The man in the front row was obviously irritated by what I was saying. He was intent that I notice his every shrug, smirk and sardonic grin as I delved into the parental responsibilities of keeping a child safe from the seductive and (at least at first) comforting nature of drugs, safe from the allure and easy access to substances from which they may never fully recover.
I was speaking to a group of middle school parents, the protectors of children between the ages of 12 and 14.
At the end, it was time for questions and his hand raised before the others. He was ready. “ Do you think marijuana is a gateway drug”? Before I could answer he added that, recently coming from a state where it is legal, he has been smoking weed most of his life without venturing into other substances and, to him, it is no worse than a glass of wine at the end of the day. So there!
Umhm. Now I understand. Now I know for which his disregard was based. I was making him feel negligent, selfish and short sighted with what I was offering tonight. He was right. He was all of these things. But it was also a good question.
Not most, but all of today’s parents grew up in a different world to that of their children. Days in which we would make a call from a payphone when lost. We would venture to the library if we found ourselves in need of a book or to research a subject. When lonely, we would find pen and paper, write a letter to a loved one, scour the drawers for an envelope, repeat same for the stamp and put it in the mailbox before the daily pickup….then wait days or weeks for a reply. Bygone days. Marijuana is no different. Like everything else, it has evolved, mutated and changed. No longer do people pay $15 to someone somebody knows who is someone else’s older brother, sneak it to their room, separate the seeds and stems from the leaf, roll it into a joint without tearing the oh so thin paper and, once smoked, try to figure out if a). You’re high or was that aregano you just paid good money for or b). What is there to eat in the pantry? Times have changed and it’s essential that parents understand this.
This is what we know of today’s marijuana. It is 3 to 5 times more potent (higher THC) than it was in the 1980’s. This potency has led to a higher incidence of emergency room visits by people who were unprepared for the effects of their consumption. Marijuana use today lead to paranoia, delusional thoughts, schizophrenia and panic attacks. It is addictive, both mentally and physically. A person can go into difficult and painful withdrawals during abstinence. I have seen it and it is not pretty. They won’t die from it but say they will. And to make sure we have left no stone unturned nor anyone feeling neglected, we have increased the ways to get high. They include inhaling (vaping, hand pipes, bongs, blubbers, joint, blunt, spliff, hookahs and one hitters), oral (tinctures, oils and edibles) and finally topical (creams and lotions). And if this isn’t enough, let’s make a THC superbomb in the form of wax (dubs, shatter, budder, BHO – Butane Hash Oil)!
No, today is much different. Children can buy marijuana quicker and easier than ever before, easier than buying a pack of smokes. They can go to any number of websites and find their drug of choice. They can choose from various types of marijuana, speed, methamphetamine, even heroin. They place an order, put it in their cart, select payment and have it shipped overnight. They can then review their purchase for other customers to read. Amadrugs Prime.
Physically, it is a fact that smoking marijuana significantly alters the structure of the adolescent brain. Enough said.
Emotionally? Teenage years is a time when you are suppose to feel trepid, uncomfortable, uneasy, disjointed, complex, confused, naive, misunderstood, ambiguous, scared, hopeful, fearful, strident, unsteady…the list goes on. But this is also the time a child begins to feel empowered, confident, strong, vibrant, energetic, proud, individualistic, self-reliant, invigorated…an equally impressive list. Unless the child smokes marijuana. Marijuana stops emotional maturation in its tracks. Marijuana distorts and muffles all emotions much the same way a mute stifles the sound of a trumpet. Being 21 and having the maturity IQ of a 13 year old is not a good look nor a good way to enter adulthood and life on your own.
And please stop saying that smoking weed is better than drinking alcohol. We probably all agree that getting hit by a car is better than getting hit by a bus but in the end it’s going to still hurt like hell.
So, to my contemptuous friend in the front row, after mulling over my own experiences (both personally and professionally) and perusing facts that have been offered by men and women much smarter than I, I must agree with with your insinuation that it is NOT a gateway. No, todays marijuana is a danger in and of itself. It needs no further destination to assume a menacing and treacherous disposition.