SNEDEKER: Pot is a risk for evolving young brains
It was the ’60s, man. Everybody was doing it. Marijuana, Mary Jane, pot, weed, grass, cannabis, Acapulco Gold, Thai sticks, ganja.
But, by any name, it would have still been the same cultural revolution, a transformation in the way many of us related to each other, the way we dressed, our attitudes about sex and religion and marriage, and our longings for kumbaya, a fantasy of global love and unity.
Because of the tragedy of Vietnam, many of us hoped that it would also change the way people felt about war. Not so much, it turned out.
With or without pot, those changes or non-changes were going to happen or not; the die had been cast long before. Pot was just the lubricant of the Age of Aquarius, not its fuel.
The brief flowering of that heady time ended decades ago, with more questions remaining than were answered. History, as life, is regrettably always a work in progress.
I’m now 63 and clearly unhip, and it’s been more than 40 years since last I “smoked up,” as we used to say back in the day. I stopped for two reasons.
One is that for a significant fraction of pot smokers, myself included, really unpleasant anxiety reactions can occur, sabotaging the mainly very pleasant effects of smoking the herb. Two, I started to notice I had little interest in doing much else.
This worried me, even at the ripe old age of 20, long before the lights blinked on in my prefrontal cortex, allowing me to entertain pursuits other than sex, pot and rock ’n’ roll. Even my unevolved brain could see failure stalking on the near horizon.
And those two negative effects are still true for many pot aficionados today, and likely are far more intense considering that new cannabis strains are vastly more potent than the weed of the ’60s. So, should I be a stoner today (deliver me), I would likely experience massive paranoia and zero ambition, not to mention poor driving skills. Not a problem, I guess; I’m semi-retired. But like bringing back bell bottoms, leisure suits, bean sprouts and bad acid, why?
Like a few longtime friends of mine who also inhaled in their youth but now have youths of their own (I don’t), I am concerned about how this ostensibly benign plant may be a Trojan horse for kids’ stillevolving brains. The research is worrisome.
The American Medical Association last year warned that “Heavy cannabis use in adolescence causes persistent impairments in neurocognitive performance and IQ, and use is associated with increased rates of anxiety, mood and psychotic thought disorders.”
Read: dumber and unhappier.
Colorado recently legalized marijuana use, Washington state may soon follow, and similar laws are heading for the ballot in Alaska, California and Oregon. I fear we are putting the smoke before the bong. Until we know for sure how permanently damaging cannabis may be to young minds, it seems irresponsible for government to be endorsing its legal proliferation, making it even easier for kids to get their hands on the stuff than it is now. Fortunately, South Dakota lawmakers yet appear not to be embracing this legalization trend.
In the meantime, I’m still on drugs. Like a beta blocker (and whiskey sometimes). But they so do not make the white knight talk backward (as in the 1966 Grace Slick song).
My hope is that the future leaders of our country — the adolescents of today and tomorrow — have clear enough heads to move us all forward to a better place in the age to come.