Does it? Doesn’t it? Is that true?
A common and logical question if you are pro- industrial hemp is “what is marijuana and what should I know about?”. Politicians love to tell us that marijuana must remain illegal for our own good. In the next section we will examine some of the so-called facts about marijuana so that you can decide for yourselves whether you agree or not.
- 1) Doesn’t marijuana stay in your fat cells and keep you high for months?
- No. The part of marijuana that gets you high is called `Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol.’ Most people just call this THC, but this is confusing: your body will change Delta-9-THC into more inert molecules known as `metabolites,’ which don’t get you high. Unfortunately, these chemicals also have the word `tetrahydrocannabinol’ in them and they are also called THC — so many people think that the metabolites get you high. Anti-drug pamphlets say that THC gets stored in your fat cells and then leaks out later like one of those `time release capsules’ advertised on television. They say it can keep you high all day or even longer. This is not true, marijuana only keeps you high for a few hours, and it is not right to think that a person who fails a drug test is always high on drugs, either.
Two of these metabolites are called `11-hydroxy-tetrahydrocannabinol’ and `11-nor-9-carboxy-delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol’ but we will call them 11-OH-THC and 11-nor instead. These are the chemicals which stay in your fatty cells. There is almost no Delta-9-THC left over a few hours after smoking marijuana, and scientific studies which measure the effects of marijuana agree with this fact.
- 2) But … isn’t today’s marijuana much more potent than it was in the Sixties? (Or, more often … Marijuana is 10 times more powerful than it was in the Sixties!)
- GOOD! Actually, this is not true, but if it were, it would mean that marijuana is safer to smoke today than it was in the Sixties. (More potent cannabis means less smoking means less lung damage.) People who use this statistic just plain do not know what they are talking about. Sometimes they will even claim that marijuana is now twenty to thirty times stronger, which is physically impossible because it would have to be *over* 100% Delta-9-THC. The truth is, marijuana has not really changed potency all that much, if at all, in the last several hundred years. Growing potent cannabis is an ancient art which has not improved in centuries, despite all our modern technology. Before marijuana was even made illegal, drug stores sold tinctures of cannabis which were over 40% THC.
Even so, the point is moot because marijuana smokers engage in something called `auto-titration.’ This basically means smoking until they are satisfied and then stopping, so it does not really matter if the marijuana is more potent because they will smoke less of it. Marijuana is not like pre-moistened towelettes or snow-cones. There is nothing forcing marijuana smokers to smoke an entire joint.
Experienced marijuana users are accustomed to smoking marijuana from many different suppliers, and they know that if they smoke a whole joint of very potent bud they will get `TOO STONED’. Since being `too stoned’ is a rather unpleasant experience, smokers quickly learn to take their time and `test the waters’ when they do not know how strong their marijuana is.
- 3) Doesn’t Marijuana cause brain damage?
- The short answer: No.
The long answer: The reason why you ask this is because you probably heard or read somewhere that marijuana damages brain cells, or makes you stupid. These claims are untrue.
The first one — marijuana kills brain cells — is based on research done during the second Reefer Madness Movement. A study attempted to show that marijuana smoking damaged brain structures in monkeys. However, the study was poorly performed and it was severely criticized by a medical review board. Studies done afterwards failed to show any brain damage, in fact a very recent study on Rhesus monkeys used technology so sensitive that scientists could actually see the effect of learning on brain cells, and it found no damage.
But this was Reefer Madness II, and the prohibitionists were looking around for anything they could find to keep the marijuana legalization movement in check, so this study was widely used in anti-marijuana propaganda. It was recanted later.
(To this day, the radical anti-drug groups, like P.R.I.D.E. and Dr. Gabriel Nahas, still use it — In fact, America’s most popular drug education program, Drug Abuse Resistance Education, claims that marijuana “can impair memory perception & judgement by destroying brain cells.” When police and teachers read this and believe it, our job gets really tough, since it takes a long time to explain to children how Ms. Jones and Officer Bob were wrong.)
The truth is, no study has ever demonstrated cellular damage, stupidity, mental impairment, or insanity brought on specifically by marijuana use — even heavy marijuana use. This is not to say that it cannot be abused, however.
- 4) If it doesn’t kill brain cells, how does it get you `high’?
- Killing brain cells is not a pre-requisite for getting `high.’ Marijuana contains a chemical which substitutes for a natural brain chemical, with a few differences. This chemical touches special `buttons’ on brain cells called `receptors.’ Essentially, marijuana `tickles’ brain cells. The legal drug alcohol also tickles brain cells, but it will damage and kill them by producing toxins (poisons) and sometimes mini-seizures. Also, some drugs will wear out the buttons which they push, but marijuana does not.
- 5) Don’t people die from smoking pot?
- Nobody has ever overdosed. For any given substance, there are bound to be some people who have allergic reactions. With marijuana this is extremely rare, but it could happen with anything from apples to pop-tarts. Not one death has ever been directly linked to marijuana itself. In contrast, many legal drugs cause hundreds to hundreds of thousands of deaths per year, foremost among them are alcohol, nicotine, valium, aspirin, and caffiene. The biggest danger with marijuana is that it is illegal, and someone may mix it with another drug like PCP.
Marijuana is so safe that it would be almost impossible to overdose on it. Doctors determine how safe a drug is by measuring how much it takes to kill a person (they call this the LD50) and comparing it to the amount of the drug which is usually taken (ED50). This makes marijuana hundreds of times safer than alcohol, tobacco, or caffiene. According to a DEA Judge “marijuana is the safest therapeutically active substance known to mankind.”
- 6) I forgot, does marijuana cause short-term memory impairment?
- The effect of marijuana on memory is its most dramatic and the easiest to notice. Many inexperienced marijuana users find that they have very strange, sudden and unexpected memory lapses. These usually take the form of completely forgetting what you were talking about when you were right in the middle of saying something important. However, these symptoms only occur while a person is `high’. They do not carry over or become permanent, and examinations of extremely heavy users has not shown any memory or thinking problems. More experienced marijuana users seem to be able to remember about as well as they do when they are not `high.’
Studies which have claimed to show short-term memory impairment have not stood up to scrutiny and have not been duplicated. Newer studies show that marijuana does not impair simple, real-world memory processes. Marijuana does slow reaction time slightly, and this effect has sometimes been misconstrued as a memory problem. To put things in perspective, one group of researchers made a control group hold their breath, like marijuana smokers do. Marijuana itself only produced about twice as many effects on test scores as breath holding. Many people use marijuana to study. Other people cannot, for some reason, use marijuana and do anything that involves deep thought. Nobody knows what makes the difference.
- 7) Is marijuana going to make my boyfriend go psycho?
- Marijuana does not `cause’ psychosis. Psychotic people can smoke marijuana and have an episode, but there is nothing in marijuana that actually initiates or increases these episodes. Of course, if any mentally ill person is given marijuana for the first time or without their knowledge, they might get scared and `freak.’ Persons who suffer from severe psychological disorders often use marijuana as a way of coping. Because of this, some researchers have assumed that marijuana is the cause of these problems, when it is actually a symptom. If you have heard that marijuana makes people go crazy, this is probably why.
- 8) Don’t users of marijuana withdraw from society?
- To some extent, yes. That’s probably just because they are afraid of being arrested, though. The same situation exists with socially maladjusted persons as does with the mentally ill. Emotionally troubled individuals find marijuana to be soothing, and so they tend to use it more than your average person. Treatment specialists see this, and assume that the marijuana is causing the problem. This is a mistake which hurts the patient, because their doctors will pay less attention to their actual needs, and concentrate on ending their drug habit. Sometimes the cannabis is even helping them to recover. Cannabis can be abused, and it can make these situations worse, but psychologists should approach marijuana use with an open mind or they risk hurting their patient.
Marijuana itself does not make normal people anti-social. In fact, a large psychological study of teenagers found that casual marijuana users are more well adjusted than `drug free’ people. This would be very amusing, but it is a serious problem. There are children who have emotional problems which keep them from participating in healthy, explorative behavior. They need psychological help but instead they are skipped over. Marijuana users who do not need help are having treatment forced on them, and in the mean-time marijuana takes the blame for the personality characteristics and problems of the people who like to use it improperly.
- 9) Is it true that marijuana makes you lazy and unmotivated?
- Not if you are a responsible adult, it doesn’t. Ask the U.S. Army. They did a study and showed no effect. If this were true, why would many Eastern cultures, and Jamaicans, use marijuana to help them work harder? `Amotivational syndrome’ started as a media myth based on the racial stereotype of a lazy Mexican borracho. The prohibitionists claimed that marijuana made people worthless and sluggish. Since then, however, it has been scientifically researched, and a symptom resembling amotivational syndrome has actually been found. However, it only occurs in adolescent teenagers — adults are not affected.
When a person reaches adolescence, their willingness to work usually increases, but this does not happen for teenagers using marijuana regularly — even just on the weekends. The actual studies involved monkeys, not humans, and the results are not verified, but older studies which tried to show `amotivational syndrome’ usually only suceeded when they studied adolescents. Adults are not effected.
The symptoms are not permanent, and motivation returns to normal levels several months after marijuana smoking stops. However, a small number of people may be unusually sensitive to this effect. One of the monkeys in the experiment was severely amotivated and did not recover. Doctors will need to study this more before they know why.
- 10) Isn’t marijuana a gateway drug? Doesn’t it lead to use of harder drugs?
- This is totally untrue. In fact, researchers are looking into using marijuana to help crack addicts to quit. There are 40 million people in this country (U.S.) who have smoked marijuana for a period of their lives — why aren’t there tens of millions of heroin users, then? In Amsterdam, both marijuana use and heroin use went *down* after marijuana was decriminalized — even though there was a short rise in cannabis use right after decriminalization. Unlike addictive drugs, marijuana causes almost no tolerance. Some people even report a reverse tolerance. That is, the longer they have used the less marijuana they need to get `high.’ So users of marijuana do not usually get bored and `look for something more powerful’. If anything, marijuana keeps people from doing harder drugs.
The idea that using marijuana will lead you to use heroin or speed is called the `gateway theory’ or the `stepping stone hypothesis.’ It has been a favorite trick of the anti-drug propaganda artists, because it casts marijuana as something insidious with hidden dangers and pitfalls. There have never been any real statistics to back this idea up, but somehow it was the single biggest thing which the newspapers yelled about during Reefer Madness II. (Perhaps this was because the CIA was looking for someone to blame for the increase in heroin use after Viet Nam.)
The gateway theory of drug use is no longer generally accepted by the medical community. Prohibitionists used to point at numbers which showed that a large percentage of the hard drug users `started with marijuana.’ They had it backwards — many hard drug users also use marijuana. There are two reasons for this. One is that marijuana can be used to `take the edge off’ the effects of some hard drugs. The other is a recently discovered fact of adolescent psychology — there is a personality type which uses drugs, basically because drugs are exciting and dangerous, a thrill.
On sociological grounds, another sort of gateway theory has been argued which claims that marijuana is the source of the drug subculture and leads to other drugs through that culture. By the same token this is untrue — marijuana does not create the drug subculture, the drug subculture uses marijuana. There are many marijuana users who are not a part of the subculture.
This brings up another example of how marijuana legalization could actually reduce the use of illicit drugs. Even though there is no magical `stepping stone’ effect, people who choose to buy marijuana often buy from dealers who deal in many different illegal drugs. This means that they have access to illegal drugs, and might decide to try them out. In this case it is the laws which lead to hard drug use. If marijuana were legal, the drug markets would be separated, and less people would start using the illegal drugs. Maybe this is why emergency room admissions for hard drugs have gone down in the states that decriminalized marijuana during the 70’s.
- 11) I don’t want children (minors) to be able to smoke marijuana. How can I stop this?
- Legalize it. They can smoke it now; it is about as easy to get as alcohol. There would be less marijuana being sold in schools, playgrounds, and street corners, though, if it was sold legally through pharmacies — because the dealers would not be able to compete with the prices. If you are a parent, the choice is really up to you: Do you want your children to sneak off with their friends and use marijuana which they bought off the street, or do you want to talk to them calmly and explain to them why they should wait until they are older? Your children are not going to walk up to you and tell you that they use an illegal drug, but if it was not such a big deal they might give you a chance to explain your feelings. Besides, would you rather children use speed, cocaine, and alcohol?
Consider, also, that children have a natural urge to do things that they aren’t supposed to. It is called curiosity. By making such a fuss over marijuana, you make it interesting (some call it the `forbidden fruit’ factor.) This is made worse when children are lied to about drugs by teachers and police — they lose respect for the school and the government. In a lot of ways, it is the hysteria about drugs which causes the most harm. When marijuana users do none of the horrible things they are supposed to, children may think that other more harmful drugs are OK, too. Your children will not respect you unless you are calm and give good reasons for your rules. The first step is for you, the parent, to learn the facts about drugs.
- 12) Won’t children be able to steal marijuana plants that people are growing?
- Well, if you are worried about them stealing the hemp plants from the paper-pulp farm down the road, you should know that the commercial grades of hemp do not contain much THC (the stuff that gets you high.) If they were to smoke it, they would probably just get a headache. Otherwise, it should be the responsibility of the grower to take measures to prevent this. Most “home-grown” marijuana is cultivated indoors anyway. If the children in your town have nothing better to do than go around stealing marijuana to smoke, your town needs to buy a library or something.
- 13) Hey, don’t you know that marijuana drops testosterone levels in teenage boys causing [various physical and developmental problems]?
- Marijuana does not turn young healthy boys into lanky, girlish looking wimps, no. This scare tactic (call it homo-phobic if you will) was a common device used in early anti-drug literature. It attempts to scare boys away from marijuana by telling them, essentially, that it will turn them into a girl. Young men probably should not use marijuana heavily (see the section on amotivational syndrome), but the risks are not horrendous.
Anti-marijuana pamphlets used this claim often during Reefer Madness II, but the studies which are cited are mostly faulty or misinterpreted. This is not to say that marijuana use does not affect childhood development at all, just that the effects are not as drastic as some people would like them to sound. In fact they are pretty much unknown.
- 14) Doesn’t heavy marijuana use lower the sperm count in males?
- Not by much, (if at all) and this can be a good thing. It does not make you impotent or sterile. (If it did — there would be no Rastafarians left!) Give those testicles a rest, already! Marijuana is certainly _not_ birth control, please don’t let your lover tell you it is.
Many people think that marijuana enhances their sex lives. It is not an aphrodisiac, that is, it does not make people want to have sex. What it does do for some people is make everything more sensual — it makes food taste better and feelings and emotions more vivid.
- 15) I heard marijuana use by teenage girls may impair hormone production, menstrual cycles, and fertility. Is this true?
- Also unproven and unfounded, but there is no data available to tell either way, (and it won’t be coming from the U.S. — current U.S. laws prohibit research on women.) This is the female version of the boy’s “It’ll turn you into a sissy” tactic. As far as anyone knows, it is only a scare tactic.
- 16) I forgot, does marijuana cause short-term memory impairment?
- Go away.
- 17) Isn’t smoking marijuana worse for you than smoking cigarettes?
- There are many reasons why it is not. You may have heard that “one joint is equal to ten cigarrettes” but this is exagerrated and misleading. Marijuana does contain more tar than tobacco — but low tar cigarettes cause just as much cancer, so what is that supposed to mean? Scientists have shown that smoking any plant is bad for your lungs, because it increases the number of `lesions’ in your small airways. This usually does not threaten your life, but there is a chance it will lead to infections. Marijuana users who are worried about this can find less harmful ways of taking marijuana like eating or vaporizing. (Be careful — marijuana is safe to eat — but tobacco is not, you might overdose!) Marijuana does not seem to cause cancer the way tobacco does, though.
Here is a list of interesting facts about marijuana smoking and tobacco smoking:
- Marijuana smokers generally don’t chain smoke, and so they smoke less. (Marijuana is not physically addictive like tobacco.) The more potent marijuana is, the less a smoker will use at a time.
- Tobacco contains nicotine, and marijuana doesn’t. Nicotine may harden the arteries and may be responsible for much of the heart disease caused by tobacco. New research has found that it may also cause a lot of the cancer in tobacco smokers and people who live or work where tobacco is smoked. This is because it breaks down into a cancer causing chemical called `N Nitrosamine’ when it is burned (and maybe even while it is inside the body as well.)
- Marijuana contains THC. THC is a bronchial dilator, which means it works like a cough drop and opens up your lungs, which aids clearance of smoke and dirt. Nicotine does just the opposite; it makes your lungs bunch up and makes it harder to cough anything up.
- There are benefits from marijuana (besides bronchial dilation) that you don’t get from tobacco. Mainly, marijuana makes you relax, which improves your health and well-being.
- Scientists do not really know what it is that causes malignant lung cancer in tobacco. Many think it may be a substance known as Lead 210. Of course, there are many other theories as to what does cause cancer, but if this is true, it is easy to see why NO CASE OF LUNG CANCER RESULTING FROM MARIJUANA USE ALONE HAS EVER BEEN DOCUMENTED, because tobacco contains much more of this substance than marijuana.
- Marijuana laws make it harder to use marijuana without damaging your body. Water-pipes are illegal in many states. Filtered cigarettes, vaporizers, and inhalers have to be mass produced, which is hard to arrange `underground.’ People don’t eat marijuana often because you need more to get as high that way, and it isn’t cheap or easy to get (which is the reason why some people will stoop to smoking leaves.) This may sound funny to you — but the more legal marijuana gets, the safer it is.
It is pretty obvious to users that marijuana prohibition laws are not “for their own good.” In addition to the above, legal marijuana would be clean and free from adulturants. Some people add other drugs to marijuana before they sell it. Some people spray room freshener on it or soak in in chemicals like formaldehyde! A lot of the marijuana is grown outdoors, where it may be sprayed with pesticides or contaminated with dangerous fungi. If the government really cared about our health, they would form an agency which would make sure only quality marijuana was sold. This would be cheaper than keeping it illegal, and it would keep people from getting hurt and going to the emergency room.18) Don’t children born to pot-smoking mothers suffer from “Fetal Marijuana Syndrome?” If a fetal cannabis syndrome exists, cases are so rare that it cannot be demonstrated. Many mothers use marijuana during pregnancy — it controls the nausea called `morning sickness’ and many say it actually increases the appetite and reduces stress. This is especially important in less developed countries, where modern medical care is not as easily available, but even so, the benefits of responsible marijuana use may outweigh the risks even under modern medicine.
Studies conducted in Jamiaca have shown that mothers who smoke marijuana have healthier children, but this may be due to the extra income generated by marijuana dealing and other factors. It has been a common ploy in the War on Drugs to claim that marijuana, and especially cocaine, causes birth defects or behavior problems like alcohol does. This scares caring mothers into thinking drugs are `evil.’ The claims are not based on valid scientific research — many of them do not even consider the life-style or living conditions of the mothers before pointing at drugs with the blame.
Obviously, pregnant mothers should not smoke as much pot as they possibly can. If marijuana is abused, it may hurt the health of both mother and child. Delta-9-THC does cross the placenta and enter the fetus. Oddly, though, the marijuana metabolite, 11-nor-9-carboxy-delta-9-THC does not, and the fetus does not break delta-9-THC down into 11-nor like the mother’s body does, so unborn children are not exposed to 11-nor. The third trimester is the time when the child is most vulnerable. Parents should bear these facts in mind when they make decisions about using cannabis.19) Doesn’t marijuana cause a lot of automobile accidents? Not really. The marijuana using public has the same or lower rate of automobile accidents as the general public. Studies of marijuana smoking while driving showed that it does affect reaction time, but not nearly as much as alcohol. Also, those who drive `stoned’ have been shown to be less foolish on the road (they demonstrate `increased risk aversion’.) Recent studies have emphasized that alcohol is the major problem on our highways, and that illicit drugs do not even come close to being as dangerous.
As funny as it may seem, you may be safer driving `stoned’, as long as you aren’t `totally blasted’ and seeing things — but few users are irresponsible enough to drive in this state of mind, anyway. Still, many people have reported making mistakes while driving because they were stoned.
There are those who think that marijuana is a major problem on the streets, because of a newspaper article or news story which they have seen which said a large number of people who were killed in driving accidents tested postive for marijuana use. For various reasons, these studies are not reliable:
- Some studies use drug tests which can only tell whether a person has used marijuana in the last month.
- Some studies were done near colleges or other areas where drinking, marijuana use, and accidents are all very high, and they did not correct for age or alcohol use.
- In many of the studies there were more stoned drivers killed — but it was not their fault, and when the police “culpability scores” were factored in marijuana was not to blame for the accidents.
20) Aren’t you afraid everyone will get hooked? Marijuana produces no withdrawal symptoms no matter how heavy it is used. It is habit forming (psychologically addictive), but not physically addictive. The majority of people who quit marijuana don’t even have to think twice about it. Comparing marijuana to addictive drugs is really quite silly.
For a drug to be physically addictive, it must be reinforcing, produce withdrawal symptoms, and produce tolerance. Marijuana is reinforcing, because it feels good, but it does not do the other two things. Caffeine, nicotine and alcohol are all physically addictive.21) Is urine testing for marijuana use as a terms of employment a good idea? I want to make sure my business is run safely. No! Some of your most brilliant, hard working, and reliable employees are marijuana users. When you drug test, you put all marijuana users in the same place as the abusers — the unemployment line. Drug testing is bad for business. (Not to mention it is an invasion of privacy.) If a worker has a drug problem, you can tell by testing how well he does his job. Firing *all* the drug users who work for you will hurt your business, costs money, and will get people very mad at you — and for what? There isn’t even any hard evidence that marijuana users have more accidents or health problems.
Your employees will probably resent being drug tested; drug testing allows an employer to govern the actions of an employee in his off time — even when these actions do not effect his job performance. (As told above, marijuana drug tests do not test whether a person is `high’. They test whether or not they have used in the last few weeks.) Asking employees to urinate in a plastic cup every month is not a good way to make them feel like part of the business, or make friends, either. There is growing concern about drug tests, sometimes because they misfire and accuse the wrong person, but mostly because they might be used to find out other confidential information about an employee. Legal professionals are beginning to question whether they are even constitutional.22) Isn’t all this worth the trouble, though, in order to reduce accident risks and health care costs? Everyone knows that marijuana users are bad employees, right? Wrong — or at least someone forgot to tell the millions of hard working marijuana smokers that. Drug testing companies will hand you piles of statistics which they say prove marijuana use costs you money. The truth is there are just as many studies which show that marijuana users are more successful, use less health care, and produce more than non-users. Before you buy into workplace drug testing, make sure you get the other side of the story.
In the 1980’s, the Bush administration went to great lengths to promote drug testing. In fact, George Bush estimated the cost of drug use at over 60 billion dollars a year, based on a study which supposedly showed that persons who had used marijuana at some time during their life were less successful. The very same study could be used to show that current, heavy users of marijuana and other illegal drugs were actually more successful. Something is a bit fishy here, and when you add to that the fact that several former heads of the DEA and former Drug Czars now own or work in the urinalysis industry, this whole scene begins to smell a bit funny.23) Wouldn’t it be best to just lock the users all up? How do you plan to pay for that? Already, well over five percent of the people in this country (U.S) are in custody (including probation, parole, bail, etc.) Murderers and rapists are being let out of our penatentiaries right now to make room for a few more `deadheads’ — there are about 2,500 Grateful Dead fans in our federal prisons. Imprisoning one person for one year costs about $20,000. The United States leads the world in imprisonment — at any one time, 425 people out of every 100,000 are behind bars. In the Federal Prison System, one fifth of the prisoners are drug offenders who have done nothing violent. State laws are usually less strict, but state mandatory minumum sentences for drugs are getting more popular.
Our prisons and our courtrooms are so crowded that the American Bar Association’s annual report on the state of the Justice System is basically one long plea for an end to drug laws that imprison users. Even the Clinton Administration recognizes that locking people up is not the solution. This is especially true for the people who actually have drug abuse problems — they need treatment, not mistreatment. The Drug War put mandatory minimum jail sentences for drug crimes on the lawbooks. If we do not take those laws (at least) back off, we will be in sorry shape come the end of the century. A retroactive policy of marijuana legalization or decriminalization would go a long way in helping to solve this crisis.
Also consider this — Once a person gets put in jail, he becomes angry with the world. He will probably be victimized while he is there, and most likely will learn criminal behaviors from hard-core violent offenders. There is also a very good chance that he will have caught AIDS or tuberculosis by the time he gets let back out. By locking up drug users, you are digging yourself a very big trench to fall in — is it worth it?
Besides, lots of these people don’t deserve to be in jail. Why should they serve time just because they like to get `high’ on marijuana? Especially when someone can drink alcohol without being arrested… what kind of law is that? You have to think about what kind of a world you are making for yourself before you act. How are the police of the future going to treat the people? How far are you willing to let the government go to get the drug users? How many of your own rights will you sacrifice by trying to jail `the druggies’?24) I heard that there are over 400 chemicals in marijuana… Wellllll…? True, but so what? There are also over 400 chemicals in many foods, (including coffee, which contains over 800 chemicals and many rat carcinogens) and we don’t see police arresting people in McDonald’s, or giving Driving while Eating citations. Only THC is very psycho-active; a few other chemicals also have very small degrees of psycho-activity. People who use marijuana do not get sick more, or die earlier, or lose their jobs (except to drug tests), or have mutant kids… so what’s your point?
The fact that there are over 60 unique chemicals in cannabis, called `cannabinoids,’ is something that scientists find very interesting. Many of these cannabinoids may have valuable effects as medicine. For example, `cannabinol’ is a cannabinoid which can help people with insomnia. Doctors think that this chemical is why most patients prefer to use marijuana rather than pure Delta-9-THC pills (called dronabinol) — the cannabinol takes the edge off being `high’ and calms the nerves. Another cannabinoid, `cannabidiolic acid’, is a very effective anti-biotic, like pennicillin. Many of these chemicals can be extracted from marijuana without any fancy laboratory equipment.25) Doesn’t that stuff mess up your immune system and make it easier for you catch colds? Marijuana (Delta-nine-THC) does have an `immunosuppressive effect.’ It acts on certain cells in the liver, called macrophages, in much the same way that it acts on brain cells. Instead of stimulating the cells, though, it shuts them off. This effect is temporary (just like the `high’) and goes away quickly; people who suffer from multiple sclerosis may actually find this effect useful in fighting the disease.Recent research has also found that marijuana metabolites are left over in the lungs for up to seven months after the smoking has stopped. While they are there, the immune system of the lungs may be affected (but the macrophages do not get “turned off” like in the liver.) The effects of smoking itself are probably worse than the effects of the THC, and last just as long.
All this said, doctors still have not decided whether marijuana users are at risk for colds or not. With the possible exception of bronchitis, there are no numbers which suggest that marijuana users catch more colds, but… this did not stop Carlton Turner, a United States Drug Czar, from saying many times in his public addresses that marijuana caused AIDS and homosexuality. His claims were so ridiculus that the Washington Post and Newsweek Magazine made fun of him, and he was forced to resign.
Today, AIDS patients use marijuana to treat their symptoms without any aparrent problems. Some studies suggest that marijuana may actually stimulate certain forms of immunity. Researchers have tried to show major effects on the healthy human’s immune system, but if marijuana does have any substantial effects, good or bad, they are either too subtle or too small to notice.
The following persons have contributed to this document at some point in it’s evolution:
- Laura Kriho (original list of questions)
- Marc Anderson (fact finding),
- Paul L. Allen (LaTeX formatting),
- plus some others who haven’t said they want their name put in.
This material is maintained and written by Brian S. Julin, with help from several other individuals. It is copyrighted material. The copyright is only there to prevent anyone from editing or selling this material. Feel free to redistribute the material in any form as long as it is unaltered in content, and no credit or money is taken for the contents themselves. Comments, questions, contributions or ideas should be mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Brian S. Julin at UMACRC, S.A.O. Mailbox #2, Student Union Building, UMASS, 01003
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