Canvassing for Opinion - aka "Blairs Brain on Cannabis"

IMHO prohibition sentiment requires inherent addiction to status quo, an incapacity to visualise beyond the here and now and a desperate desire to know others might feel the same... Reform is not revolutionary, rather it is evolutionary. Having survived banging your head against a brick wall the evolutionist relishes having stopped. / Blair

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What Teens Need To Know About Marijuana

Cast Aluminum Nurse with Vaporizer (New Kensin...
Nurse with VapouriserImage by takomabibelot via Flickr
CFN - Teens are getting a lot of mixed messages about marijuana these days.

(From An Adult Who Uses Ten Grams A Day) by Russell Barth – July 9, 2011

At school, the teachers, cops, and so called “experts” come in and tell them that marijuana is addictive, that it causes cancer, brain damage, and mental illness, and that the use thereof will inevitably lead to the spiral of addiction to hard drugs. None of this is actually true.

A quick scan of google, and any teen might get get the idea that marijuana is some sort of “miracle cure” for everything from cancer, to MS, to depression. This is also not entirely true.

Then there is the whole legal hypocrisy of deadly drugs like tobacco and alcohol being sold and used, while something that is substantially less harmful can get them suspended from school, kicked out of the house, or even criminally charged. Teens notice this, even the “straight edge” kids who have no interest in any drugs see that this policy is nonsensical.

Confused, and feeling – quite accurately – like adults are a bunch of insane hypocrites who can’t be trusted, teens often turn to their friends, their siblings, older teens, and very young adults for advice. There, they often try pot, and thus their misconceptions are reinforced, mixed ‘n matched, and soon, the teen has no clue who or what to believe. Or is believing the wrong thing. This also puts them in danger.

Some people who first try marijuana are left hating it, thinking that the mild rush of anxiety that often comes with the first few tokes was actually the onset of a full-scale panic attack. “Oh, I tried it once and I freaked out!” is a sentence I have heard often from teens.

Some users fall in love with pot immediately, letting it consume their thoughts even when they are not using it. They often change their hair, clothing, decor, and lifestyle accordingly, as it sometimes becomes a hobby, an ongoing pass-time, their new “thing”. Similar things happen when people suddenly get excited about a sport, a fashion, or a musical genre in a really big way.

Most fall somewhere in the middle, using pot only occasionally for fun, but not pursuing it any further than a passing fancy.

As a Federally Licensed Medical Marijuana user, I have been prescribed 10 grams of pot per day to combat the symptoms of PTSD and fibromyalgia. I have to use that much, or suffer with my symptoms. There is nothing fun about it.

I use a variety of strains, all of which have been carefully selected to meet my symptom needs, though, I must admit, they all fall short. A cannabis “strain”, is much like a pure-bred dog: Breeders select male and female plants (from popular breeds that already exist) to enhance or reduce certain traits in the final product. The names of the strains are arbitrary, but they help users and growers understand what they are using and growing.

I am unfortunate in that I have a nearly superhuman tolerance to cannabis and many other drugs. Even using ten grams a day, my symptoms are only half-way alleviated and you would not notice any lethargy or slowing in my demeanor. I am also confident that I could pass any sobriety test. Guests who watch me medicate are astonished that I am not getting stoned.

The potency of the pot I use has not been tested in a lab, but growing techniques and other pertinent data suggests that most of them are producing bud with a THC rating of anywhere from 12-15%, and CBD rating of about 1-3%. One strain that I use is 6 and 6 percent, which is unusual. As good as it gets, basically.

Cannabis has dozens of proven medical applications and the studies are well-documented and easy to find on line. THC is one of only several therapeutic agents found in cannabis. Cannabinoids are found in different ratios, depending on the strain and the quality of the growing cycle, and these agents work synergistically with THC to produce the health benefits – and buzz – that pot is coveted for. There are many different cannabinoids, and scientists are just beginning to understand what they do and how they do it.

Every morning, I melt 3.3 grams into 70 ml of olive oil (350° in the oven for an hour), and drink that down with my breakfast. I get no buzz from this huge dose, but do get symptom relief. I do the same thing just before bed and it helps me sleep and I feel much more rested and energetic in the morning.

During the day, I use the remaining 3.3 grams through a Volcano Vaporizer. This device blows hot air (365°) over a screen chamber containing a level teaspoon (about 1/3 of a gram, or one joint’s worth) of ground bud. The vapors are collected in a bag, then inhaled from the bag using a mouth piece. Because the volcano does not destroy the bud the way fire does, it delivers four times the medicine that the same amount would if it were being smoked. Thus, it is much like smoking four joints in one short sitting, but with no tar or lung damage. None.

I smoke on occasion, usually when my asthma is bothering me or when I am particularly anxious, or when I am out in public. Just eating pot doesn’t do enough for me. Just using the volcano falls short most days as well. Smoking too. So I must constantly engage in all three methods to get the needed relief. And still, my symptoms are only half-way alleviated. Some people use cannabis in a balm, some even use balls of hashish as suppositories!

There are various studies – none of them conclusive enough for my taste – as to why some symptoms are better treated with edibles rather than smoked or vaporized cannabis, but they are still ongoing. There is not much data on why some people can get by on a gram a day while other people need over an ounce a day.

Okay, so one could easily get the idea that I am trying to get kids to try pot. Not so. There are several reasons people should avoid drugs – including pot, sugar, alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine – until they finish with puberty.

First off, until puberty is done, the brain is not yet done developing. The brain is still growing new tissue up until the ages of 19-25, so putting anything but good clean food into it is best avoided.

Next, the pot that most teens have access to is the “bottom shelf” stuff. Doesn’t matter if you are a rich kid, doesn’t matter if you think the guy who sells it to you is the coolest guy ever – take it from me: teens are smoking the dregs. By that I mean, the pot is usually weak, full of chemicals, and the money they spend on it eventually finds it’s way to some Very Serious People. People with guns. People who smuggle poor women from poor countries to work as prostitutes in wealthier countries. People who ship explosives and make meth and deal coke and who kill people.

These guys convert whole houses, steal hydro, and destroy property. They produce a product that is full of grow fertilizers because they are too lazy and greedy to “flush” the plants with water for the last two weeks of the flowering cycle. Fungus (live and dead), fungicide, pesticide, bugs (usually dead), and bug feces can all be found in abundance on “street weed”.

The smell is the give-away. Good pot should smell like potpourri – aromatic, like dried flowers. There should be a clean, fresh, herbal smell to the bud, and it should burn clean, leaving a white or grey ash. That chemical, skunky, acrid smelling stuff is the stuff you want to avoid. That black-ash and the burning headache behind your eyes should also give you a clue as to the low quality of the bud you just smoked.

Thing is, these chemicals are found in trace amounts in many of our foods, so it isn’t like they would be particularly dangerous if they were eaten. But the bio-availability of these chemicals when they are burnt and exposed to lung tissue is much greater than it would be in the gut. People can get lung infections and do permanent lung and throat damage smoking this stuff, never mind what those weird compounds might be doing to the rest of your body when it hits the bloodstream.

Then there is the nincompoop rabble who buy a book, a lamp, and a hand full of seeds from the local “head shop”, and try to finance their trip to europe by “selling dope”. What these guys usually end up with is a bunch of stringy plants with weak little buds – the pot heads’ equivalent of a tomato plant in a window box. By the time he factors in all the hydro, fertilizers, and hassle, the pot he grew in his dorm room (and smoked before he could sell any), probably cost him about $125 a gram.

Occasionally, a teen can connect with a clean(er) source of pot – like some “mom `n pop” grower who knows what they are doing, and they can worry less about things like chemicals and where their money will end up. But this is a rarity. Especially since most dealers are congenital liars who will tell people that the pot they sell is as clean as clean can be. Sometimes their suppliers are liars. Either way, teens are operating in an area where no one can be trusted, and everyone is looking to come out on top, and teens are the bottom of the totem pole.

Teens (and parents) need not worry about people “lacing” their purchase with anything like meth and cocaine, for a few reasons. First off, pot is cheap, and those drugs are expensive. No one is going to waste expensive product on cheap product, as it cuts into profits. In fact, we “legalizers” have been asking the police for years to show us even one lab report supporting the claim that pot is “laced” with anything, and they have not. But as I said, the pot they sell to kids is usually the stuff that adults turn their nose up at when offered.

But sometimes the dealer shrugs and says “Sorry, dude. Just sold my last quarter. Got some other goodies here, if you like.” So the teen, who was, until then, in search of a light-hearted buzz, is now left with the choice of making the best of this weirdo’s inventory, having a sober weekend, or calling all over town for the whole night trying to get clean bud. “Well… what have you got…?”

That, ladies and gentlemen, is how the “gateway” thing works. It isn’t that pot makes you want to chase a higher high, it is that dealers often have far more than just pot available for sale. Studies show that most people who use pot tend to use less hard drugs, less booze, and less prescription medications.

And don’t get the idea that there is some creep lurking in the park trying to ensnare your kids into the drug world. No one is out there trying to get your kid to try drugs. Get it into your heads, Canada: your children have an insatiable appetite for drugs of all kinds, and the dealers are barely able to keep up with the demand. And it is everyone’s fault.

Canadians smoke more pot per capita than any other country on earth. We smoke the most potent pot on earth, and admit to toking and then driving more than any other country on earth. We have had our population increase dramatically in the past few decades, and our roads are more crowded every year. Yet the per capita accident rate has been dropping. Some could conclude that all this pot use is actually making roads safer!

That said, driving high is just dumb. Pot is not like alcohol, and it does not impair every user every time. But it can impair. The slightest reduction in reaction time, the slightest distraction, can mean death. So people need to use common sense and, much like they should be doing with booze, give it some time to wear off.

Bringing drugs to school is as dumb as it gets. Schools are private property, usually owned by a community, and managed by hired specialists, but just like a restaurant or hospital, they are still private places. The people in charge can make the rules they want. If the school says no blue hats, then that is the rule. In my opinion, any kid dumb enough to bring their drugs to school needs to be held back a grade, because they are clearly not thinking straight.

Going to school high is also not cool at all. Imagine if you and your friends had a band. You have been working hard and have some songs together, and get a gig at a birthday party. If everyone pays attention and digs it, you will probably want to keep doing it, and do it well. If everyone is baked and non-responsive, or barely listening, then you are going to hate performing. Your teachers feel the same way, so show them the respect you would expect, and be sober in class.

If you are already a chronic user who wants to quit, you might notice a mild “withdrawal”. This usually consists of a few sleepless nights, restlessness, and some anxiety. I describe it to people as “an overwhelming feeling of boredom”. It will pass, as there is no physical dependance with cannabis use, just a sort of “re-adjustment” after the use is discontinued. Exercise and lots of water (and maybe finding something better to do with your time than getting high), will usually alleviate this feeling in a short while.

Now, about being “high”… the reason people have memory issues and reaction/motor problems with pot is because of how pot stimulates the brain. Areas of the brain that govern creativity and non-linear thinking are stimulated when cannabis is present, so, the imagination starts to broaden and wander. Many people mistake this for “added creativity”, whereas it is more like a person trying to carry a mattress. A single mattress is easy for one person to carry, but a double, or a queen, though still technically light enough to lift, is difficult to manage because it flops around and is cumbersome. This is what happens to the unaccustomed mind when using cannabis, and that is why it is a bad idea to drive or go to class high on pot.

Some people, like me, find the opposite is true. Cannabis focuses my anxious mind and allows me to keep my many responsibilities in order. Some teens say that they use pot to relax, to reduce stress, and to cope with the pressures of teen life. But how many other things are they doing that augment the problems? Maybe – just maybe – if they got more exercise, stopped drinking carbonated, sweetened, caffeinated drinks, and stopped playing 11 hours of intense video games every day, they would find it easier to relax.

There are some times when young people can use marijuana – like under the supervision of a health care providers and parents. ADHD, autism, and many other behavioral problems are being treated with cannabis in people as young as six, with resoundingly positive results. But that doesn’t mean that teens should be doing any self-medicating, it means the parents should be more educated and more involved.

Russell Barth

Educators For Sensible Drug Policy

Federally Licensed Medical Marijuana User
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