Is Marijuana Harmless?

I was thinking about this recently, noticing how casually people seem to talk about pot in general and potheads in particular, especially libertarians and of course, potheads themselves.

Are potheads addicts?

If someone got drunk every day we’d call them an alcoholic, which means they’re an addict. If someone shot heroin or snorted coke every day, we’d call them an addict. Hell, if someone uses opioids or antidepressants every day for too long we call them an addict.

But for some reason we don’t call potheads addicts, or think about them that way. For some reason, they’re thought about and talked about in a different, far less serious way. For many people, it doesn’t have any of the negative connotations of being a drug addict, even an alcoholic.

But why? They’re using a drug every day, getting intoxicated every day. Is there some difference between smoking pot every day and getting drunk every day or snorting coke every day? Does it not affect your mind, your emotions, your health, your motivation? (Ok, I think most people will at least concede that last one…)

It’s also really interesting how defensive people get about this topic when I bring it up.  As if being high every day is somehow harmless if it’s weed. Oh that’s “different.” It’s good to be high every day if it’s weed, even healthy. It’s a really bizarre double standard and cognitive dissonance in my opinion.

I don’t really have a lot to say about this topic, but I do think this is an interesting, amusing phenomenon.

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15 thoughts on “Is Marijuana Harmless?

  1. No, it’s not harmless. Neither are French fries. Of course marijuana presents some health risks. But I’d much rather be in a care driven by a stoned person than a drunk, not that either is a good idea. I think that marijuana is certainly psychologically addictive. But it I also think it is much less harmful on a global scale than alcohol. It’s crazy that it is a Schedule I drug— if it is then alcohol should be even more closely regulated. I agree with you that the potential harm of marijuana is downplayed. But I think it is crazy , counterproductive and wrong that it remains illegal federally and in most states.

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  2. So I have many comments but I am going to start with just highlighting one sentence which I particularly think is unfair. “Hell, if someone uses opioids or antidepressants every day for too long we call them an addict.” I don’t think anyone would call someone taking an antidepressant an addict. And to put antidepressants in the same sentence as other true addictions like opioids I think is doing a disservice to recognizing the severity of long-term depression.

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    1. I think it’s very clear that you can be overly-dependent on anti-depressants, and that they are unquestionably over-prescribed and widely abused by people who don’t really need them. Lots of people pop pills that aren’t prescribed to them, or use them when they actually could cope in other ways. This is not controversial.

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      1. I think you can become overly-dependent on anti-depressants. Also exercise and meditation are both separately equal the effect of anti-depressants. BUT I wouldn’t call that person an addict. I think there is a distinction between taking drugs and getting high and taking medicine to be functional in your day to day life. It’s not an equivalent class of drugs.

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  3. Also, I agree with Trey. This article strikes me as presenting a very black and white thinking. I would say that anyone who gets high every day is an addict, but it also probably warrants looking at the level. ie) I would not call someone who drinks a glass of wine with dinner every day an alcoholic. So someone who takes a few hits for a light buzz but not an actual full on high, I would classify in different terms than someone who is stoned every day. Trey is also right that alcohol is much more harmful to the body and in terms of the societal cost. The fact that marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug is ludicrous. But yes, it is not harm free. And I agree with you Shane that a lot of people probably under appreciate the physical and psychological harm it can do to the person and people around them. But I disagree that people give a free pass to potheads on being addicts. I have two friends who smoke every day and both recognize that it is more than just a habit. And none of my friends see this as a black and white, pot is either harmless or evil, you are either an addict or a health-nut thing.

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    1. It is black and white, because I think it’s useful to make things simple and clear, rather than muddy and vague. You said yourself that anyone who gets high every day is an addict. Why not stop there?

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      1. I agree that someone who gets high everyday is an addict, but also that there is nuance. Like with the person who drinks a glass of wine every day, maybe a bit of a buzz but not drunk — not an alcoholic. Someone who gets drunk every day or even several times per week, definitely an alcoholic. Same with weed. If someone has a hit or two and gets a light, relatively short buzz everyday, that is a different thing than someone who is full on high every night. That is the grey in this black and white.

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      2. I’m not talking about the people who have a little bit regularly. I’m talking about the people who get high or drunk. You can’t change the definition of what I’m talking about to make it not black and white.

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      3. “I’m not talking about the people who have a little bit regularly. I’m talking about the people who get high or drunk. You can’t change the definition of what I’m talking about to make it not black and white.” Sure if someone is high or drunk every day (not just buzzed on either substance) it’s black and white. But I don’t think that’s how most people who use marijuana daily for relaxation are. They are more equivalent to the one glass of wine with dinner people. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t look at a stoner and say it’s not an addiction. But there is a lot of grey area leading up to full on substance abuse that you are glossing over. So then I would disagree with your entire premise that people who are high every day are getting a free pass from themselves and society.

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    2. Your two friends don’t disprove the pattern of potheads, their friends, and much of society (particularly libertarians) minimizing the harm of getting high every day. Finding one pothead who admits he’s an addict doesn’t disprove that most potheads think they’re not.

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      1. As I said, I think most people would classify these people as addicts, but also that you are right the problem is increasingly minimized by everyone.

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  4. Correct me if I’m wrong but you seem to be speaking about people who smoke weed daily, all day every day. That’s different to people who simply smoke weed. Weed, or alcohol, or tobacco, or chocolate, like anything else can be abused. It seems that the general bias towards weed produces the false assumption that weed smokers are drug addicts. Do you think a weed smoker and a heroin user have anything in common? The former relaxes, ponders life, laughs and chats over a drink or a cup of tea with friends and more than likely doesn’t toke again for quite some time (too busy, no time, no desire, no weed) – ; the latter doesn’t have a choice and each hit is a dance with death.

    Is a meth addict equal to an occasional weed smoker? Is a cokeser? Is an alcoholic? A nicotine addict? A compulsive liar? What is addiction? Look it up, think about it clearly and unbiased.- Cheers.

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    1. You’re right, I’m talking about habitual users. That’s exactly my point, that people act like habitual/daily intoxication is somehow harmless if it’s weed. This is the delusion and justification that potheads live under. I find it interesting that they lie to themselves like this, and other people support them in their self-delusion. Whereas the people I know who drink a bottle of wine every night or get drunk several nights a week at least have the self-awareness to say “Yeah, I’m probably fucking that up, that’s a problem,” and at least have the decency to make fun of themselves for it, rather than act as if their drug is especially wonderful and they are better than other addicts.

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      1. Re: “at least have the self-awareness to say “Yeah, I’m probably fucking that up, that’s a problem,” and at least have the decency to make fun of themselves for it” Honestly I don’t think there is much difference in the denial capabilities of alcoholics and stoners. Alcoholics are known for being in denial, and as you point out, so is our culture around weed. But no alcoholic that I know thinks they have a problem.

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