Have you ever seen an ad for marijuana as an adult? Well 100% of our teens have been exposed to marijuana advertising according to a youth survey conducted in the Cincinnati suburbs. They are systematically being sold these messages via social media with the sole purpose of decreasing teens’ perception of harm of marijuana. Guess what, it’s working. According to the 2017 OHYES! survey, only 32% of Upper Arlington seniors perceived moderate to great risk with marijuana use 1-2x per week. Much like tobacco did in the 1950’s, “Big Cannabis” is succeeding in decreasing the perception of risk of marijuana among our teens. Why? When it becomes available for adult use, they have primed a whole new population ready to consume their product.
The Stand Project brought Ty Sells in to speak with every freshman in April to discuss the current marijuana landscape, and conduct a workshop where they talk about the myths they are being sold and why they are just that…myths.
Nowadays, everyone is saying “Marijuana is Safe”. Ty Sells invited all of the students in the audience to rattle off some of the myths they’ve heard/seen about marijuana. After conducting 7 sessions with UAHS freshmen, they all came up with this EXACT same list:
1. It’s Natural 2. It’s Medicine 3. It’s Not As Bad as Other Drugs 4. It’s Legal 5. It’s not Addictive 6. Can’t Overdose from Marijuana 7. Can’t Die from Marijuana
There was no variance between all 7 sessions. Somebody is selling them something. He explained to them how they are being exploited, by the “Big Cannabis” industry, and by decisions adults make. We are going to cover all of the myths with you one by one.
Using “Not as Bad” it’s not an argument for safety. Like, if you jump off a 2 story building, that’s not as bad as jumping off a 4 story building. You shouldn’t make life decisions like “Well…it’s not as bad as crack.” Like, should that be my standard? If you really want to use “Not as Bad” as an argument, you should be asking, is not smoking weed as bad as smoking weed? The students agreed that this isn’t an argument to start using marijuana, so they scratched it off the board.
Ty continued with his next favorite, “It’s natural.” I love this one, “It’s a plaaaant, dude.” When someone said this to me once, I really had to think about it for a second. Can we go around and name things that are natural but aren’t safe? I’ll start, rattlesnakes. [Students laugh and contribute] Cyanide… Let’s just stick with plants, can anyone name a plant that isn’t safe [Students contribute] Poison Ivy…If poison is in the title, it’s probably not safe. Certain mushrooms. Poisonous berries. Where does tobacco come from? Plants. Prescription medication? Plants. Heroin? Plants. All of these things come from plants, so natural doesn’t equal safe.
The pot that people smoked back in the 1960’s had 1-3% THC. THC is a cannabinoid and is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. We only know of about 2 or 3 of the 60 chemicals in marijuana, we’ve only studied a couple. Pot that people are using now, the average is about 12% THC. Did pot plants get together and say “Hey man, they really like us, let’s give them more THC.” OR did we genetically modify it? It is genetically modified. When scientists modify marijuana they drive up the THC, they also drive DOWN the CBD, which is the chemical that helps diminish the effects of THC in relation to psychosis. Why did they do that? Money. They can sell it for more. We can get more money off of you if we offer different strengths.
The next one I want to cover is “Not Addictive”. How many think marijuana is addictive? [several students raise their hand] How many think it’s not? [some students raise their hands] Don’t Know? [others raise their hands] I’m going to answer this question, so you can no longer say you don’t know, or this is a gray area. Marijuana is addictive. Is it highly addictive? Let’s find out.
If myself, and 10 other of the adults in the room started smoking weed…the likelihood that one of us will become addicted is 1 in 11. Here’s the thing, remember when I said “Is alcohol addictive?” and everyone said “YES”, if we take the addiction rate for that same audience of adults, the addiction rate for alcohol is about 1 in 12. Teenagers, if you start smoking now, the number drops to about 1 in 6. If you smoke every day, chronically—no pun intended—the number drops to about 1 in 4. Is that highly addictive? Students answer YES.
Dr. Nora Volkow with SAMHSA she is the one who did the studies and researched those rates. The difference is that the withdraw from marijuana looks differently. If I’m addicted to alcohol, do you know how long it takes to process a drink of alcohol? One hour. If I have one can of beer, it takes about an hour to process it and pee it out. It’s water soluble. If you’re addicted, and you need alcohol, you’re going to look sick, your body is shaking, etc.
Marijuana is different. It attaches to fat cells in your brain, and it builds up in your brain. And the idea is up here [in your brain], how long does marijuana stay in your body? [Students] Forever, 2 days, a month…Marijuana stays in your system for 14-28 days. That’s if you smoke it a little. If you smoke it chronically, it can build up and can be in there for months and years, depending on how much and how frequently you smoke. So when I stop smoking? Where is it? It’s still in me. Is it affecting me? Yes. It can have psychotic properties and can knock of 8 IQ points. So for me I’m not trying to scare you, but if you’re a genius, nothing may happen. If you’re not a genius, it might be the difference between normal and challenging. So for some of you this may be a big deal, others it may not.
It also does affect shaping your mind, developing your brain. There’s something going on with your brain right now, called mylenation. It’s the white matter in your brain creating neuropathways. Starting to smoke and drink at this age impacts that mylenation. I can tell you that any damage that is done now, cannot be corrected later. So again, let’s think about that white matter. Do you guys have iPhones? What’s the color of the charger? [White] That white cord on the outside is supposed to protect what’s going on inside the cord. How many of you have ever looked at your charger and said “It looks fine” but then you plug it in and try to charge your phone and nothing happens. Then you turn it, twist it, put a hat on, stand a different way, and then it starts charging. Do you take that charger to the store and ask them to fix it? Or do you buy a new one? [New one] Because you can’t fix it. Same thing with your brain, if you do something to it now, you can’t fix it later.
Using marijuana can affect performance and how well people do in life. Research shows that people who use marijuana are more likely to have relationship problems, worse educational outcomes, lower career achievement, and reduced life satisfaction.
OK. No one dies or O.D.s (overdoses). If you’re smoking pot, you’re not going to OD. You’d have to smoke so much, it is very unlikely to happen. There aren’t any reports of people dying from ONLY smoking pot. Here’s the thing, I said “SMOKING”. It’s not always about the short-term effects, people are so fixated on that, you don’t overdose from smoking tobacco, but over time you can develop lung cancer.
Edibles are a different story. Can one joint get multiple people high? [Students agree.]
One gummy bear, highly potent, boiled down THC, 12%, how many people can get high? The answer is 4. Has anyone has ever seen people take a tiny bite of a gummy bear and pass it to the next person, right? No. So one gummy bear, does the person get affected slower or faster by the marijuana than smoking? SLOWER. Because it has to go through the digestive process. Because it takes such a long time, people are waiting to get high and think nothings happening, what do they do? [They take more.] What’s happening with edibles, is we now have documented cases of people consuming so many edibles that they have had psychotic events to the related THC, those psychotic events can result in a death. When I first started talking about this stuff, I always had to say, “no one has ever died from smoking weed.” I can no longer say that because we now have documented cases of deaths related to edibles.
I’m not going to scratch it off, because I still think there needs to be more studying done. But here’s something I want you to think about, what does it cure? Does it cure cancer? No. It doesn’t cure anything it just treats symptoms. Pain is one of those symptoms. What are some other things they say it treats? It treats something called “Wasting Disorder”. It’s used to help people who don’t want to eat because they are undergoing cancer treatment, or HIV treatment. What do we joke about when people smoke pot, they get the “munchies”. So that can help. So here’s the thing, for all three of those things we mentioned, there are already medications that you don’t have to smoke that can help treat all three of those problems. They’re already in existence, they’ve already been tested and can be dosed for patients.
Doctor’s can’t dose marijuana, so what they do is they make a recommendation for marijuana. So then you go into a dispensary and you say “I’m experiencing, this list of things.” because apparently it helps everything. So the #1 user of the card in California is a 34 year old white male with a history of drug use, that complains of chronic pain. So, I don’t have chronic pain, but how would you know that? You wouldn’t, right?
What was the last medicine we voted on? Guys, we don’t vote for medicine. We just started calling this stuff medicine when we voted on it. There’s a process things go through, and are studied to determine whether or not it should be used as medicine. There’s a difference between medicine and feeling good.
Anxiety is my favorite example, here’s why. If you’ve ever been in an argument with someone, it can cause anxiety, right? So I was having an argument, I don’t drink, do drugs, smoke, but I happen to enjoy food. I love bacon, pop tarts, so what happens is…I’m in this argument and I start feeling anxious. I’m sort of panicked, and I find myself standing, looking at the pantry. Interestingly enough, I see a box of pop tarts. And I think to myself, if I just eat 2 or 4 or 8 of those, I’m going to feel way better, right. So I eat the pop tarts and I feel better, and I’m pretty chill now. Does that make pop tarts medicine?
Depression and psychosis has been linked to the higher strains of marijuana that’s being smoked. So people get anxious because they don’t have marijuana, then they smoke some and then they get more anxious, and then they use more. The CBD that helps with kids having seizures, again right now, marijuana is a schedule 1 drug, which means it doesn’t have medicinal value. There are lots of theories about why it should stay a schedule 1, but I think it should be moved to schedule 2, that way we can study it and figure out how it can harm you. Then when they say it’s medicine, I say cool, let it go through the process and we can see if it really is medicine.
So what we’ve found in all these places who have passed marijuana as medicine, what was the next thing they started passing? People say recreational, or adult use. That’s always been the design. If you go back in history, look at how we marketed cigarettes. Big tobacco, and the influence it made to become the powerhouse it is by selling nicotine to people. We’re doing it again with vape. Nicotine is highly addictive. Almost everybody who starts using nicotine continues using it. It has a very high addiction rate, it’s eeeeeasy to get addicted. Right now we have doctors like Sanjay Gupta saying marijuana is no big deal, it’s actually good for you. If you go back in old magazines, they have pictures of doctors saying cigarettes are good for you. With marijuana, it’s the same playbook. And we as adults are failing you, I know by smoking tobacco you could get cancer, but we haven’t studied marijuana enough to know whether it’s linked to cancer.
The last one is legal. Of all the states that have made adult use legal, how many have made it legal for teens? NONE. So even if it’s legal, it’s not for you. Even the people who are passing it say they don’t want young people to have it. Great call. Here’s the scary part of it, what drug can you think of has had more dangerous impact on society than any other drug? ALCOHOL. Why is it more dangerous? It’s accessible. It’s around all the time. Why is it more accessible? Because it’s legal. Let’s make marijuana legal, right? They say “let’s regulate it and keep it away from the kids.” Is alcohol regulated? Is vape regulated? They’re both regulated. Do you guys know any friends that know how to get alcohol? We all know a friend that’s had a beer and lived to tell about it. [Student mentions vape] Oh yeah, remember when I talked about lower quality of life? Where does everyone who vapes go? In the bathroom. Like think about it, can you imagine someone saying, “Hey I’m going to get a salad, you wanna share it with me in the bathroom?” [Students laugh] AND you’re putting it in your mouth and multiple people are using it, like “Dude, I’ve got this spoon, want to meet me in the bathroom and put it in your mouth? Sweet! I’m there!” It blows my mind. But, the idea is that Legal doesn’t equal safe.
Parents, read this letter from Dr. Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse:
Marijuana is linked to school failure, lower income, and poorer quality of life. Learn how to talk to your kids and communicate the risks.
Parents, your disapproval of marijuana is the #1 reason your teen will decide not to try it. Learn tips to start the conversation here.
For more facts on marijuana and warning signs that your student may be using, click here.
Click here for other helpful and free resources, including a family check-up, a quiz on drug myths, and other helpful resources.
Here is a letter from Dr. Volkow to share with your teen: