Confessions of a once and probably future pot head

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, brain surgeon and CNN contributor, has shown himself once again to be a true medical scientist who follows the evidence and facts and gives his opinion accordingly. After further investigation and without the mindset that pot is a dangerous and addictive drug with no medical value, Dr. Gupta has changed his mind about marijuana.

After a year studying the research and by his observations of actual patients with actual results, he has come to the conclusion that there are some valuable medicinal uses for marijuana with fewer side effects than other prescribed medication.  A lot of the uses have positive effects on people suffering from conditions originating in the brain or to offset the side effects of other treatments.  I could not agree with him more.

Probably the worst thing I did for my health when I was young was to smoke cigarettes.  I was 18 and engaged, and my fiancé taught me to smoke and drink alcoholic cocktails and thus be more sophisticated.   So I dutifully practiced smoking until I got so good at it I became addicted. I never became good at drinking because I didn’t like the way people behaved when they were drunk, and I didn’t want to act like that. I finally kicked my smoking addiction going cold turkey, 24 years ago.  I knew a former heroin addict who told me that quitting smoking was more difficult than quitting heroin.

In 1954 I was living in Hollywood, California, and dating a movie stunt man.  He smoked pot and invited me to parties where they smoked pot.  Although I could never tell whether or not he was “high,” but being well indoctrinated, I refused, thinking I would become a dope fiend, as well as a smoker.

By the 1960s life in California had changed, especially in San Francisco.  I met a lot of people who smoked pot but did not seem to be fiends about it.  Actually, I liked their behavior better than I did of people who drank.  Later I decided that alcohol lowers our inhibitions and pot lowers our defenses. I preferred a happy high rather than a belligerent one.

In 1977 while studying for my master’s degree in social science and working in the women’s studies office at San Jose State, I was diagnosed with an aggressive type of breast cancer.  My Aunt Mary died of breast cancer when it eventually went to her brain. I was told I needed an operation and later radiation and chemotherapy.  After my operation, lying on the lab table soaking up the radiation was a dehumanizing experience.  Marijuana helped me to be more objective about it and also avoid the side effects. I opted out of chemotherapy after the first session, reading that its effectiveness on women my age was dubious but the listed side effects were not.

During six weeks of radiation I continued to smoke pot. I also continued to work in women’s studies, finish my degree, and teach two classes at two different colleges.

I stopped using marijuana when I took a full-time job on campus with the university

Some people (have you ever noticed how much press Some People and their opinions get?) say of anyone in favor of legalizing weed, “They just want to get high.” Some people could also say those who want to mix themselves a drink containing alcohol just want to get high.  The implication seems to be that taking a medication for whatever ails you should not make you actually feel good. It should just take away the pain.

When I first moved to Costa Rica I didn’t hear or see much about pot.  It was not legal, but there was never anything in the papers about pot arrests or the burning of pot plants. I heard that pot smoking was pretty widespread but not noticeable, except perhaps in the smile of pura vida.

Since the war on drugs has spread to Costa Rica, things have changed.  The U.S. had labeled marijuana as an illegal Schedule #1 drug: as dangerous and addictive as heroin and cocaine with no medical benefits and other countries are expected to act accordingly.

Considering that, it is perplexing that in October of 2008, the U.S. government obtained a patent (#6630507) on medical marijuana.  Is that just hedging your bets or hypocrisy?

Marijuana helped me through a very difficult medical emergency and recovery. During that time I took no other medication, and I did not become addicted.  If the time comes when again I feel I need it for medical reasons, I will probably go in search of it. It may even be legal by then.

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