No on 19 - Pot is Not a Nothing Drug

smoking-marijuana-cigarettesAs a young adult, I smoked pot for a year straight every morning and afternoon. It was the most unproductive, sleepy and lost year of my life. According to the American Council for Drug Education ( THC levels in 1974 was less than 1%. Today THC levels run from an average of 7-9% up to 37% depending on quality and type.

I’ve always argued that pot is not a “nothing” drug. Just a few of the symptoms of frequent use include problems with learning, attention, memory and motivation. I’m particularly concerned about teens getting the message that pot is safer to try if Prop 19 passes. I know if pot was legal when I was a kid, I would have tried it earlier than I did.

marijuana-brainWhen a teen or young adult comes to my counseling office and tells me pot is not a problem for them, (and they’re there because it’s a problem for their parents, their grades, or the law) I show them Dr. Daniel Amen’s SPECT images (Nuclear brain imaging) of the brain of pot users ( It’s particularly startling to see the smooth, wavy surface of a normal brain compared to the lumpy, holed filled surface of a regular marijuana users brain.

To the point that marijuana isn’t addictive like other drugs – that’s just wrong information. A definition of addiction is whether a substance (or behavior) causes tolerance, dependence or withdrawal. Marijuana, like alcohol or meth, can certainly cause all three. Tolerance means it takes more and more to get the same high. Dependence, according to the DSM-IV, is when an individual persists in the use of alcohol or other drugs despite problems related to use. (Problems with family, job or school, or health) Withdrawal produces uncomfortable symptoms such as nausea, anxiety, restlessness or insomnia, when use is stopped.

I’m not against pot as a recreational substance to be used in moderation, much like a glass of wine. Bill Manville, author of "Cool, Hip & Sober," asks “Why keep pot illegal? Didn't we learn anything from  Prohibition?" I get the argument and I would be much more open to voting Yes on 19 if there was a provision that funneled an appropriate percentage, or any percentage of revenue, to education and treatment. I think it’s wrong to put people in prison for substance abuse issues. It’s also ineffective, costly and a waste of human potential. But as written, I can’t support this Proposition and I hope we’re all remembering the promises of how much money education was going to receive from the gambling propositions that passed a few years ago. Hmm….