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Marijuana And You, Part I, Part 2

By Barrington H. Brennen, January 24, 2018



Barrington H. Brennen

Marriage and Family Therapist

Counseling Psychologist


Today, I am sharing on a subject that is quite sensitive for some people and one that it is causing lots of havoc in our homes, communities and schools. This subject is marijuana. There has been discussions in the public media about whether or not the government will decriminalize marijuana. Some are for it and others are against it. The reason for this response is the knowledge of the negative impact of marijuana.

Note that I am not writing as an expert in marijuana studies. I am writing as one who is concerned about the impact of marijuana on relationships, families and the society. I am also writing as one who loves research; as a counseling psychologist, having worked with a few addicts; a father, and an ordained minister of the gospel. I also had the privileged of working as a graduate assistant at the Institute for Prevention and Addition at Andrews University (1994-1995) where I was responsible for working with a consortium of leading universities studying the impact of marijuana and other drugs on the body and brain. I was exposed to a wide range of research material that revealed the problems when one is addicted to marijuana and the results of recreational use of marijuana.

It is said that a large percentage of high and junior high school students in The Bahamas are using marijuana. I know it is happening because I have personally spoken to some of them. They say they are using it because it relaxes them and helps them to focus better. In some cases it is ironically, the very bright, “A” student, who is smoking marijuana every day and claiming that it is helping him or her study better. The not-so-bright student or the failing student, who is a friend to the “brilliant” student decides that he or she should try it also and then becomes hooked and starts on a spiral downward.

Anna Almendrala in her online article entitled “Smart Kids Are More Likely To Experiment With Pot And Alcohol” states: “Potential explanations range from the possibility that smarter kids may be more open to new experiences, be more accepted by older peers who have access to these substances . . .” A quite a number of students enrolled our sophisticate private schools in The Bahamas are using marijuana as well as those in other schools. The smart students are often not suspected using the drug because they hide behind the veneer of proper dress, expensive cars, up scale neighborhoods, etc.

Is marijuana affecting this smart students. On the surface it seems like it is not. We might notice is more at times with the ones who are street bombs, do not dress properly and cannot speak well. In reality, it is not true that marijuana is not impact them all. During a lecture series at Loma Linda’s Institute of Health Policy and Leadership entitled “Spotlight on Health Policy,” held January 25, 2017, a presentation was given by Ettie Rosenberg, PharmD, JD Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmacy Practice, West Coast University School of Pharmacy. A few facts that are alarming about the use of marijuana. She made reference to a research by the National Institute for Drug Addiction (NIDA) in North America about marijuana addiction. Here are the findings:

1.  Nearly 1 out of every 11 people who tries marijuana becomes addicted to it ( 9%)
2.  Of those who start using marijuana in their teens: 1 in 6 becomes addicted (16.7%)
3.  For daily users, addiction rate is 25–50%.

This is important to note. The facts are telling us that the younger you are when starting the use of marijuana the greater the risk of addiction. She also explained that although marijuana is not a powerful a drug as cocaine, many believe there is little or not harm in using it. This is dangerous. The research states that “Marijuana’s spectrum of behavioral effects is very unique, preventing classifying of marijuana (drug) into one single pharmacological category— because it has been shown to have various properties and effects as: stimulant, sedative, tranquilizer, and hallucinogen.

It is true that marijuana can give a sense of euphoria. However, this fools the user into a false sense of security. It is a serious mistake to believe that marijuana smoking or even drink the tea has not effect on the brain or body. It is logical to understand that just the fact of inhaling smoking into the lungs from marijuana or any source can lead to multiple medical issues and not just lung cancer. NIDA finding shows the impact of marijuana on mental health. They are: Impaired short-term memory, slowed reaction time, altered judgment and decision-making ability, altered mood and risk of psychosis in vulnerable individuals, early adolescent use and learning problems. The emphasis in the research was the younger the user the greater the risk of mental illness.

What then about decriminalization of marijuana? Dr. Ettie Rosenberg at the event at Loma Lina University shared a few pros and cons about legalizing marijuana.

PROS: She states that the legalization of marijuana can provide the following: (1) Ensure availability for medical use when needed. (2) Identified medical uses include anxiety, chronic pain, cancer pain, appetite stimulant, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, seizures ( 3) Availability for more extensive research to study for uses (benefits and risks and more research for more information) (4) Reduced that stigma associated with use (even medical use).

CONS:  Note that it is my view that the cons out way the pros. Here are a few cons Dr. Rosenberg presented about legalization of marijuana. (1) Marijuana is a “gateway” drug (Evidence demonstrates) (2) Legalizing marijuana would lead to increase use (abuse) due to addictive properties. (3) Marijuana already poses a public health problem. (4) There are negative health consequences (5) Learning disorders are known (adolescence) (6) Higher risks to certain population (mental illness) (7) Issues about who would be gatekeeper for marijuana prescriptions? How would it be monitored?

Here are my views about legalization of marijuana. If legalization would reduce marijuana on the streets and its free use, then I would support it. However, would that really happen? Here are a few questions: Would it is the pharmacist? Would there be a certain amount to be sold? For example, in Colorado, if you are an adult 21 years of age or older, you can now legally possess one ounce of marijuana. You need a government-issued identification to prove you are 21 years or older. There is a The Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) in Colorado that performed studies to determine what the THC equivalent of concentrates and edibles are in relation to marijuana in flower form. They argue that since products such as concentrates have a much higher level of THC, then you shouldn’t be able to purchase the same amount of concentrates as you can flower. As a result, the MED has issued ‘Marijuana Equivalency’ guidelines. Can we do similar in The Bahamas. Also, in Colorado, a person can only grow up to six plants. How much would a person have on their person in The Bahamas?

I strongly support medical research and the use of medication made from properties found in marijuana. I do have a problem and would not advise using the natural form of marijuana. However, controlled medicine made from its components I would use the same way I use other medications.    If natural marijuana is made legal, the above points to be considered. It my view that the person on the street cannot sell it anymore. License to sell marijuana would need to be given. Who will ensure correct measures of the marijuana? Would we really get the illegal sale of marijuana off the streets.

Barrington H. Brennen, MA, NCP, BCCP, a marriage and family therapist and board certified clinical psychotherapist, USA. Send your questions or comments to barringtonbrennen@gmail.com  or write to P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas, or visit www.soencouragement.org  or call 242-327-1980


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