With Canada having just legalised the sale and use of Cannabis (1), I felt like I should use this opportunity to raise some important issues surrounding the use of “the devil’s lettuce” (among other things). This isn’t going to discuss my views on weed from a scientific standpoint. Not because I don’t have all the facts and figures at hand, ready to support all of my points, but rather it’s because I’ve already taken that approach in the past (2).
Similarly to the above MyTake, I am going to use alcohol as my bassline. Why? Mainly because I find it absolutely ridiculous that such a harmful drug (to both the individual and the society) is not only legal but is actually part of our culture, especially when it comes to binging. However, it’s important to note that I’m not calling for the banning of alcohol, despite the deaths, illness, violence, destruction, and sexual assault that all happen as a result of it. Why? Well that’s essentially what I’m going to discuss today.
In my opinion, and of course you can disagree with me, I believe that as adults we should have certain freedoms. I mean we can choose to join the army, fight in sports such as boxing or UFC, ski down mountains or do backflips on snowboards, we can climb mountains without any training, we can eat ourselves to death, we can tattoo our bodies and pierce every part of our skin as we see fit. We can do all of these things because as adults we are allowed a number of freedoms, a number of ways through which we can choose what we do to our bodies.
So why doesn’t the same thing apply to drugs? I think it’s important to understand that using the blanket term “drugs” is a horrible idea and I prefer not to do so. Everyone recognises that drugs are different and that you can even divide them into hard drugs and soft drugs, something that still fails to recognise the clear differences between them. My argument would stand with any soft drug as I believe they can be used for more than just partying or for watching shit movies. Regardless, let’s focus on weed for the time being. Why can we not choose to smoke weed when we can choose to drink alcohol every day or have McDonalds for every meal?
Typically people give a range of different answers: “alcohol is a part of our culture and is socially acceptable” or “eating McDonalds doesn’t put other people at risk”. Of course both of these arguments are not only childish but are ultimately meaningless. Alcohol is a part of our culture because we’ve allowed it to become that way. As for eating McDonalds, well, when you look at the costs to any society as a direct result of obesity, you will see that it’s not that simple.Especially when you bring children into the picture. An adult who lives on MCDonald's and then choose to reproduce is likely to have a fat kid.
To put the incredibly low risk of weed in perspective: more people die every year from choking on pen lids than have died as a direct result of smoking weed, ever. More people die per year as a direct result of taking selfies than have ever died as a direct result of smoking weed. More people are killed by cows per year than have ever died as a direct result of smoking weed. It is practically impossible to overdose on weed because you would pass out before you could smoke enough to kill you.
Now, I’m not arguing that there aren’t risks when smoking weed. I’m not one of these pro-weed morons who claims that weed is harmless. However, there are a number of claims being thrown around that are false. For example: Weed doesn’t cause hallucinations (generally speaking). It is possible for people with underlying conditions or those who have smoked far too much weed to enter into a state of acute psychosis whereby hallucinations may be experienced. However, this can be easily avoided, something I will discuss momentarily. Secondly, weed does not cause schizophrenia. It’s possible that people with a genetic predisposition for the mental illness could have it “activated” by the use of marijuana or certain other psychoactive substances, but the risk posed is so minimal that using this as an argument would simply be illogical. Thirdly, weed does not cause mental illness.
This myth largely stems from the misrepresentation of scientific data generally from a misunderstanding of results. People with a mental illness are likely to be drawn towards certain activities, particularly during adolescence, and so weed use among this group is typically higher which skews results. This also plays a role in the use of marijuana on a brain that hasn’t fully developed, which is something I’ve already mentioned. The largest review of marijuana studies ever conducted found to long-term negative mental or physical health effects as a direct result of moderate marijuana consumption. You can find the link to this on my other MyTake.
So some of you may be wondering what it is like to smoke weed. I’m going to discuss the effects of the drug (on me, it will vary slightly from person to person) as well as providing some general safety recommendations.
You can consume marijuana in a number of ways. The most common method is inhalation i.e. smoking or vaping it. While this approach arguably poses the highest risk (as a result of smoke inhalation) it’s also the most manageable approach. The other method is edibles which I wouldn’t recommend trying if you haven’t smoked weed before. I’ll discuss both:
I typically take this approach of smoking weed. Sometimes from a pipe, sometimes from a bong, but usually I just roll a joint. You can mix tobacco with your weed which allows you to smoke less and makes it seem less harsh but tobacco is actually dangerous and as such I tend to avoid it. I have two different approaches to smoking: I either smoke to get stoned or I smoke to get high. It may not sound like there is a difference but for me, stoned is your more typical reaction e.g. sitting on the sofa, eating junk food, and watching ridiculous movies or TV shows without a care in the world. The purpose of it is to relax and turn your brain off for a bit. When I smoke to get high, I remain completely functional and productive. I’ll usually use this mind-set to write, mix music, enjoy the weather, or any other purpose.
When smoking weed, particularly if it is your first time, take it slow. If you only have one toke (puff) and then wait to see how it affects you, that is perfectly acceptable. It’s better to be safe than sorry. I used to smoke way too much and it led to many unpleasant experiences. Nowadays, I’ll maybe take two or three tokes of a joint and then leave the rest for later. Each strain will affect you differently and it’s important to realise that. You might find yourself singing, dancing, laughing for no reason, becoming lost in thought, or sleeping.
As with any drug, there are three important rules you should pay attention to: set, setting, and moderation. Set refers to your mind-set. If you’re in a negative frame of mind before taking any drug then you’re setting yourself up for failure. Setting refers to who you’re with and where you are. If you’re with friends in a comfortable space (such as your home) then you’re more likely to have a positive experience that if you’re alone or with strangers in a sketchy part of town. Moderation speaks for itself. Take things slow and don’t try to act big by smoking more than you can handle. When you’re turning pale and feeling sick, you won’t look or feel “cool”.
As I mentioned already, edibles are a whole other can of worms. Many people make the mistake of eating more of say a weed brownie than they need to. Some people will eat half, wait 20 minutes and decide they can’t feel anything, eat the other half and then feel like they’ve been transported to hell. The safest way to explore edibles is to wait at least an hour and a half after eating one before consuming any more. If you want to play it extra safe then wait for 2 hours. Trust me, it’s better to feel like you aren’t high enough than to feel like you’re too high.
One thing that is important to remember is that however you’re feeling, no matter how close to the gates of hell you may have strayed, it’s just temporary. You aren’t going to die (even if you feel like you might) and after 10, 20, maybe 30 minutes, you will begin to feel things easing out.
The Dark Side of Weed
As I mentioned earlier, I’m not going to sit here and claim that weed is harmless. I told you that I’ve had negative experiences through weed and so I’m going to share one such tale with you now. Before starting this story, I should mention that I live in Spain but I don’t speak Spanish. Anyway, one day I was sitting in my flat, alone, and decided to smoke a joint. I hadn’t rolled this joint but the person who had had added kief to the joint (this is like weed dust and it’s more potent. It gathers in the lower section of a grinder). I smoked the amount I’d usually smoke, believing it to be a regular joint, but pretty quickly realised that I was far too high.
I have anxiety and so smoking too much weed can be a little sketchy for me as my anxious mind can take over and turn what would be a pleasant experience into a negative one. Just because you have anxiety doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy weed, I certainly still enjoy it, but I do have to be a little more cautious to make sure that I don’t smoke too much. Anyway, in this instance all it took was one thought to send me on a spiral: IF I needed to go to hospital, how would I do it? I don’t know the emergency number, I don’t know where my nearest hospital is, I don’t speak Spanish, and at this stage I had just moved to Spain and wasn’t registered as being there in any official capacity. Suffice to say, the next 30-40 minutes were incredibly unpleasant but I lived and learnt from the experience. That’s why I can’t stress enough to think about moderation.
Misconceptions About Drug Users
This is my final point, I promise. I want to just quickly discuss a common misconception. As I mentioned before, we know that there are soft drugs and hard drugs. There is also a key difference between a drug addict and a drug user. I am a drug user. I’ve tried weed, DMT, cocaine, alcohol, tobacco, MDMA (both in its pure form and in ecstasy), and psilocybin (the psychedelic chemical in magic mushrooms). Nowadays, the only drugs I would touch would be weed, MDMA, DMT, ayahuasca (it’s on my to-do list), psilocybin, and alcohol (although I only drink alcohol because the other drugs aren't always an option in certain situations). I don’t take any of these regularly, the most common one being weed which I only smoke a few times a month.
Why do I take these drugs? Well, partly for fun and partly for experience. MDMA I take for the same reasons that people drink at clubs: it improves my sociability and allows me to have more fun. It also creates a larger sense of “oneness”. Psilocybin wasn’t for fun but rather for the experience and the positive medical effects that the drug can offer. Weed is mostly just for leisure…and so on. The point is, that these drugs have a positive influence on my life. Do they impact my health in a positive way? Some do, some don’t. I don’t want to live forever but I DO want to enjoy my life and as far as I’m concerned, I can do that any way I want provided it isn't at the expense of the enjoyment of others.
I know some of you are probably thinking “how can you enjoy your life if you’re spending all your time taking drugs?” Well, as I already mentioned my drug use is very infrequent. To paraphrase a famous rant by the late and great Bill Hicks: In all my times of using drugs that aren’t alcohol, I’ve never hurt anybody (including myself), never robbed anybody, never raped anybody, never killed anybody (including myself), never crashed a car, never burned down a house, and I’ve never lost a single job or had to call in sick to a job. I’ve had a great time but in no way have I negatively impacted the lives of others at the expense of my own enjoyment.
It is my opinion that the biggest risk posed by drugs (specifically soft drugs) doesn’t come from the drugs themselves but from a lack of education on the part of those taking them.
I am HAPPY to discuss this topic with anyone but only in a civil and mature manner. If you're going to just bark disagreements at me without any support for your argument then I just won't respond. By all means share your opinion but understand that just because you disagree, that doesn't make you right. Just as me disagreeing with you doesn't automatically make me right.