I’ve been meaning to write this post for a long, long time. I’m not really sure why I haven’t gotten around to it before. Maybe I’m lazy or maybe I just don’t care too much about this topic, but it comes up often enough in my personal and professional life that I thought it was about time to write this out.
Having worked with addicts and alcoholics for over 17 years and having been clean and sober myself for almost 19 years(we don’t borrow time), I’m asked on a regular basis what I think about the legalization of marijuana. Actually, I typically find myself in conversations with pot smokers who apologize because they think they’ve offended me by mentioning that they smoke weed, followed up with something like, “I’m sure you don’t think it should be legalized but I really believe in the decriminalization of marijuana.” Well sure you do. You smoke weed!
Nonetheless, people always assume I think marijuana is bad. They also assume I think alcohol, cocaine, heroin, meth, pills, etc are bad. Quite the contrary; I don’t think any of those things are bad but I do think they affect behaviors and serve consequences which make life unpleasant or difficult, sometimes even resulting in death. But that bag of heroin sitting on a table in the middle of the room is absolutely harmless until someone picks it up and decides to do something with it.
We’ve become a society unwilling to take ownership over our own mistakes and choices. The fact is that I could care less whether or not marijuana is legalized. For me it changes nothing. I am an addict and alcoholic and if marijuana was legal I would still be an addict and alcoholic and unable to use it successfully. You see, when I smoked weed, I smoked it all day, every day. There was no moderation in it for me. It is the same for alcohol. Just because alcohol is legal doesn’t mean I can use it successfully. So we’re talking about two completely different things; addiction vs. moderation. If you can moderate your alcohol or drug intake, using recreationally with absolutely no consequences, I guess that’s a choice you’re going to have to make. But if your use is ending in consequences, whether natural or legal, and behavior changes, chances are you’re an addict and it doesn’t make a bit of difference if it’s legal or not.
What I find interesting is that it is usually the addicts still active in their addiction who are most concerned about marijuana being legalized. The old run of the mill couple who smokes a joint at the end of the day doesn’t really care. They’re not smoking enough too care.
But, for those advocates of marijuana legalization, have you ever thought about the adverse affects of marijuana legalization? I’ll get to that in a second. You see, I can see some very beneficial reasons for using marijuana medically but first we have to destigmatize marijuana.
Having worked with teenagers for years, it is no mystery to me that one of the most commonly diagnosed and overdiagnosed issues for teenagers(STOP Diagnosing teenagers so much!!!!) is Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Discorder, which are usually treated with stimulants. If you’ve worked with teenagers or have teenagers who are ADD or ADHD(probably the most overdiagnosed personality disorder in history with the exception of bipolar disorder), you know how difficult it is to get kids on a medication which is effective as well as not having side affects that affect their not wanting to take it. One of the biggest issues I’ve worked with through the years is teenagers not wanting to take their medication.
How old are most adolescents when they are diagnosed with ADD or ADHD? 10? 11? No later than 12. How old is the onset of marijuana use in our country? 10-12. Did you know that marijuana is categorized as either a stimulant, depressant or hallucinogen because it contains properties of all three. So what do kids do? They start smoking weed and stop taking their medication, often cheeking their Adderall and selling it at school, using the money to buy weed. The fact of the matter is that kids typically feel more successful smoking marijuana than on a hard core stimulant, but we’re more ok with kids being on a harsh stimulant, such as Concerta or Adderall, than we are with them smoking marijuana. They’re smoking marijuana because they feel better smoking marijuana than all jazzed up on some pharmaceutical speed that isn’t even appropriate for them half of the time anyway. I can’t stand working with teenagers on tons of medications and typically suggest to parents to find a psychiatrist who doesn’t overdiagnose, doesn’t overmedicate and understands adolescents and addiction. DO NOT get medicine for your kids psych issues from a general practitioner. Do you realize how dangerous that is??? Have them evaluated psychiatrically.
I can’t tell you how many kids I’ve seen through the years who’ve said to me, “I just wish my parents would let me smoke weed because everything would be ok.”
And I’m not saying that you should let your kids smoke marijuana. Tons of these kids were hard core drug addicts and alcoholics and marijuana was just the beginning. But many of these kids have been pretty successful and aren’t working 12-step programs today and still smoke weed occasionally. I wonder what would happen if we destigmatized marijuana and were able to put REAL cases of ADD and ADHD on Marinol, the medical pill form of marijuana, and were able to control the amount teenagers were getting. It’s at least worth a shot, because these kids are failing miserably on these huge doses of stimulants, ultimately making them dependent academically and business wise on a stimulant. It’s unreal to me we don’t care about that but we consider marijuana bad. Can you imagine teenagers being on Marinol? It’ll never happen, but I wish we were more open-minded because most of these kids are making their own decisions when it comes to medication anyway. They decide what they will and won’t put into their own bodies, and if you think otherwise, you’re highly mistaken.
So my answer is no, I don’t think marijuana is bad. I think that it can be bad if used inappropriately. I believe, contrary to common belief, that it can be highly addictive, possibly even physically. I think it can lead to other things, but I don’t think actual marijuana is bad.
I’ve also wondered if all the pot supporters have thought about what will happen to all of the drug dealers, big and small, who make their living off of selling marijuana. I’m not talking about small time Joe, who sells enough to support his habit, although now we have to worry about how he can afford his weed too. No, I’m talking about the guys who are making $30-$100,000 a month selling marijuana. Don’t believe they exist? Well, I’ve had many of them as clients and their lives are ruined when they can’t sell weed anymore. I’m talking about a guy making upwards of $50,000 dropping to $7.50 an hour. And this isn’t one guy in a town, this is hundreds, across the country, not to mention the farmers and harvesters, etc. I don’t really care because it doesn’t affect me, but all of this will greatly affect our economy and that I do care about.
So I guess I’m not really sure how I feel about legalization of marijuana. Quite frankly, I don’t really care. If you think you might have an addiction or substance abuse problem, email me at email@example.com, and I’ll help you find some help. If not, smoke up.
My one statement would be, could we please federally legalize same-sex marriage so my husband and I can be legally wed while you folks are smoking your ganja and looking at the stars. Other than that, have at it. Thanks!