I’m from Southern California, where it’s always sunny, grass doesn’t grow and pot is plentiful. I find that it’s often more socially acceptable to smoke a joint than a cigarette, and those who won’t hit the bong are in the minority. This hasn’t always been the case. But in the past few years, as legalization has made its slow progress across the country, weed has gained an ever-increasing presence in popular culture and practice. But how will the proliferation of this drug influence our society? I can’t tell you much about the science or medical effects of the herb, but I can give you my honest opinion on how it affects people on a personal and social basis.
Pot makes you stupid. When you get high, you almost slouch into this blissfully subdued state where you accept your ineptitude at all things and embrace the moment, whatever it may be. This is not to knock that feeling, as relaxation and living in the moment are luxuries that many people need desperately in their lives. But it does bring to the surface an important issue in that a high person is an unproductive person. Interacting with stoned people is nothing if not comical; the slothful way they speak and think, their moments of warm joy and the way they love to dance, eat and listen to music are all somewhat reminiscent of a happy child. When you’re floating on that hazy cloud, everything is super nice, and that’s probably why people like it so much. But all this pleasantness comes at an undeniable cost.
The opportunity cost of that sluggish bliss includes not only the sizable wad of cash you have to fork over to actually get the bud, but also the time and productivity sacrificed by indulging in. Malcolm Gladwell tells us in his book Outliers that one has only truly mastered a craft after devoting 10,000 hours to it. So time is the primary contributing factor to improvement; in other words, practice makes perfect. While this is an incredibly well-known phrase, and its truthfulness seems almost trivial, it is a tremendously powerful concept, especially when one understands that it is applicable to basically every aspect of life. Everything is a skill to be improved upon, from brushing your teeth to talking to your friends to doing your homework. By practicing these actions over and over again, and by devoting time to them, you understand them better and gain greater proficiency in them. However, when you’re high, you gain nothing. You can’t learn new skills, and you can’t improve on what you know. You placidly float through the events unfolding around you, benefiting only from your ephemeral enjoyment of them. Essentially, if we consider time a resource that everyone has a limited supply of, spending time high yields little to no return on investment.
But I don’t want to give off the impression that marijuana is “bad” for you because from what I’ve read, it isn’t, and despite what I just said, you may actually gain something from getting high. In fact, the only negative health effect I could find of the drug, other than the evident harm to your lungs in smoking, was that it seems to foster addiction in 10 percent of its users. However, this addiction is not scientifically understood on a chemical level, but is rather defined only by overuse. This overuse could therefore be attributed to factors other than the herb’s chemical properties, like depression. In fact, such mental issues, and many other health issues such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, are often alleviated by marijuana use. Additionally, I would be remiss not to mention that many claim that smoking pot improves their creative processes. Therefore, while weed may have a particularly high opportunity cost, it is not necessarily a complete waste of time, for there are a number of benefits to its use.
So, like many other drugs (both legal and illegal), weed has the potential for abuse, it has the ability to do great good and it can be used as a distraction from reality. It is part of our job as educated and productive members of the community to understand that pot will affect the way we think and act and to use it with necessary discretion. So what I’m trying to say is that smoking weed isn’t necessarily wrong or bad for you; in fact, it is often pleasant and relaxing and can definitely help you unwind or be creative. But when you spend your time high, you’re missing out on the opportunity to learn and grow, and you’ll never get that time back.
Nevin Bernet ’20 is from Topanga, Calif. He intends to double major in computer science and economics.