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I Never Inhaled
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It came across as a joke when Bill Clinton spoke of his marijuana days and said, “I never inhaled.” I don’t know if he did or didn’t, despite my suspicion that he did, but the concern about marijuana at that time has morphed into legal permission to smoke, eat, swim in some form of marijuana any time we choose.

I went to college in the sixties, or should I now say the nineteen sixties, so I was surrounded by marijuana-users. It never made sense to me. I’d smell it in the back stairwell of the student union and hurry down those stairs as fast as I could because the smell made me gag.

The first time I encountered people smoking marijuana was at a cast party after the run of a play. Their behavior was silly, but they thought they were clever. The idea that I wouldn’t know the difference between silly and clever scared me. I knew then (and now) that we never fully know how we come across to others, but the idea of rendering myself incapable in that regard was too much. I left.

I became known as the person who wouldn’t stay at parties. I never told them why, but a few of them figured it out when they were sober. “What’s wrong with marijuana? Everyone’s smoking it.” The moment I hear of “everyone” doing anything, I grow suspicious.

In recent years, at least in California, we were given a referendum on our election ballots asking us to approve the legalization of marijuana. Knowing that eighty percent of the respondents would say ‘yes’ to this, I still voted ‘no.’ While one friend said, “they’re doing it anyway,” I couldn’t say yes, even though I knew I was throwing my vote to a lost cause.

THC, the ingredient in marijuana that makes us silly, can alter the functioning of the hippocampus and orbitofrontal cortex, brain areas that help us form new memories and shift our attention. No wonder smokers don’t remember anything.

Marijuana use can cause permanent psychological disorders, e.g., cognitive impairment, anxiety, paranoia, even increased risks of psychosis. I think we have enough of that in the world without inviting these conditions.

And users get on the road which puts me in greater danger on our highways and by-ways. Alcohol will, too, as we now accept, but if people get drunk on Friday, they’re usually fit to drive on Saturday. If they have a designated driver or call a taxi, they aren’t on the roads. With marijuana, smoke on Friday and it may abate, but it’s still in their systems on Monday when they’re driving to work. As the first “physical” response of marijuana use is the impairment of peripheral vision, this is not encouraging, but explains why people under the influence of marijuana weave all over their lanes and across the lines.

Marijuana users affect others more than they think they do. I wish they understood that.

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