“It should be legalized and taxed. Taxed. Yeah, ‘Gimme a pack of marijuana!’ But this other stuff is poison; acid’s poison, speed is poison, STP is poison, it’s all poison. But grass is nothing.” ~ Jack Kerouac
Whenever I read a blog about cannabis, I feel like I am watching a presidential debate with only one candidate.
The blog will either demand to legalize the plant due to its magical properties, or will list the horrific impact it will have on society.
As always, the truth is neither here nor there. I never smoked weed in my youth; in fact, I judged those who did, which made them hide it from me. I got high for the first time when I was 35, and was immediately intrigued with the effect it had on my mind. So, I documented it in my journal.
Here is a simple breakdown of what I learned from a few years of occasional use of pot. I hope it will help demystify the ambiguity around the plant, especially amidst the increasing legalization we are experiencing (it is now recreationally legal in Colorado and Washington states).
The dark side
1. It dries us up
Pot is a foreign substance; our bodies knows it and are trying to flush it down. The result, other than unbelievably long peeing, is dryness of the mouth, eyes and body. If you smoke—drinks tons of water. It will help to feel better the next day (like alcohol and hangover).
2. It impacts short term memory
Marijuana causes chemical lapses within the mind. This lack of synaptic continuity impacts short term memory. What this means is that when we go get something to eat we might wander around the kitchen for 10 minutes without knowing why we are there. We will also most likely have a hard time following a complicated movie or conversation… you get the point. Don’t worry—the effect is short lived. Short term memory will go back to normal once the effect subsides.
3. It can impact the ability to operate machinery
‘nuff said. And even if you disagree, ask yourself if it is worth the risk.
4. It can give us anxiety
On occasion, especially while consuming low-quality cannabis, we might freak out about something—it could be anything from a knock on the door, a scary scene in a movie or that the cat is about to attack. Just breathe deeply, remember that the feeling is exaggerated by being high, and focus of pleasant thoughts. Don’t smoke when already feeling anxious—it will make it worse.
5. It can be addictive
Like any substance which makes us feel good, some people may find Marijuana to be addictive. But then again, the same can be said of alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine, medications and yes, processed sugar. They can be addictive because they are altering substances—they help us forget about something which pains us. For example, I started smoking because I hated my job. People who smoke, or smoked in the past, find pot easier to quit than cigarettes or even sugar.
My advice: if we find ourselves smoking a lot, be conscious of what emotions or sensations we are trying to dull out, and focus on eliminating their cause. The desire to smoke will drop as well, allowing us to enjoy it responsibly like an occasional drink.
6. Long, consistent use can lower motivation and cognitive abilities
I remember going on vacation and smoking every day for almost two weeks. The various effects I listed above had an immediate cumulative impact—the more I smoked, the more I wanted to, and the more alienated I felt from myself. I noticed a significant degradation in the sharpness of my brain, and my ability to remember facts.
Marijuana temporarily diminishes the ego, which, over time, dramatically impacts our sense of self-motivation. Again, the effect will go away after a few days of being sober, but the more we smoke, the longer it will take to go back to normal. Note that some research shows that permanent impact can occur from a consistent, long use.
The awesome part
7. It diminishes pain and assists with healing
Marijuana is indeed magical in that sense. Ask any cancer patient who was able to eat during chemo, or those who got their lives back after an unbearable pain was diminished thanks to cannabis. Furthermore, it contributes to a more positive state of mind, which is a key to any form of healing.
8. It helps focus on the present moment.
When stoned, time slows down—10 minutes might seem like half an hour. This intriguing effect allows us to focus on one activity and forget the rest of the world exists. In other words, we easily “zone out”. In our hectic and constantly connected lives, this is a major benefit.
9. It intensifies pleasant sensations
Pot give us the munchies! I was told I should put it on the “bad” list, but heck no—if you haven’t tried your favorite food when you are high, you ought to. When we are high jokes are funnier, movies are better, showers are intoxicatingly pleasant… which leads us to:
Sex is awesome while stoned! Someone told me once, if you never had sex while being high, you don’t know what you are missing. Years later I can tell you she was right. Remember, pot intensifies sensations, and what sensations would we like deepened mostly?
10. It temporarily diminishes the ego
I found marijuana to be what I call “an emotionally softening agent”. Have you even seen someone getting stoned and shout “let’s go kick some ass”? Me neither. Here’s the good part of the ego being diminished: it allows us to access, express and explore our emotions better than when we are sober, when our ego controls our behavior. Self-reflection while being high allows us to see ourselves from the outside, and to better understand who we and others are.
As such, cannabis is a great therapy tool for couples. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to talk to your partner with their ego eliminated? Try this: get stoned, sit across from each other and allow each person to speak for five minutes without interruption about the problem you are experiencing. You’ll be amazed how much better you’ll be able to understand each other.
11. It opens brain passages which are usually closed
Marijuana temporarily diminishes the ego. This eliminates the resistance of the conscious mind to accept that there is more to the psyche than what we are currently aware. In other words, it allows us to explore the hidden realms of our personality—if you are the quintessential left brain, exploring with pot might help you access your intuitive, emotional, artistic and spiritual side. If you are an extremely emotional being, it can help you become more logical, rational and analytical. It requires self-reflection and exploration, but I have seen it in action.
So there you have it—marijuana demystified. If you smoke, do so responsibly and inquisitively.
The Simple Buddhist Trick to being Happy.
Dear Marijuana: A Goodbye Letter.
The negative effects of Marijuana.
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Editorial Assistant: Guenevere Neufeld/Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: Flickr/ D.C. Atty
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