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In talking about the controversies around cannabis, I am going to put myself out there and be as vulnerable, honest, and direct as possible. As a teenager, I began experimenting with pot at the age of 17 against my own better judgment. I was weary of all substances, including pot and alcohol but a cocktail of factors lead to taking that first toke. Peer pressure and curiosity seemed surprisingly overpowering, and I quickly found myself imbibing in a purple haze more often than was healthy.
Having been a very anxious kid, the relief of feeling calm and strangely euphoric was all too appealing to my young mind. I was even able to write and study while under the influence and I have to give cannabis some credit for starting my path towards self-awareness and spirituality as well. I had profound meditative experiences that were at least in part catalyzed by THC.
To cut to the chase, the positive effects I experienced from cannabis gave way to severe anxiety, deep depression, as well as psychotic episodes. I have explored all the questions of correlation and causation as to what extent marijuana contributed to these negative effects. I can only conclude that I already had a predisposition to these mental health issues and pot use acted as a catalyst to bring them to my attention.
I came to the conclusion that I should stop using pot, but found it difficult to quit on my own. For whatever reason, I felt compelled to continue smoking even though I realized on some level that it was not helping me resolve my deeper-seated issues. My late teens were full of different rehab programs, counseling sessions, and various intervention strategies that eventually lead me to leave weed behind and pursue my path of developing my spirituality and studying to become a counselor myself.
Having studied some pharmacology years later, my professor ranked cannabis as one of the least dangerous substances around, making a case that caffeine was technically more dangerous and addictive than many people's herb of choice.
I listened intently to this reasoning, especially at the idea that cannabis was not physically addictive. I couldn't help but feel that my personal experience contradicted commonly held values, and I later went on to meet others that had struggled with similar adverse effects related to cannabis use. I recognize that these experiences may represent a relative minority of people, similar to how alcoholics represent a small group of overall drinkers. I merely felt compelled to share part of my story to bring some balance into the pot equation.
What we see now is a lot of pro-pot propaganda, sort of the opposite of the "Reefer Madness" style content of the past. The perceptual pendulum is swinging in the direction of "marijuana can do for us what nothing else can." We see a lot of data and anecdotal evidence extolling the virtues of cannabis, while the anti-pot people try to put out the fire.
This is a sticky issue to unpack, and again I am going to stick as close to my own experience as possible to examine some of these deeper ideas.
When I was a full-blown pot smoker, Mary Jane was my lover, best friend, confidante, study buddy, and counselor. The relationship I had with weed overshadowed every other aspect of my life, and I ended up believing it was an absolute necessity to get through life and solve the problem of my overactive mind and underlying state of anxiety.
When clients today ask me if I believe that pot is addictive, I basically ask them "Is it addictive for you?"
The main lesson I picked up from studying pharmacology is the notion that the real issue is not about substances themselves, but rather about people and their relationships to said substances. I've had many friends, clients, and acquaintances who have reported extremely negative experiences related to their marijuana smoking, and many others who enjoy it as casually as a cup of coffee.
For my teenage self, pot was indeed an addictive substance. Many people I speak to shrug off this idea, but tell me they are struggling with alcohol or another substance. It truly is a subjective experience as to what can become problematic for any given individual.
To conclude this rant on a practical level, I believe pot should be legalized and regulated. Education about its potential effects should be as unbiased and objective as possible and children especially should understand the potential risks.
If young people are wondering about drugs, the best advice would be "when in doubt, go without." Those curious about any substance would do better to wait until later in life, when their brains and personalities have matured. In the case of the cannabis plant in general, its uses go far beyond the psychoactive effects, including textiles, food products, medicines, and so on.
This plant deserves its rightful place in our society and needs to be respected as something that goes beyond our insatiable need to get high and alter our state of mind. Paradoxically, I feel as though pot should be legal, but we would do well to avoid ingesting it.
I have spoken to many clients who have struggled with pot and other substances. Feel free to contact me anytime for a free consultation.