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A recent editorial posted on vice news website noted that 77% of teens believe that it’s totally safe to smoke weed. While we are excited that a generation up and coming has begun to embrace the truth that cannabis is not evil or as dangerous as other substances such as heroin, cocaine or even prescription pills, it’s important that we educate ourselves on the absolute truths of the miracle plant.

According to Behavioral Health Barometer which is a series of state and national level reports regarding the state of health of the American nation about 77% of teens and adolescents between 12 and 17 years old that there is “no great risk” from smoking pot once a month. That number is up from 70.4% in 2010 and 32.4% in 2002.

This rise is no doubt linked to a variety of variables, not the least of which would be the ongoing media coverage over the last few years about the benefits of medical marijuana and the struggle to legalize it for recreational use. As well as the ongoing stats that marijuana has killed exactly zero people while other drugs and alcohol are directly or indirectly involved in the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives each year.

Marijuana does not kill

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Current reports have the use of pain relievers falling from 5.5% to 4% among males and 5.4% among females, down from 7%. The rate in teen and adolescent binge drinking has also dropped from 8.6% in 2008 down to 6% currently. Cigarette smoking has decreased as well, with 4.9% say they smoke down from 6.7% in the 2008 survey.

The best statistic thus far is only  2.6% of teens report using psychotherapeutics, 0.6% used inhalants, 0.2% used cocaine, and 0.1% said they had used heroin. Now while the use of any of these things is inherently bad for teens health, the fact that rates of use are dropping shows progress and movement in the right direction.

What or who is to blame for this change in behavior? Many teens are pointing to marijuana as the culprit in reducing their need or want for hard drugs and alcohol. I use the words “blame” and “culprit” facetiously of course. How can anyone in their right mind see the use of marijuana in the reduction of ALL these other harsher death causing drugs as a bad thing?

As a society and as a human race I suppose we must first take the baby step of accepting that  marijuana is a “better alternative” to the harsher drugs. Only then will it become clear when we have eliminated the noise of all the other drug related deaths that there are no deaths related to cannabis use.

When to use (smoke) marijuana?

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As noted at the beginning of this article, we nearly always praise cannabis for its miracle like properties. But is there a wrong time to smoke it? The answer is yes. During adolescence and teenage years while the brain is still developing it can (like any foreign substance) affect the development of that young brain. It’s important to distinguish here that we are referring to the THC in cannabis and not the CBD component when we speak about effects on the developing brain.

Unlike adults, the teen brain is actively developing and often will not stop until the mid-20s. Any foreign substance that affects the brain during this period can have a hugely detrimental impact, affecting a teen brain’s ability to grow and progress on many fronts including:

Brain Structure and Volume in the hippocampus (memory center), prefrontal cortex (responsible for logic based decision making, planning, inhibition, emotion stabilization, integration and retention of new knowledge). The growth in these two areas of the brain are stunted because marijuana use during the brain’s development years disrupts gray matter’s pruning processes.

White Matter Volume and Quality (responsible for neuronal connections between different areas of the brain), namely how the brain communicates between one area and another are disrupted during adolescent and teenage marijuana use.

While it’s important to note how marijuana use during these formative years affects each person differently,  or more accurately, to what degree they will be affected, the fact that it does, in fact, impact the brain’s development negatively is important.

Cannabis is undoubtedly a miracle plant, but let’s make sure we use it wisely. After all too much of a good thing applies to all things, even water, our most fundamental requirement for survival.

Do you agree that there is a correct time to start smoking weed? Share your thoughts with us on social media or in the comments section below

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