Sunday, September 12, 2010

Take it easy... and be careful

If you’re an artist, particularly a male one who wears your hair long, sadly, for the rest of us, you probably smoke pot. And if you happen to live in Baguio, then the odds get higher, this city unfortunately being known, especially by out-of-towners, to be a source of cheap, good quality toinks, as some locals call it. Not entirely true of course, but also not an entirely unjustified presumption. Having a good number of artists who in fact cannot function without a head, a high, does not help disprove that notion, and having a good number of that good number justifying (usually rather passionately) their need for some mind alteration to exist at all just does it. Though I must say that the need to be high to be creative is not unlike Barry Bonds risking shrinking his family jewels and inflating his head with performance enhancing drugs – it’s plain cheating.
But hey, I don’t blame them, nor do I judge them. I’m just lucky enough to have legal substances as my addictions – cigarettes, coffee and the occasional fermented stuff, preferably bourbon. And don’t get me wrong, unlike Bill Clinton, I did inhale, and again, luckily for me, I never really liked it.

I have heard the justifications all my life: that alcohol is actually more dangerous than marijuana; that drunks are more likely to commit violence than those high on grass; cannabis sativa is organic while alcohol manufacturers put all sorts of poison in their brews; etc. Here’s another one from AskMen.com: “Marijuana is psychoactive because it stimulates certain brain receptors, but it does not produce toxins that kill them (like alcohol), and it does not wear them out as other drugs may. There is no evidence that marijuana use causes brain damage.” The website also claims that “There is no existing evidence of anyone dying of a marijuana overdose. Tests performed on mice have shown that the ratio of cannabinoids (the chemicals in marijuana that make you high) necessary for overdose to the amount necessary for intoxication is 40,000:1.”  And further adds that “For comparison's sake, that ratio for alcohol is generally between 4:1 and 10:1. Alcohol overdoses claim approximately 5,000 casualties yearly, but marijuana overdoses kill no one as far as any official reports.” You want to know more about the benefits of marijuana? Well, what better website to visit than benefitsofmarijuana.com, on whose homepage is a welcome note that says “the Physical benefits of marijuana are far-reaching, widespread, and long-term?”

On the other hand, another website, About.com, claims that “Within a few minutes after smoking marijuana, the heart begins beating more rapidly and the blood pressure drops,” and that “Because of the lower blood pressure and higher heart rate, researchers found that users' risk for a heart attack is four times higher within the first hour after smoking marijuana…”  It is also claimed that “the active ingredient in marijuana, delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, acts on cannabinoid receptors on nerve cells and influences the activity of those cells…" And that “Many cannabinoid receptors are found in the parts of the brain that influence pleasure, memory, thought, concentration, sensory and time perception, and coordinated movement.”  And marijuana, when eaten/digested rather than smoked, causes “hallucinations, delusions, impaired memory and disorientation.” On top of all that, some argue that marijuana is a gateway drug – once you get addicted to it, there’s a bigger chance that you’ll want to try stronger drugs.

Now what? I don’t care as much about the pros and cons of marijuana as I do about the fact that right now, right here, as in most other places in the world, possession, selling and taking of marijuana is against the law. Fact is, whatever the pros and cons, you can go to jail for it. A newspaper reported the other day about the arrest of a young lady by a security guard at a popular mall. Never mind how the fact that she smokes marijuana, assuming that she actually does and she didn’t just happen to have it in her possession, could affect her for the rest of her life, but I can’t help thinking about how that fateful moment when the guard discovered the illegal substance in her purse could affect the rest of her life. We live in a country where getting caught in possession of a small amount of marijuana can result in a long prison term. Before 2006, possession of over 500 grams resulted in the death penalty. I’m not so sure about it but I assume that since the death penalty has been abolished, today, that could mean life in prison.  So I won’t pose the question to those who are already on it, I can only hope you do know what’s good for and what’s not. But to those who aren’t hooked on it yet, those who haven’t tried it yet, those who are thinking of trying it or wondering what it’s like to be high… is it worth it?

I know, it’s just so much easier to cross the road wherever convenient, instead of using the overpass or walking the extra few meters to get to the pedestrian lane; it is much easier to make an illegal u-turn than to drive the few extra blocks to get to where you’re going; and perhaps a few grams of marijuana, the occasional high, really is no big deal. But the fact is, these are illegal, and going against the law brings with it a lot of risks.

I do have my addictions on top of those already mentioned above: staging plays even if it’s been the cause of my financial woes for most of my life; good, albeit unhealthy food even if I am already unhealthily overweight; being online a lot even if it has resulted in countless of wasted hours making status updates and answering stupid survey questions and commenting on comments on comments; watching the series Friends, NCIS and Big Bang Theory over and over again until late at night even if it has resulted in a lack of sleep and fatigue. I always tell myself to take it easy on these, and to be careful.
I do know people, some close to me, some I love, who smoke pot. At times I myself have been an enabler – either by not doing anything at all or making it easier for them to satisfy their cravings. I myself have at times justified their addiction, mostly by believing their own arguments about the “harmlessness” and “benefits” of marijuana. A lot of them have told me to back off, to never tell them what they’re doing is wrong. To them, what can I say?

Be careful, be very careful. Crossing the road where you’re not supposed to is very risky. And sometimes it may well just be worth walking the few extra meters to the pedestrian lane after all.

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