Let’s Talk About Drugs: A Letter to Future Offspring

Credit: Steve Corey/http://screativecommons.org/licensesby-nc2.0
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To my dearest children Wilhelm and/or Lyra,

(Yes, your names were determined prior to the remote possibility of your conception.)

Let’s have a serious talk – one of the rare conversations that may leave you squirming in slight discomfort yet which are crucial for us to have.

As you enter adolescence, you’ll likely encounter youth culture’s obsession with both drugs and sexual intercourse. We can put a pin in discussing the latter for now.

Let’s talk about drugs.

Socializing and loosening inhibitions is fine, but know the importance of being able to differentiate between personal volition and external expectation. Know that some people, even those you consider friends, won’t hesitate to take advantage of you in your compromised state. Know that if you drive while your motor skills are impaired, you’re never too old for a beating.

More than anything, the alcohol will flow – getting “shitfaced drunk” will be a popular ritual. Know that ethanol is a neurotoxin – literally a poison that will hurt every organ in your body. Learn to take it slow and watch your intake. If you choose to exceed your tolerance level, expect vomiting and pure agony.

Chances are, you’ll be exposed to marijuana. Know that frequent use will hurt your memory and attention skills. Know that reactions can be extremely subjective, and largely depends on your mood and mindset. If you’re anxious or paranoid, expect things to get so very much worse. Again, learn to regulate intake. Overconsumption never killed anyone, but it can lead to dysphoria – and I guarantee it’ll be the most uncomfortable experience of your young life.

Wherever you go, you’ll be exposed to tobacco. Know that nothing will kill you faster. Know that it’s more deadly to humans than HIV/AIDs, tuberculosis and malaria put together. Know that if there’s a single socially acceptable substance I ask you not to experiment with, it’s cigarettes. Please, please don’t do it. I assure you, it sucks.

In the glorious days of your youth, you should have fun. If you choose to do it, whatever “it” may be, do so in moderation. Do it in environments you’re comfortable in and with people you trust. If you decide to experiment, feel free to do so at home, in the safest and most familiar possible setting with the two people who love you most in the world.

Above all else, be safe and come home.

A Rant to the U.S. President

Source: Vice News/President Obama Speaks with Vice News
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‘Young people, I understand this is important to you, but you should be thinking about climate change, the economy, jobs, war and peace – maybe way at the bottom you should be thinking about marijuana.’

Listening to President Obama’s words, I bristled in mild offence. And for the next few months brooded, as brooders tend to do.

 

Me, Me, Me: Personal Importance

From a purely selfish perspective as a regular user, legalization is of course a major issue. Why shouldn’t I be able to share with friends this social relaxant within the privacy of our homes? Why can’t I choose weed as a recreational alternative that will (for once) spare my future self the discomforts of a hangover, or as migraine medication with minimal side effects? Why can’t drug policies be based on empirical data, with legality based on quantitative individual and societal harm?

This is folly. By which I mean, complete and utter bullshit.

Dismissing the personal for a moment, though, let us discuss cannabis in relation to the broader issues of the economy and jobs, to war and human lives.

 

Economic Benefit: The Green Rush, Jobs and Public Expenditure

For generations, individuals have smoked marijuana regardless of its prohibition – have in fact been smoking more since the days of Reefer Madness. The only meaningful impact legality has on the demand and supply of cannabis is determining the type of economy in which transactions take place: formal or underground.

A Happy Taxman

The greatest benefit of legalization – as in the benefit which most affects society as a whole – lies in the collection of taxes. While the amount won’t save a national budget, it still increases the provision of public programs and services – exemplified by Colorado’s Amendment 64, which requires that the first $40 million in marijuana tax revenue be appropriated into the public school capital construction assistance fund.

In 2014, Colorado collected 47 million dollars in tax revenue – 10 million of which was transferred to the fund.

Jobs (omg)

If implemented on a federal level, a legitimate cannabis industry could be a significant contributor to the economy in general – much akin to the alcoholic beverage industry responsible for over $170 billion in annual sales and 3.9 million jobs. Legal marijuana creates jobs for service-sector workers as cannabis cafes and dispensaries become as chic as wine bars and wineries – and creates investment opportunities at every step from manufacturing, distribution, retail, and ancillary products and services such as quality-testing laboratories.

A Socio-Economic Effect: Women and Marijuana

The birth of a completely new industry also means the opportunity to bypass labour-market inequalities. It means the chance to build higher-management structures from bottom up, as opposed to infiltrating and reforming existing ones. And that’s exactly what female entrepreneurs have been doing in the developing cannabis industry: increasingly assuming leadership and CEO positions.

While one industry may not be enough to close the gender gap at the executive level, it certainly makes a difference – and makes for heartening progress.

Hemp: The Versatile Industrial Plant

Perhaps the sector for which federal legalization in the U.S. (and the decades-overdue repeal of the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act) will make the greatest economic difference is agriculture. The Cannabis plant isn’t limited as a mind-altering substance. As a fast-growing and relatively cheap plant with a long list of potential products, cannabis can be a lucrative cash crop for farmers.

Hemp is used as:

  • fiber similar in texture to linen, with historic uses as clothing and ship cordage
  • construction material producing durable, breathable and insulated housing when combined with Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF)
  • a natural weed killer
  • composite material for automobiles
  • a high-protein food source with seeds rich in magnesium, zinc and iron
  • animal bedding
  • paper
  • and biofuel, though there are cheaper alternatives such as wastewater.

Most importantly, cannabis is a sustainable and renewable resource requiring little pesticide and no herbicide – and actually absorbs heavy-metal contaminants and other impurities, improving soil quality.

When it comes to hemp, everyone wins.

 

Medicinal Benefit: A Magic Green Tree

The versatility of cannabis exceeds industrial uses. Medically speaking, marijuana is nature’s frickin’ miracle.

Cannabis compounds have the potential of becoming effective treatment for the following conditions:

And yet, despite the plethora of data indicating therapeutic use, the U.S. maintains cannabis as a Schedule I drug with high potential for abuse and no accepted medical uses, and has condemned paraplegics, individuals suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and the terminally ill to prison for growing their own medicine.

 

Political Benefit: A War on Fellow Humans

The hypocrisy and outright injustice of prohibition isn’t limited to patients.

Individuals have been stripped of health coverage, separated from their children, incarcerated for entire lifetimes without parole, and executed in their own homes during surprise pre-dawn drug raids – all for using or distributing a substance less detrimental than a bottle of Chianti.

Made every day in the name of the war on drugs: heavy-handed measures and violations of human rights.

Yes, frequent use of marijuana is not without its risks – most notably a small yet discernible effect on short-term memory, working memory and attention skills. No, it won’t increase crime rates. And no, Mr. President, you can’t just dismiss the gravity of the issue.

When cannabis was initially criminalized in the U.S., it was done so against the advice of the American Medical Association; against the tenets of science and empiricism. The sheer economic and human cost of the insensible public policy – for which lies and propaganda were key instruments and which was only implemented to serve the funding agenda of a single politician in the 1930’s – isn’t just asinine. It’s a moral outrage.

Yes, legalization is about fighting for the right to use mind-altering substances; a behavior exhibited by our species since recorded history. But it’s also so much more. As a direct result of prohibitionist policies, human lives are adversely affected – and too often extinguished.

Love Sonnet to Mary Jane

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Mary Jane, my muse – no simple flower

Bestows a light, a clear and different view

When answers hide in vex’d times and dark hours,

And casts fresh sight, the old told now anew.

 

Sweet lady love, her arms offer respite;

She soothes stone shoulders at each week’s long end.

High I soar – on journeys of taste and sight!

And bask in shining eves she so oft lends.

 

She eases aches and pains, both nurse and friend,

Gentle, her hands heal all my sores and wears.

Those blinding migraines she can swiftly end,

No chance they stand ‘gainst Mary’s tender care.

 

Urge swells the heart to profess and decree

Undying love for this magic green tree.

 

* Originally featured on Ladybud, the top women’s lifestyle and drug reform magazine!

Cannabis and Non-Affective Psychotic Disorders

Credit: By Jto410 (In my clinical work as a diagnostic radiologist) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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The literature on the relationship between marijuana use and psychosis has been best described by Time magazine in 2010: it’s complicated.

Various studies have attempted to investigate the connection between the two variables to rather confounding results, including “circumstantial evidence” that individuals afflicted by schizophrenia are more likely to abuse drugs including cannabis and that “only a very small proportion of the general population” using cannabis develop psychosis; all of which warrant further research.

It is through the media and public discourse that this already convoluted relationship becomes even more difficult to understand. A follower of the debate on cannabis and its association with non-affective psychotic disorders, I observe a disconnect in communication. It is as if many prohibitionists and reformists are talking about completely different topics: CAUSATION and EXACERBATION.

No, cannabis does not cause psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. Numbers have shown that despite fluctuations in marijuana usage, there has not been a concurrent variation in the instances of schizophrenia, largely debunking claims of a causal relationship. There exists, however, an unsettling association between marijuana usage in existing patients of psychotic disorders and severity of symptoms and timing of onset. Several of the studies were conducted with relatively small sample sizes and so demand future investigation, yet are sufficient to recommend present caution.

One of my core principles is to share that which I appreciate – whether art or food or experiences – with those dear to me. One of the things I appreciate most in the world happens to be cannabis. From close friends, I ask that they at least try it, just as I’ll ask that they try oysters (a travesty, to miss out on the tender, slippery treat; like an intense and delightful shot of the ocean). If their experimentation leads to ultimate dislike, I never attempt to dissuade them; I will always respect individual preference or lack thereof. They simply need to try putting it in their mouth once.

The only exception to sharing my appreciation for cannabis is if the friend in question is genetically prone to schizophrenia.

 

The Term ‘Stoner’ as Analogous to ‘Feminist’

Lexicon
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With the reform of marijuana laws must come a corresponding revitalization of social perception. As advocates of cannabis seek to carve out a new and socially legitimate image of the substance and that of its users, many have understandably attempted to distance themselves from the word ‘stoner’.

I fully embrace it.

It could be argued that the term ‘stoner’ is analogous to the term ‘feminist’; though perhaps it is as an individual who identifies with both groups that I perceive similarities. Both are subject to lingering stereotypes, which while not always hateful are nonetheless misconceived. Both have proponents, those who support the group’s basic principles, hesitate to publicly associate with the term for fear of either social stigma or more grave repercussions.

By stringent definition, a feminist is a proponent of gender equality, and a stoner is a habitual user of marijuana. There is a need not necessarily to reclaim the word and certainly not to reject it, but to expand upon it. Although the 2014 “This Is What a Feminist Looks Like” campaign by Fawcett Society and Elle UK was sullied by its ethically questionable use of sweatshop manufacturers (the issue of which opens a whole different can of worms), its core intention was commendable and resonating: to demonstrate that those who identify with an ideology come in various shapes, sizes, and genders.

Similarly, cannabis, as the most widely used illicit (no longer illicit in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Washington D.C.) substance in the world with 38% of the populace in the U.S. and 40% in Canada admitting to experimentation, is enjoyed by vastly different individuals, not limited by gender, ethnic background, profession, or level of education. A homemaker and parent may look to cannabis to alleviate his or her chronic back pain. A corporate lawyer may choose a joint over a glass of wine to alleviate stress. A novelist may take up vaporizer in hand when confronted with that mortal enemy, writer’s block.

The key is not to project animosity and fear towards the word itself but to make evident the diversity of the individuals with an appreciation for the Cannabis plant and its medicinal, recreational, and creative uses. Instead of allowing the word ‘stoner’ to become the focus of controversy, let it instead become assimilated into colloquial usage; let it be taken at face value.

I adore weed. Whether I relate more to the iconic Tommy Chong or the ambitious young women at Cannabrand (or a combination of the two) is a secondary matter. By virtue of mutual appreciation for marijuana, we are all united. We are kindred.

My name is Hayoung Terra Yim: advocate for equality, reader of books, assembler of words, drinker of fermented grapes, and smoker of dried Cannabis leaves. I am – as my friends so affectionately describe – a huge stoner.