At a time when states and countries are racing to legalize marijuana, the real effects are just beginning to be understood.
Thirty-five years ago I observed a peculiar phenomenon from neighbours who smoked pot. They were a nice couple, mid-thirties, both worked, drove an immaculate '65 Mustang, and seemed to lead a normal life except that both had hair down to their backside. They had probably not cut their hair in 15 years. In the late 1970s, this was certainly not in fashion.
It was what happened on the weekends that I found so interesting and that laid the foundation of one of my theories on marijuana. Both would come home after work on Friday, change into long gowns like one might have seen in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco in the mid-sixties. They would both put on headsets plugged into Walkmans - the 70's version of an ipod, and they would listen to music. They would also light up their first joints of the weekend, but certainly far from their last.
One day I asked him what music he was listening to and he told me that it was mostly Beatles music. I'm thinking Yellow Submarine, Revolver, the White Album - Beatles drug music. He shocked me when he said he didn't like that kind of music, he listened to the pre-druggy song of the early Beatles. Sometimes they would listen to the Beachboys, Jan & Dean, Everly Brothers, etc., but mostly Beatles.
This intrigued me for a long time until I came to realize that those two people were stuck in 1965. Everything about them shouted 1965 - their car, their clothes, their music, the way they talked, perhaps even the fact that they weren't the least bit interested in having children despite both of them liking children.
My neighbour on the other side behaved similarly although in a much less dramatic way. Since then I have seen many examples of people stuck in the age, or maturity level they were at when they started smoking pot. For instance, a 25 year old man still acted like, talked like, and thought like he was 15 years old, the age at which he started with weed. He still watched the same kind of shows he used to and he had a difficult time holding a job.
After I told him my theory he stopped smoking and remarkably began to mature within months, although he continues to have some issues as a consequence of 10 years of moderate pot use.
My theory in short is that some, perhaps most people who use pot regularly stop maturing almost immediately and don't resume maturing until after they stop using.
The research announced today and published by the CBC in Canada includes these extraordinary statements: "Study findings suggest that adolescent cannabis use is linked to difficulties in successfully completing the tasks that mark the transition to adulthood,"
and, Increasing evidence shows that brain development during adolescence can be harmed by frequent cannabis use and cognitive functions can be permanently reduced.
Young people need to develop and mature and prepare themselves to meet demands in adult life.
"Cannabis use, especially frequent use, impairs this development and reduces the likelihood that a young person will be able to establish a satisfactory adult life,"
I've been waiting for 20 years for research to verify my theory and finally it has come, or at least has begun to arrive.
The study also linked the use of pot by teens as correlating well with such things as:
60% less likely to graduate
Not attending college
18 times more likely to become dependent on pot
8 times more likely to use harder drugs
More likely to need welfare
Heavy marijuana users generally report:
lower life satisfaction,
poorer mental and physical health,
more relationship problems, and
less academic and career success.
Poorer mental health, aside from depression, can include permanent schizophrenia or paranoia as documented in this post from more than a year ago, and confirmed by later research.
While this study was restricted to people who started smoking pot in their teens, I strongly suspect that results would not be dramatically different for people who started when an adult.
Teens should be strongly encouraged to stay away from pot, it could completely mess up their life. Maybe get every teen you know to read this.