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Seattle HEMPFEST® staff worked with Roger Roffman from the UW School of Social Work to create these informational tips about cannabis and its use.  

The information provided is meant to give you points to ponder as you decide what’s right for you.

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A HEMPFEST® GUT CHECK

What about marijuana dependence?

 

Researchers have found that marijuana is used safely, responsibly, and healthfully by many.

So, what’s the big deal about dependence? For most people who get high, it’s something they do occasionally.

It doesn’t take over their lives. It doesn’t take priority over meeting responsibilities at home, school, work, or with friends.

For a minority of users, however, their pot use looks a lot like an addiction.

Here are some of the signs:

  • They intend to limit how often they get high, but they break their own rules.
  • They want to cut back or maybe even quit, but they don’t follow through.
  • Being high takes up much more of their time than they want it to.
  • Things that are important to them (friendships, family, school work, sports, music, etc.) are sacrificed so that they can get high instead.
  • They worry about some problems that pot might be causing in their lives, but they continue getting high anyway.

It’s a dilemma. For many years, there’s been a whole lot of propaganda about pot.

One of the lies has been that marijuana can’t be used safely.

It’s time for the truth. Most people who use pot occasionally do not become dependent.

But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to become dependent on pot.

 

Want to know more? Check out this University of Washington website for more information: 

http://LearnAboutMarijuanaWA.org 

Here’s the bottom line:

  • NORML, the national advocacy organization for legalizing pot, says: Resist Abuse. Use of cannabis, to the extent it impairs health, personal development or achievement, is abuse, to be resisted by responsible cannabis users.”

Written by Dr. Roger Roffman, professor emeritus, UW School of Social Work.

A HEMPFEST GUT CHECK

What about marijuana and driving?

 

Researchers have found that marijuana is used safely, responsibly, and healthfully by many.

So, what’s the big deal about driving? Many of us know people who are absolutely certain that they can drive safely after getting high.

You’ll hear them saying: “I’ve done it lots of times and never got into an accident. Anyway, I’m really careful.”

The fact is that sometimes they’re right. They’ve driven while high and nothing bad happened.

But, here’s the deal. The same thing is true for some people who drive after drinking alcohol. Some of the time they make it home without having an accident.

And then there are the times when a driver who has been drinking causes an accident, sometimes with people getting killed, because the skills they needed were impaired.

The same is true for pot. Driving high increases the risk of accidents.

Why? It’s because driving while high can cause impairment such as:

  • Lane weaving
  • Slower tracking of events
  • Divided attention
  • Slower reaction time

And combining pot with alcohol makes these risks of causing an accident even greater.

It’s a dilemma. If you’ve smoked a lot of pot, you’ve probably developed tolerance to some of its effects. 

And, if you’ve driven while high without having any problems, why not continue to do so?

You’re going to make your own decisions. Just don’t be fooled by people who say driving high is no big deal.

Want to know more? Check out this University of Washington website for more information:

 

http://LearnAboutMarijuanaWA.org

Here’s the bottom line:

  • NORML, the national advocacy group for legalizing pot, says: “The responsible cannabis consumer does not operate a motor vehicle or other dangerous machinery while impaired by cannabis.”
  • Give yourself a safety margin. If you’re going to drive after getting high, wait for 3 or 4 hours.
  • Don’t let anyone convince you to get into a car driven by someone who’s high or been drinking.
  • Don’t roll the dice with your own life. We want to see you next year at Hempfest!

 

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Written by Dr. Roger Roffman, professor emeritus, UW School of Social Work.

A HEMPFEST GUT CHECK

What about marijuana and health?

 

Researchers have found that marijuana is used safely, responsibly, and healthfully by many.

So, what’s the big deal about health? There have been lots of scare stories about pot.

So what’s the truth?

  • Adults who don’t have heart disease or psychiatric conditions, don’t get high during pregnancy or when it’s dangerous, and use pot occasionally probably aren’t at risk of any harm to their health.
  • We’re learning a lot about the health benefits from cannabinoids. Keeping marijuana illegal has slowed down research on the drug’s medical and psychological potential.
  • Marijuana’s popularity makes a strong case for its having positive effects. Why else would people enjoy getting high?
  • People who haven’t used marijuana before may experience anxiety or panic reactions.
  • Marijuana with high levels of THC and low levels of CBD may make anxiety or panic more likely.
  • Driving while high can cause accidents due to impaired attention, reaction time, and other skills needed for safe driving.
  • Smoking pot during pregnancy may lead to lower birth weight of the baby.
  • Becoming dependent on pot happens to 33% to 50% of daily users. Teens who begin early are at greater risk of becoming dependent.
  • People with schizophrenia are at risk of a psychotic episode if they use pot.
  • Regular pot smoking contributes to chronic bronchitis (wheeze, chronic coughs).
  • Older adults with heart disease are at increased risk of angina and heart attack after pot use.

 

Want to know more? Check out this University of Washington website for more information:

http://LearnAboutMarijuanaWA.org

 

Here’s the bottom line:

  • We know much more about pot’s risks than its benefits, partly due to prohibition.
  • Take a look at vaporizers to reduce the risk of lung damage from inhaling smoke.
  • Avoid pot use during pregnancy or while breast feeding.
  • Wait three to four hours after smoking pot before driving.
  • Beginning use during adolescence can cause a number of learning problems.
  • People with a history of schizophrenia need to know they’re at risk of a psychotic episode if they get high.
  • Reduce risk of becoming dependent by using no more than once weekly.

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Written by Dr. Roger Roffman, professor emeritus, UW School of Social Work.

A HEMPFEST GUT CHECK

What about marijuana and lungs?

 

Researchers have found that marijuana is used safely, responsibly, and healthfully by many.

So, what’s the big deal about the lungs? Are people who smoke pot at risk of diseases of the lung such as lung cancer or lower respiratory tract infections?

Scientists have been concerned about this because marijuana and tobacco smoke have some of the same contents that have toxic effects on respiratory tissue.

So, what does the latest research tell us?

  • Regular marijuana smoking is likely to increase symptoms of chronic bronchitis (frequent coughing, sputum production, wheezing.)
  • There does not appear to be an association of marijuana smoking and airflow obstruction.
  • For the occasional user, the inhaling of THC causes bronchodilation (decreased resistance in the respiratory airway and increased airflow to the lungs.)
  • Smoking marijuana alone, not in combination with tobacco, does not appear to cause Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases such as emphysema.
  • It’s uncertain whether marijuana smoking leads to pulmonary infection (inflammation in the lungs).
  • If someone takes large puffs, inhales the smoke deeply into their lungs, and holds their breath, much more tar from marijuana smoke is deposited in their lungs than is typically the case with tobacco inhalation.
  • Scientists are not certain whether marijuana smoking can increase the user’s risk of cancer. While many studies don’t find an increased risk, it’s still possible there is such a risk for heavier marijuana smokers.    

 

Want to know more? Check out this University of Washington website for more information:

http://LearnAboutMarijuanaWA.org

 

Here’s the bottom line:

  • One of the leading scientists summarizes what we know at this point:

“Overall, the risks of pulmonary complications of regular use of marijuana appear to be relatively small and far lower than those of tobacco smoking.”

— Tashkin, D.P. (2013). “Effects of marijuana smoking on the lung.” Annals of the American Thoracic Society, 10 (3), 239-247.

  • Take a look at vaporizers to reduce the risk of lung damage from inhaling smoke 

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Written by Dr. Roger Roffman, professor emeritus, UW School of Social Work

A HEMPFEST GUT CHECK

What about marijuana and memory?

 

Researchers have found that marijuana is used safely, responsibly, and healthfully by many. 

So, what’s the big deal about memory? Some people who get high a lot say they can tell there’s a difference in their memory.

That’s one of the reasons people give who’ve decided to quit pot.

But, is there really an effect on memory? Is it more difficult when someone’s high to remember things that happened before?

Or, might things that happen while someone’s high be difficult for them to remember later?

What about when a regular pot user stops? Are there memory problems that persist?

Here’s what scientists tell us.

The THC in pot has the ability to affect cannabinoid receptors, specific sites in the brain.

One type of cannabinoid receptor, CB1, is concentrated in parts of the brain, the hippocampus for example, associated with memory.

It’s a dilemma. For some, being high feels like getting lost in pleasant thoughts, forgetting what they’re doing and not staying concentrated on a goal.

Strangely enough, this kind of reverie is probably due to pot’s effects on short-term memory.

On the other hand, scientists also think that long-term daily pot use may cause subtle impairments in memory and attention, even when a person isn’t high.

There are different types of memory. For example:

  1. One type involves knowing. I know what a cobra is, even though I’m not sure when I saw one in a zoo or when I read about cobras.
  2. Another type involves remembering. I remember what I did on my last birthday and who I was with, and what kind of birthday cake I had. I remember what I studied last week in school.
  3. A third involves procedure. I can ride a bike today because I once learned the skills involved.

Scientists think that problems with the second kind of memory can happen when someone is high. It can be particularly difficult to remember information that the person has recently learned. 

This may explain why teens who frequently get high may see their school grades suffer because pot’s effects on memory get in the way of learning.

 

Want to know more? Check out this University of Washington website for more information:

http://LearnAboutMarijuanaWA.org

 

Here’s the bottom line:

  • Part of the fun in getting high probably is due to pot’s effect on short-term memory.
  • Being high can interfere with memory for recently acquired information.

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Written by Dr. Roger Roffman, professor emeritus, UW School of Social Work.

A HEMPFEST GUT CHECK

What about marijuana and mental health?

 

Researchers have found that marijuana is used safely, responsibly, and healthfully by many.

So, what’s the big deal about mental health? There’s a lot that scientists can’t tell us yet.

 

Question. Can some people become seriously depressed if they get high, maybe even to the point of committing suicide? 

Answer. Yeah, but scientists aren’t sure that pot causes depression or suicide. Maybe it’s something else going on in the person’s life that causes these things to happen.

 

Question. What about serious anxiety? Is that a risk for people who get high? 

Answer. Same answer.

 

Question. Can some people become psychotic from pot?

Answer. Yeah, but, once again, it’s uncertain whether the cause is getting high.

 

There’s an exception. People with a history of schizophrenia risk having a relapse if they get high.

Here’s the deal. Some studies say that some pot users are at risk of serious mental health problems, but other studies say they’re not.

 

It’s a dilemma. If the studies don’t give us solid answers, what should the public think?

Some people might conclude there’s nothing to worry about.

A smarter conclusion is to recognize there’s a possibility of risk to mental health.

So how do you take care of yourself if you get high?

  • Tune in to what your body is telling you.

If you seem to be frequently depressed or anxious after getting high, consider the possibility that pot isn’t working for you.

If you’re having suicidal feelings and thoughts when you get high, maybe pot is contributing to this.

  • If you’re a teen, scientists believe the risks of mental health problems, now and later in life, are greater for you if you get high.

 

Want to know more? Check out this University of Washington website for more information:

http://LearnAboutMarijuanaWA.org

 

Here’s the bottom line:

  • Clearly, pot does not cause mental health problems in all users. It might be only a small percentage of users who experience them.
  • Tune in to your body. If you’re often depressed, anxious, or suicidal when high, it’s a red flag.
  • Be careful with marijuana that has high THC and low CBD content. It may lead to anxiety or panic.
  • If you have a history of schizophrenia, that’s a red flag.
  • If you’re a teen, hold off on the decision to get high until you’re an adult.

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Written by Dr. Roger Roffman, professor emeritus, UW School of Social Work.

A HEMPFEST GUT CHECK

What about marijuana and pregnancy?

 

Researchers have found that marijuana is used safely, responsibly, and healthfully by many.

So, what’s the big deal about pregnancy? If we’re going to talk about pregnancy, there’s a fact we can’t ignore.

A whole lot of babies get their start when a guy and/or a woman feels inspired while high.

OK, time to get serious.

We know enough about the dangers of drinking alcohol during pregnancy to understand it’s not a good idea.

Serious problems caused by alcohol during fetal development can lead to mental and physical abnormalities in the newborn. 

But is the same true about getting high?

Just as alcohol crosses the placental barrier, so does THC.

But does THC exposure damage the fetus?

The answer is: we don’t know enough yet to be certain about all of the possible risks.

One thing that scientists do believe, however, is that regular marijuana use during pregnancy leads to babies born with reduced weight.

Scientists are still wondering about some other possible risks to the baby, including behavioral and developmental delays during the baby’s first few months.

During breast feeding, marijuana consumed by the mother is also consumed by the baby through mother’s milk and may be harmful.

There’s another possibility, and this has to do with the parents. For some people, getting high might interfere with their ability to reproduce.

 

It’s a dilemma. Obviously, men and women who get high are not going to wait to have babies until all of the answers to these questions are in.

Want to know more? Check out this University of Washington website for more information:

http://LearnAboutMarijuanaWA.org

 

Here’s the bottom line:

  • Even with so many unanswered questions, the risk is too great.

Don’t get high if you’re pregnant. 

Don’t get high during the breastfeeding period.

  • If you and your partner are unsuccessful in trying to get pregnant and you’re getting high, pot might be getting in the way.

Check it out with your doctor.

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Written by Dr. Roger Roffman, professor emeritus, UW School of Social Work.

A HEMPFEST GUT CHECK

What about teens and pot?

 

Researchers have found that marijuana is used safely, responsibly, and healthfully by many.

So, what’s the big deal about teens? Some teens get high, have fun with it, and think pot’s no big deal.

For them, getting high isn’t even close to an everyday thing and they don’t let it get in the way of school, sports, or other activities.

However, most of us know teens who get high a lot more often. For them, it is a big deal, particularly if their grades tank, they lose friends, have heavy duty arguments with their parents, and maybe get busted.

Doctors strongly urge teens to wait until they’re 21 or older before using pot. Why?

It’s because of what’s still developing in an adolescent’s brain.

Parts of the brain, the pre-frontal cortex for example, may not develop the way they’re supposed to if the person smokes a lot of pot while they’re a teen.

What does that mean? It may mean:

  • Problems with memory
  • Difficulty learning
  • A harder time planning
  • Struggling with solving problems

And here’s what makes it more serious. These problems may be permanent.

There’s more information to think about. Science suggests that teens who use a lot of pot have an increased likelihood of depression, anxiety, psychosis, or other mental illness. 

It’s a dilemma. So, here’s the deal. Getting high is fun, and especially for teens, it can be hard to turn down doing something that makes you feel good, that takes the edge off stress.

The reason adults smoke pot is because it’s fun for them too. So, if adults can have fun getting high, why can’t teens?

The answer is that people who wait until they’re adults before they begin getting high don’t face the risks teens face because their brains are now fully developed.

 

Want to know more? Check out this University of Washington website for more information:

http://LearnAboutMarijuanaWA.org

 

Here’s the bottom line:

  • Getting high is fun, it’s legal for adults, and it’s tempting for teens.
  • But, many teens decide to wait until they’re adults.
  • Some teens use pot, but only very occasionally.
  • People who begin getting high before they’re adults and do it frequently are risking a lot.

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Written by Dr. Roger Roffman, professor emeritus, UW School of Social Work.