Marijuana is one of the most talked-about drugs in American culture. It has become a controversial topic in political, medical and cultural discussion, but not many people know exactly what science says about it. This is a problem. Science presents us with concrete standards of examination through empirical research. So when forming an opinion about controversial events, science seems like a logical field to consult.
The fact is that marijuana does not have the devastating effects on the brain that all your parents will tell you it does.
Pot is processed through THC, which then enters the blood stream through the lungs and excites neurotransmitters called cannabinoid receptors, which are similar to the opioid receptors. There are two known cannabinioid receptors: CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are primarily located in the brain, specifically in the basal ganglia and the limbic system. The receptors are responsible for the anticonvulsant and euphoric effects of cannabis. CB2 receptors are found only in the immune system and are responsible for the anti-inflammatory and possibly other therapeutic uses of marijuana. Once the THC reaches these receptors, brain activity changes and users begin to experience a high.
Based on aggregate prevalence statistics found in the World Drug Report 2006 (WDR 2006), published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the United States’ annual percent of the population using marijuana was 12.6 percent in 2004, ranking 11th largest in the world.
This statistic doesn’t mean much to UR students. The National College Health Assessment of the American College Association (ACHA-NCHA) conducted a study in the spring of 2006. They found that only 65.5 percent of students in a population of 61,492 reported that they have never used marijuana. Out of 1,112 students, 1.2 percent reported using marijuana every day of the last 30 days before the survey. There are numerous effects on chronic users’ health, and not all are bad.
In fact, I will not even go over the negative effects of marijuana because we are constantly being informed about them. Instead, I will discuss the possible positive effects of marijuana usage. A recent study published in the Journal of Natural Products showed that marijuana may be able to be used as an antiseptic because of its newfound ability to kill infections. Nonpsychotropic components will be studied in the future in order to localize this ability and further explore its potential.
Pot can also help with memory. In fact, if you study while blazed, and then take a test while blazed, your memory recall about the information will be better! But, at the same time, it is important to realize that you are still taking a test blazed, so, obviously other skills of yours will be inhibited or at least not so sharp (perception of time, to name one). Marijuana has also been shown to have a medicinal use and is used in California to treat a variety of illnesses, including depression, cancer and schizophrenia. The problem with marijuana is not really the health risks. It is the other risks.
In order to use marijuana, you need a variety of factors: a place to use it, the marijuana, THC extraction device (bong, papers, vaporizer), time and willingness to be arrested. In an economic sense, pot is dumb to do, especially if you are a chronic user. On average, the chronic user will go through a quarter once a week. That is seven grams of weed. In order to get high, you need about 100 milligrams of THC absorbed through the CB1 and CB2 receptors. Doing this is difficult.
So if you are a chronic user going through a quarter a week and smoking it through joints, then you are only absorbing about 30 percent of the THC that is actually present in the marijuana. This means that, in an economic sense, you are wasting pot and spending between $60 to $115 a week to absorb only $18 to $33.5 worth of pot. This adds up to about $2,880 to $5,520 per year. Money that could have been invested in index funds such as SPDR is lost. Roth IRA contribution lost.
As a student, you are also spending time getting high time that could have been spent in the comfort of a library chair studying for that latest physics midterm is spent being blazed and eating Cheetoes. In addition to spending this money and time, you are also risking getting arrested. In New York, you are not allowed to smoke pot. It is illegal, even on campus, in the privacy of your dorm room.
Bottom line: save yourself some time and money. If you decide to spend that saved money on pot, it is best to do so only in moderation.
Goodman is a member of the class of 2010.