Opinion: Stirring the pot is fine occasionally, but may ruin your long-term prospects

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Do the negatives of smoking outweigh the benefits? (Mila Kunis Kunis/Flickr, Creative Commons)

Cannabis, also known as marijuana among countless other slang terms, is a popular substance of choice among adolescents and young adults. The psychoactive drug affects the user’s mind, altering consciousness, mood, perception and behavior. As of Election Day, “10 states have legalized marijuana for recreational and medical uses, and 22 others have legalized only for medical purposes;” thus America is inching its way toward nationwide marijuana legalization and/or decriminalization. Although I’ve never experimented with the substance myself, I wholly advocate this upward trend. However, I’d also caution my pot-loving peers that significant pitfalls may arise from widespread marijuana distribution and consumption.

Certainly, marijuana’s appeal is somewhat justified. I understand many of us want a break from our stressful, monotonous lives and a relinquishing of self-control can provide a much-needed change of pace and sense of risk-taking. Capturing private photos and Snapchat stories of your and your friends’ incapacitated escapades elicits endless entertainment that can strengthen your bonds, and perhaps some of you can put the gardening industry in even fuller bloom.

As long as prospective users don’t exploit the system, they should be permitted to reap the rewards of marijuana’s medicinal properties. Given that other legal substances (e.g. alcohol, cigarettes and other tobacco products, etc.) arguably pose greater health concerns and that restriction of accessibility may only exacerbate the issue (after all, those who truly desire an illicit substance will likely seek possession of it by any means necessary, regardless of the laws in place), I’m all for marijuana’s legalization nationally.

On the other hand, many of these arguments can be refuted fairly easily. While marijuana allows some to relax and enjoy themselves, the idea of sitting around lackadaisically and smoking a joint has simply never fit into my definition of excitement. Besides, I’d be terrified to lose bodily and behavioral control, and plenty of alternative, more risk-averse stress relievers await those who seek a natural high. The perspective that marijuana use will grant you true adulthood and induct you into the cool people’s clique, along with the incomprehensible ‘deep thoughts’ the substance induces, illustrate a childish perspective. As condescending as this may sound, I truly sympathize with those who, as opposed to representing themselves authentically, must resort to taking drugs and conforming to peer pressure to gain some semblance of a personality.

Furthermore, those wacky social media posts may harbor major consequences if they ever (quite literally) fall into the wrong hands.

Lastly, the argument that more dangerous substances’ legality necessitates that of marijuana is about as fragile as the mediums of inhalation; it’s the equivalent of seeking a dog bite merely because it’s less dangerous than a venomous snake bite. It’s like the pot calling the kettle (or in this case, the bong) black, and we shouldn’t set the bar so low for our well-being.

Of course, no side effect of marijuana use is as consequential as compromised cognitive functioning. According to Randi Schuster, director of neuropsychology at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Addiction Medicine, “the adolescent brain is undergoing significant neurodevelopment well into the 20s, and the regions that are last to develop are those regions that are most populated by cannabis receptors and are also very critical to cognitive functioning.”

In tandem with marijuana’s negative long-term impact on critical brain matter, a recent psychiatric study “finds that when adolescents stop using marijuana — even for just one week — their verbal learning and memory improve.” Thus, marijuana abstinence provides both immediate and long-lasting benefits to neurocognitive activity.

Ultimately, marijuana distribution and use should be decriminalized and legalized nationally, albeit with great caution. Like any joint, marijuana can link different objects (or people) together and facilitate movement throughout our lives. However, the substance can also deteriorate our energy and mental stability, turning us into dopes. As someone who has witnessed marijuana’s effects firsthand, I implore you to tread carefully and remember that you can find plenty of other pipes that will take your mind on a journey.


Michael Katz is a contributor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email michael.katz@uconn.edu.  

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