21 December 2011

Pot


Taken together, these studies demonstrate that popular stereotypes of marijuana users are unfair and untrue. While it’s definitely not a good idea to perform a cognitively demanding task (such as driving!) while stoned, smoking a joint probably also won’t lead to any measurable long-term deficits. The Dude, in other words, wasn’t dumb because he inhaled. He was dumb because he was The Dude. (All those White Russians probably didn’t help, either.)
Furthermore, there’s some intriguing evidence that marijuana can actually improve performance on some mental tests. A recent paper by scientists at University College, London looked at a phenomenon called semantic priming. This occurs when the activation of one word allows us to react more quickly to related words. For instance, the word “dog” might lead to decreased reaction times for “cat,” “pet” and “Lassie,” but won’t alter how quickly we react to “chair.”
Interestingly, the scientists found that marijuana seems to induce a state of hyper-priming, in which the reach of semantic priming extends to distantly related concepts. As a result, we hear “dog” and think of nouns that, in more sober circumstances, would seem rather disconnected, such as “leash” or “hair.” This state of hyper-priming helps explain why cannabis has been so often used as a creative fuel, as it seems to make the brain better at detecting those remote associations that lead to radically new ideas.

The results of this relatively fair research seem fairly clear:  pot is not the highly destructive devil weed that conservatives make it out to be, and appears to even have some positive side effects.  This, of course, makes pot just like all other consumable substances, in that consumption has both pros and cons (otherwise known as tradeoffs).

In fact, assuming this research is true, pot appears to impose less long-term damage on the brain than alcohol.  And yet, pot will still attract the ire of SoCons even though it is not even as damaging as some legal drugs in terms of impaired brain function.

This then begs the question:  Why do SoCons continue to support the war on marijuana?  Making this illegal doesn’t even begin to reduce demand, it only changes supply channels.  And given its relative safety, opposition is more likely to drive people to harder but legal drugs (like, alcohol, or any of the recently invented compounds that are too new to be illegal but still completely mess people up).  Why then continue to oppose pot in light of the obvious and easily predicted consequences?  It makes no sense.

What we know is this:  pot isn’t that bad and its alternatives are often much worse.  Why drive people to them?

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