due to a massive legal and public policy effort to de-criminalize its use. While de-criminalization was the goal, the pro-pot movement went about it by claiming it as medicine. In some cases it can have medicinal benefits, though these are extremely limited.
All of this was done at the risk of damage to our developing teens. The perception among teens now is that marijuana is natural, and medicinal, even though there are multiple studies showing real danger to the developing brain from its use. The cultural shift toward accepting marijuana as “harmless” is misguided and, informed by science, more warped than that used by big tobacco in the late ‘80s.
The initial movement to de-criminalize in San Francisco was to keep AIDS and cancer patients from having formal charges brought against them. In the case of these terminal illnesses, medications used to control symptoms cause extreme nausea that most medications cannot control, and serious weight loss is exacerbated due to loss of appetite. Marijuana in these cases is helpful and is usually consumed orally, not smoked, for obvious risks to the immune system.
The California Medical Marijuana Program lists AIDS, cancer, wasting syndrome, seizure disorders, anorexia, glaucoma, and then a more general inclusion of anything protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. This general inclusion has grown into “prescribing” medical marijuana for just about anything, even disorders that are exacerbated by marijuana use. This all contributes to the teen perception of marijuana being “harmless,” “natural,” and “medicinal.” I am even told that it “cures cancer.” All false statements.
As a drug, marijuana is as natural as cocaine or heroin. The usual debate starts out with, “Weed isn’t a drug, and it comes from the earth.” Teens that we see in treatment are brainwashed into thinking marijuana is the only plant that gets you high, neglecting to think about most other drugs of abuse or the fact that many lethal poisons are “natural.” Many also fail to realize that marijuana has been genetically engineered to increase potency levels.
At any local high school, you can easily find out from teens what doctors will write a medical marijuana prescription (only $39), and where the local dispensaries are. Recently, because of federal enforcement of drug laws, some dispensaries have converted to “delivery only” services.
Over the past few years more teens are entering our treatment program boasting a medical marijuana card. This is just one more wall to break down in the process of treatment, but that’s easily accomplished by presenting legitimate research and facts.
High-potency marijuana strains are responsible for an increase in habitual use. The mild cannabis plant of earlier generations is gone. We have found many kids that prefer smoking weed to other drugs, and even describe the high as more intense than seemingly harder drugs.
Many studies are showing that not only does marijuana have profound effects on the memory and problem solving, but also these effects are long-term. Regular users do not learn from errors and therefore do not improve memory and problem-solving skills.
More and more evidence is pouring in that high-potency strains contribute to anxiety and depressive disorders and in some cases contribute to full-blown psychotic symptoms. These risks exist regardless of age, but are significantly worse for the developing brains of our teens.
Wooton is program director of Pacific Treatment Services in Escondido and co-author of “Bring Your Teen Back from the Brink: Get Educated, Get Tough and Get Help to Save Your Teen from Drugs.” Reach him at email@example.com.
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