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September 30th, 2005

Does Being Potted Make You a Vegetable?

SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK
The other day I was thinking about the various stupid things people do and say, when something occurred to me:
Are drug users stupid because they use drugs, or do they use drugs because they’re stupid?
It’s a valid question. A lot of stupid things are being done and said in this world, and I vowed to get to the bottom of it even if I had to go to the top. To study this question, I turned to other studies of America’s illegal drug of choice: marijuana. In attempting to come up with a hypothesis using the scientific method (or what the heck, just hypothesizing wildly), I came up with the following points:
1. There are more dangerous legal drugs, such as alcohol, but I stuck to wacky tobaccy because alcohol is so pervasive, it’s become accepted even at times when it shouldn’t. These days, even the smartest people use it. Of course, the human race seems to be getting dumber. Coincidence?
2. There is a difference between stupid people doing stupid things, and intelligent people doing stupid things. The difference has to do with frequency.
3. More and more, marijuana is becoming accepted by our society. So is reality TV. Again, coincidence?
4. Humans in general, and Americans in particular, love doing things that aren’t good for us.
Although technically named cannabis, marijuana is most often called pot, because marijuana users have trouble with multisyllable words. It’s also called grass, because … um … because it’s green. Yeah, that’s it. When smoked, the ingredient THC reaches the brain almost immediately, which is fairly typical of our hurry-up society. And yet, the result of this rush is a sense of well-being, and a state of relaxation.
Who doesn’t want that? Better yet, the effect can last for hours, which is more than you get from sex, Boone’s Farm Strawberry Wine, or an episode of Gilligan’s Island. (Turns out Gilligan smoked pot, too, but who was surprised?)
There really is no short term problem, as long as the pot smoker doesn’t do such things as drive, operate machinery, communicate, think, run for office, or tell a joke. Ironically, while thinking they have heightened insight and more vivid senses, these people are actually experiencing hallucinations, poor coordination, impaired memory, and shorter attention spans. It’s very difficult to tell a pothead from a congressman.
That THC stuff is lipid soluble. Did you know that? Neither did I. That means it’s stored in body fat for months after a single use, which is really not a problem as long as you don’t have any body fat. And who wants fat? Smoking pot may actually be a good reason to get that necessary exercise, although, of course, while high you shouldn’t run or use weight equipment.
In the short term, pot produced problems with memory, learning, thinking, problem solving, and coordination, and quadruple the risk of heart attack. Potheads don’t worry about this, because by the time they get to the end of that list they’ve forgotten what was at the beginning.
This strengthens the argument that people get stupid from using pot, not the other way around, which is too bad. If stupid people were the only ones who started toking, and if puffing on pot will bring the aforementioned stupid people to an early end, isn’t that just natural selection in action?
On a related note, some studies indicate smoking pot increases cancer risk more than smoking tobacco does. Grass contains 50 times the level of carcinogens, and the really GOOD stuff has 70 times. (Marijuana may actually help in the treatment of some cancer victims, which has to fall under the “ironic” category.) In fairness, part of that might be because marijuana cigarettes (called “joints” – don’t know why), with a much greater amount of tar than tobacco, come without filters. Cause, hey, once stuff gets filters isn’t bad anymore, right?
But still, pot does produce that state of well-being … well, that, and also depression, anxiety, and personality disorders. Smokers do worse in school, but here comes that cause and effect thing again: Do they do worse because of the pot, or because dumb people are the ones more likely to take it up to begin with? On the other hand, some studies indicate that a person’s smarts start to come back eventually, if they stop smoking. They just have to – well – stop.
Oddly enough, considering that state of well-being and relaxation, pot smokers have an increased likelihood of work problems, including absences, tardiness, and accidents. Or maybe not so oddly. Just goes to show, as goes school, so goes life.
Marijuana is chemically addictive, meaning you crave it and need more and more to get the same effect, and you have withdrawal symptoms. What’s the big deal? The same thing happens with coffee, although without the debilitating paranoia.
But the good news is, pot is a gateway drug, meaning people who smoke it are very likely to go on to harder and more dangerous drugs. And once you’ve done that, the bad effects of pot just aren’t that important anymore, are they?
So, to sum it up, marijuana causes tremors, nausea, headache, breathing problems, reduced blood flow to the brain, changes in the reproductive organs(!), memory problems, anxiety, paranoia, and cancer. I’m forced to conclude that, when it comes to pot smokers, it doesn’t matter whether you’re stupid or not.
You’ll get there.

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