Let's get real: cannabis isn't all rainbows and butterflies. In the effort to de-stigmatize the plant, we often forget to address the negative side-effects because we only want to highlight the positives; and there are so many, spanning from pain relief to pleasure.
Truth is, weed isn't for everyone and that's A-OK. As advocates, we must remember to properly educate potential new consumers if we're going to uphold our standard of transparency. We believe responsible consumption paired with awareness is the cornerstone of the new wave of cannabis culture; this is the true meaning of being "elevated".
With that, we're honing in on three side-effects often associated with weed.
Short-term memory loss
According to Harvard Health Publishing, cannabis can affect working memory, executive function, and psychomotor function (physical actions that require conscious thought, like driving a car). Essentially, THC - one of the primary intoxicating cannabinoids - attaches to receptors in brain areas that are vital for memory formation, such as the hippocampus, amygdala, and cerebral cortex. However, there's still a lack of research confirming whether long-term use of cannabis leads to persistent cognitive problems.
We can't deny the fact that smoking anything is harmful to lung health. Despite the fact that cannabis doesn't contain additives found in cigarettes, consumers are still inhaling toxins and carcinogens from combustion.
The American Lung Association reports smoking cannabis can possibly cause chronic bronchitis and injure cell linings of the large airways. Symptoms like chronic coughing, phlegm production, wheezing and acute bronchitis can arise; but we still can't establish whether these occur more frequently among cannabis smokers than the general population.
Can your dreams get lost in a cloud of smoke? Perhaps. There haven't been any conclusive findings or in-depth research, but doctors and scientists theorize cannabis can suppress REM sleep.
In a nutshell, REM (rapid eye movement) is one of the many stages of sleep. It's distinguished by rapid movement of the eyes in different directions. Dreams typically occur during this phase. Based on our research, we can only rely on anecdotal evidence. Many users claim they don't dream, but experience a significant rebound effect when on a tolerance break, or stop consuming altogether. At that point, their dreams come back vividly.
As advocates, we must remember to properly educate potential new consumers if we're going to uphold our standard of transparency.
Overall, the common denominator among these potential risks is a lack of conclusive evidence. There just isn't enough research to fully corroborate most of the claims, partly due to governments not supporting research efforts. The silver lining: we can leverage this issue in the pursuit of de-stigmatization! Talking about socially ignored risks, from allergies to drug interactions, offers a transparent, genuine and informed view on cannabis. This holds governments accountable and keeps the dialogue strong.
Moral of the story: de-stigmatization can be even more powerful when we're vocal about every aspect of the plant. The pros, cons and grey areas in between.