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There is no excuse for drug abuse

 

Some readers knew what would fill this space before I began writing this week. 

They knew — but how? Perhaps they possess clairvoyance; maybe they have been remotely viewing my writing process this week; or, and what is most likely, they were familiar enough with their surroundings to predict what a person like me living in a town like Oxford would say on a day like today.

To confirm your suspicions, what follows is indeed a college student with lengthy hair making a case for legalization in a college newspaper on 4/20, helping cap off “Green Week” here at Ole Miss.

It is what you think it is. 

Now let’s begin.

The regulation and perception of the cannabis plant in American culture have been sticky issues for more than a century, but what is cannabis and what can it do for us?

The plant itself can be used for a variety of industrial applications, while a chemical called Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), found in the buds and on the leaves of the plant, produces physical and psychoactive effects. Proponents of cannabis argue that THC has medicinal and recreational value.

But first let us examine the industrial consequences of the cannabis plant. Cannabis used for industrial purposes is known as “hemp,” and its concentration of THC is so minimal (less than one percent) that rolling and smoking an entire field of it will not produce psychoactive effects.

Though hemp cannot produce the physical and psychoactive effects made possible by strains of the cannabis plant with stronger concentrations of THC, it has served us in other ways for millennia.

Almost all of the hemp plant can be used to our advantage: The seeds are high in nutritional value and can be turned into oils that are used in shampoo, soap, paint, cosmetics and more; the durable fiber taken from the stalks can be used for clothing, building materials, rope and paper; and the biodiesel fuel that can be made from the plant also makes hemp an alternative energy candidate.

Here is where things get interesting: It is true that hemp has been used for thousands of industrial purposes throughout the course of human history. It is true that it is physically impossible to experience any intoxicating effects from hemp. Unfortunately, it is also true that hemp is illegal to grow in the United States due to its association with marijuana; and, believe it or not, it is also true that a U.S. citizen can legally import hemp products, meaning farmers can legally pay taxes to other countries to import their hemp products while not being allowed to farm the same cash-crop on their own land.

But I know what you’re thinking: It is 4/20 outside and you want to hear more about the psychoactive properties of cannabis — that’s fine. While use of hemp for industrial purposes dates back 10,000 years, we’ve only been using strains of the cannabis plant containing high THC concentrations medicinally for 4,500 years or so. Cannabis used in this context is called “medicinal marijuana.”

The medical uses for cannabis are also plentiful. Cancer patients dealing with chemotherapy are prescribed medicinal marijuana to help ease the pains of treatment and increase their appetite. Persons suffering from sleeping disorders may use a “heavier” strain to fall asleep. 

The beauty of medicinal marijuana is its versatility — different strains can be used to treat different ailments. What’s more, THC can be absorbed via edibles, patches, vapor and the traditional method of smoking. While the method of consumption should be considered on a patient-by-patient basis, smoking it allows some flexibility. 

I say this because we have already taken a legal, synthetic form of THC and marketed it on the prescription drug scene in pill form as “Marinol.” However, when taken as a pill, it is harder to control the amount of THC one is receiving, and a prescription can cost up to $1,000 monthly.

Whether smoked, ingested or administered in another way, evidence shows that marijuana has medicinal uses. However, its status as a Schedule I Drug makes the drug illegal on a federal level, even in the dozen-plus states where medicinal marijuana has been made legal via democratic efforts.

Lastly, I would like to examine recreational use of cannabis. Let’s not kid ourselves — we enjoy altering our consciousnesses and will continue to do so regardless of regulations. I back this statement up with the observation that marijuana use went up during the days of Prohibition, which suggests that people are going to find a way to alter consciousness. People found other ways to drink then, too.

Don’t misinterpret what I’m saying: Marijuana is a drug, and it has the potential to be abused. But here are the facts: Hundreds of millions of people have tried cannabis. Only a small fraction develops problems with other drugs. Less than 10 percent of those who try marijuana become regular users. Even fewer develop dependency problems — and treatments are promising, though not perfect.

But what exactly is drug abuse? It’s a broad term — let me tell you what it means to me.

Drug abuse is more than not being able to find happiness without drugs. Drug abuse is also making money off pills when science has shown us a safer, perhaps more effective alternative. But most importantly, drug abuse is a culture ignorantly rendering a sacred gift as “harmful” because they refuse to take responsibility and discover its true potential. There is no excuse — I am a drug abuser, and so are you.

Happy Holidays.

Andrew Dickson is a senior religious studies major from Terry.