August 10, 2010 10:09 AM   Subscribe

Arguments Against Marijuana. Why not smoke pot?

I am a pot smoker. I am pro-legalization. Mid-40s in age.

My nephew is 22 and discovered smoking pot about 2 years ago. During that time, he has failed out of a college program. He seems to change direction in his life every 3 months. And, he has become a cheer-leader for pot - believing he should enthusiastically encourage others to smoke it too, in some cases encouraging his cousins in middle school to start smoking pot.

I don't want to be a hypocrit, but I also want to find a sensible approach. I feel strongly that is terribly terribly wrong to encourage a 7th grade to try smoking pot. But why? - after all, I smoke it myself.

I also feel like it is a drug - not something to proud of, or something to wear like a badge of courage. But, what is wrong with being an enthusiatic cheer-leader for smoking pot? Should I care if my nephew is a crazy pro-pot cheer-leader.

He keeps saying it is not addictive - and I know it is not physically addictive, but come on - it forms one hell of a habit. I can point to damage in my own life caused by my pot smoking, though nothing as bad as dropping out of school. (Of course, he swears that pot had nothing to do with failing out of school, he says he just wasnt interested in school anymore).

Can I as a smoker encourage a more reasonable approach to the drug in my nephew? Or, is anything I say hypocritical?

Bonus question: why did American farmers stop growing hemp? If hemp is such a wonder plant, then why did hemp farming die out. Marijuana became illegal in 1930s, but hemp farming had largely ended before that - if hemp is such a wonder plant, then what happened to the farming?
posted by Flood to Grab Bag (53 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Without going into the whole gestalt of pros, cons and everything in between - because really the debates are endless, what can be said is that not all smokers are created equal. Some use it as escape, some as a vehicle for spirituality and it's as personal a thing as a fingerprint. You can speak to him as an elder with experience, but until he hits his own realization about life and the direction he's going in - aka the aha moment - there's little that you can say that will make any impact.
posted by watercarrier at 10:16 AM on August 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

Part of maturity is responsibility. Not endangering others is a huge part of responsibility, as is not pressuring others (that's high school crap) and waiting until one is mature enough to handle a mind-altering substance responsibly. Suggesting children smoke pot is immature, irresponsible and extremely inappropriate. It's not hypocritical to point this out, nor does it have anything to do with whether or not marijuana should or should not be legal.

I would approach this from the "mature responsibility" angle. You are not hypocritical if you actually believe that there is a responsible way and an irresponsible way to use any given drug (f'rex most people have no trouble with drinking, until it involves endangering others or harming yourself - it's not hypocritical to drink and be opposed to driving while drunk).
posted by biscotti at 10:18 AM on August 10, 2010 [4 favorites]

First of all, are "his cousins" your sons? This is really important.

My nephew is 22 and discovered smoking pot about 2 years ago. During that time, he has failed out of a college program. ... Of course, he swears that pot had nothing to do with failing out of school, he says he just wasnt interested in school anymore

Yeah, right.

Sounds like you've already made a pretty good argument against it. Now, maybe you're not the best spokesperson. On the other hand, "hypocrisy" isn't a very good argument against your position. (It would be a blatant ad hominem.) In fact, you may be in an especially good spokesperson because you can "point to damage in my own life caused by my pot smoking."

He might still call you a hypocrite. But what's the alternative -- some who's pure and has never smoked pot? If that were the case, he'd just criticize you for not knowing what you're talking about. If he wants to find something to criticize in your message, he'll be able to -- you can't win. But you can still make your case.
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:19 AM on August 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

Well, regardless of your opinions about the pros and cons of marijuana as an adult pastime, there's some hard research out there suggesting that it interferes with brain development when used by adolescents. So you might tell your nephew to lay off the proselytizing of his younger relations, regardless of what he likes to do himself in his spare time.
posted by Bardolph at 10:20 AM on August 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

Depending on where he lives, you might point out the legal problems that could arise if he's publicly talking about this all over the place. Or the potential damage to his lungs. But ultimately, watercarrier is right. You can't change his mind. Everybody reacts differently to pot; some can handle it with no adverse affects, others will pretty well destroy their lives. There's no way to convince someone that they're one of the latter group until they come to that realization on their own.
posted by something something at 10:22 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

"Nephew, you're 22, and now is the time you should be exploring a variety of interests and experiences to learn what it is you want to champion in life, what you're best at, and what you most enjoy. It's also the best time to take advantage of having a young, fit, healthy body."
posted by applemeat at 10:23 AM on August 10, 2010

The argument I heard from federal agent was that marijuana causes impairment longer than alcohol, so the DUI problem would be too great to legalize marijuana in the US.

On a personal level, having known several people who'd smoked for 20+ years, I'd agree with you that it is habit forming, and if some of the paranoia and... functionality problems exhibited by those folks Wasn't marijuana-related, I'd be very surprised.

In summary it's a drug, which can be good or bad for the body depending on the person and the complex mixture of chemicals along with the THC. It's also mostly smoked, and smoke inhalation is generally unhealthy, even if it isn't as harmful as most tobacco.

But if you're trying to talk with him about it, your personal experience and how you feel it's changed aspects of your life would probably be most compelling.
posted by ldthomps at 10:24 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Pot kills motivation, and it makes people stupid. It doesn't do this to everyone, but I've seen it often enough to believe it's a real effect. My youngest brother smoked a lot of pot in high school. He nearly flunked out. He's the first to attribute this to his smoking. Now that he's out of high school and found a passion--the culinary arts--he still smokes from time to time, but he's careful not to overdue it. He doesn't think kids have the ability to judge this effect for themselves. My brother is far from the intellectual type, but I think his argument on this is a good one.
posted by smorange at 10:26 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ancedata, but most of my friends who used to be super motivated and proactive people became lazy and gave up on many of their goals once they started smoking pot. Their grades in college also fell. It's just a matter of whether someone can truly do it in moderation. It seems like more people who smoke weed have a problem doing it in moderation than people who drink (maybe because the side effects of drinking are more bothersome to most, and drunk people are more obvious than stoned ones, usually). Most people I know who smoke either smoke very rarely, like once a month or less, or every day (usually multiple times per day). There doesn't seem to be much in between.

Smoking pot is also really bad for your lungs. Worse than cigarettes, though since theoretically pot smokers don't smoke as often or as much as cigarette smokers, it could be less of a health issue. It also screws up your voice and ages your skin much like cigarette smoking.
posted by elpea at 10:26 AM on August 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

You're not a hypocrite. You (I assume) are a responsible pot smoker. Your nephew is not.
posted by Zozo at 10:28 AM on August 10, 2010

Well, it's like illegal and all. That's a good reason for him not to encourage the younger cousins to do it -- it could get them and especially him in big trouble.

Another way of thinking of this: If he is thinking of becoming a spokesperson for legalization, it would damage his credibility to be trying to push it on younger kids. The best bet for legalization is having respectable spokespeople, who show that smoking pot doesn't make you a crazed stoner who's hanging around the schoolyard trying to get little Jimmy into it.

About school, certainly people do drop out for various reasons. For example if he wanted to pursue his passion for dance, or start a business, or blah blah whatever. But, since getting so into marijuana, has he lost his interest in most other things? Does he sit around just smoking all the time, as his main recreation? Has he switched friend groups entirely to people who will put up with him smoking all the time and doing nothing else? If any of these are true then the big risk of smoking a lot of pot is that he'll become really, really boring, and bored with everything. Ask him to imagine if a friend of his were drinking a ton to the neglect of other priorities, or if he were getting into an all-consuming religious group, etc -- wouldn't he think the friend was maybe going overboard?
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:30 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

You could also remind him that people who proselytize about anything are super annoying, especially stoners who are constantly trying to get others to smoke. It's nothing more than peer pressure, which is stupid as hell. I had to stop hanging out with my stoner friends who were constantly trying to get me to smoke, even though I hate smoking anything (I have tried smoking pot, and it only makes me sleepy). They just got too annoying and boring, because they never wanted to do anything.
And, as my dad told me when I was going on about the things they told us about pot in DARE- "I smoked pot a lot in high school, and you know what I ended up doing? Nothing. I just sat around and listened to music all day and never got anything done or accomplished anything."
posted by elpea at 10:30 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Every time I hear about someone like this, my mind turns to a conversation from "Jackie Brown":

Sam Jackson: You shouldn't smoke that shit, it destroys your ambition.
Bridget Fonda: Not if your ambition is to get high and watch a lot of TV.

Pretty much sums it up for me. If you're comfortable setting the bar that low for yourself, then knock yourself out. But don't encourage others to those same low standards. (NB: This, obviously, covers the "lifestyle" pot smoker, not the guy who knocks back with a joint after work or whatever.)
posted by KathrynT at 10:32 AM on August 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

(Of course, he swears that pot had nothing to do with failing out of school, he says he just wasnt interested in school anymore)

But not being interested in things is the main side effect of pot! It dulls unpleasantness in general, but removes some of the impetus to improve one's situation in the process. It makes you be happy with less, which can be just what you need sometimes but also an obstacle to growth.

I'm a near-daily smoker, love me some weed. Of course, it can be done responsibly. For me, that means monitoring my level of anhedonia (or self-satisfaction), and slowing down when I need a little misery to light a fire under my slacking stoner ass.
posted by Freyja at 10:38 AM on August 10, 2010 [4 favorites]

For the 22 year-old: "Is pot going to allow you to retire? Get you a place to live? Put food on the table? Give you a steady stream of legal income sufficient to support your interests and any family you eventually want? If not, you need to put it aside and develop some other skills and interests, because the main part of being a responsible adult is saving recreation until your responsibilities are satisfied. By the way, enough with the preaching to the younger ones. Their parents are the ones who need to have that conversation, and you shouldn't usurp the opportunity because you'll need to talk to any kids you eventually have and you're not going to want all of us butting in."

For the younger kids: "Look, pot is not some terrible thing, but it's a time sink. You can't be high at school, at work, or doing things that require concentration and expect to do well at them. If you're going to smoke pot, save it for when you're older and it won't get you in trouble with your folks, and then save it for the weekend when you're ahead on everything else you need to do. And don't be dumb enough to rack up an underage DUI, because then you're taking the bus everywhere until you're 30 and riding around in Mom's minivan. This all applies to alcohol, too."
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 10:39 AM on August 10, 2010

Thank you for your responses. I would love to hear more thoughts.

At this point, I am a responsible smoker. I am successful in my field, own my own business, and do pretty well. Pot is a late night, weekend type activity. But, there were certainly points in my life when I was completely, dangerously reckless - with all sorts of drugs.

His cousins that he is encouraging are not my kids. I have no kids. But it is causing an increasing rift between my four sisters - with three sisters basically banning their kids from being around him, and one sister feeling like everyone is blaming her and not knowing what to do.

I am the only one in my family with a drug history - so I think they all think I have some sort of answers.

I was feeling hypocritical, but feel less so now from your responses.
posted by Flood at 10:41 AM on August 10, 2010

I feel like an out-of-touch stick in the mud for saying this, but regardless of your nephew's personal opinions on the matter marijuana is still illegal in the US. People talk about it like it's a "crime" of no consequence, and I can understand why -- my sister smoked pot in middle and high school, and managed to graduate relatively unscathed. She's a white girl with a middle-class background -- I won't pretend it was ever likely she'd end up in jail for pot.

However, halfway through her first semester of college she was expelled because they found "paraphernalia" in her room, which cost her a lot of humiliation and my parents thousands of dollars.

Pot seems to be one of those things that doesn't have any consequences until it VERY MUCH DOES.

You might want to explain to your nephew that while he's old enough and has enough life experience to decide what is or isn't important to him (Like, say, a college degree) his cousins aren't really there yet, and it's unfair of him to impose HIS priorities onto them.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 10:43 AM on August 10, 2010

The only effective anti-drug ad I ever saw showed a stoner sitting in his room, addressing the camera about how pot has never hurt him. Then you hear his mother calling from downstairs nagging if he had looked for work that day. He sheepishly calls back that he did not. The announcer concludes, "It can make nothing happen to you too."
posted by Joe Beese at 10:46 AM on August 10, 2010

"Hey Sister that is mother of 22-year-old. Your kid is smoking pot. Of greater concern is that he is trying to introduce it to his younger cousins. He either needs to stop doing that or not be around at family events."
posted by k8t at 10:46 AM on August 10, 2010

And to play devil's advocate - how do the younger cousins feel about older cousin? Maybe, if they don't idolize him, they can see that he is fucking up and it can be a lesson to them?
posted by k8t at 10:46 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

My observation is that people differ wildly in how they are able to manage regular pot smoking, and it isn't always predictable who will be the daily smoker who flunks out and who will be successful nonetheless. So encouraging younger people to smoke a lot -- as opposed to just passing a joint at a party -- is asking them to take a risk that they might not fully appreciate.
posted by gabrielsamoza at 10:48 AM on August 10, 2010

Your question is ...

Can I as a smoker encourage a more reasonable approach to the drug in my nephew?

But the additional detail of ...

He seems to change direction in his life every 3 months. And, he has become a cheer-leader for pot - believing he should enthusiastically encourage others to smoke it too, in some cases encouraging his cousins in middle school to start smoking pot.

... says, this isn't the pot talking. A "more reasonable approach" isn't feasible. This is a poorly constructed, immature personality acting out and getting enabled by pot. Installing a more reasonable approach isn't solving the problem.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:50 AM on August 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

If he doesn't think pot negatively affects him, then he has no excuses for being a layabout. If anything, show him examples of successful pot users (Carl Sagan, Richard Branson, Paul McCartney, Willie Nelson) and ask why the hell he's not out accomplishing things like them?

If he has nothing he cares about enough to motivate him, and it's not pot's fault, then we can only conclude that he's a boring person. Tell him that.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 10:50 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Weed is like everything else in life, if it's of benefit to you, allows you to fulfill your goals and dreams and generally contributes positively to your time here on earth then toke away. If it makes you lazy, stupid, flunk college and fuck things up then give it a rest. At 22 he could probably do with hearing the benefits of your experience with it. What have you learned? Tell him. My cousin and I were in the same situation and I told him what I'd learned. Namely if you want to get on and get shit done then don't roll up first. If that means only smoking at the end of the day or waiting 'til the end of the semester then so be it. And have a word about the cheerleading thing, there's nothing uncooler than an over-enthusiastic pothead.
posted by R.Stornoway at 10:55 AM on August 10, 2010

I don't really understand why it would be hypocritical to say that it's ok to use a substance responsibly but not ok to use it in a way that interferes with your life. You're not saying that pot is evil and nobody should ever smoke it. You're saying that your nephew, in particular, doesn't seem to be able to use it responsibly right now. He also shouldn't be encouraging his younger cousins to do anything that their parents don't want them to do, and they have every right to keep their kids away from him if they feel he's being a bad influence. That's not about pot in particular: if their parents didn't want them drinking Pepsi, he'd be wrong to encourage them to drink it.

(I'm not a pot smoker, fwiw. But I'm not sure that matters.)
posted by craichead at 10:56 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

His cousins that he is encouraging are not my kids. I have no kids. But it is causing an increasing rift between my four sisters - with three sisters basically banning their kids from being around him, and one sister feeling like everyone is blaming her and not knowing what to do.

Either your sisters or you (whoever is willing to do it -- regardless of who has used which drugs in their lives) need to tell him that it's simply not acceptable for him to try to influence the kids in this way. This isn't even a question of his reasons for liking pot. It's a question of boundaries. His aunts are trying to do their job as parents, and that includes preventing their kids from smoking pot. This is their parenting decision, not his.
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:00 AM on August 10, 2010

Bonus question: why did American farmers stop growing hemp? If hemp is such a wonder plant, then why did hemp farming die out. Marijuana became illegal in 1930s, but hemp farming had largely ended before that - if hemp is such a wonder plant, then what happened to the farming?

It's not the wonder plant that Hemp advocates make it out to be. It's difficult to process in comparison to cotton for clothing or wood pulp for paper, and so more expensive, and synthetics like nylon or polyester have replaced a lot of traditional uses, more cheaply. It's legal to grow in other parts of the world and import to the U.S.; the fact that it's not indicates that there's very little interest in commercially exploiting it as a resource.
posted by fatbird at 11:07 AM on August 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

Sometimes a kid like that responds best to non-judgmental, practical advise that does not challenge his values.

"So, you have found a substance that makes you feel better, and keeps you entertained, and makes you feel like you are more creative. I'm happy for you, happy that it seems to be working for you. However, in these matters it's best to take some advice from other people who have experience exploring these same paths, because you don't want to lose or screw up this good thing that you've found. Two things to keep in mind: 1) Heavy usage over time will make the pot ineffective, and you will lose the benefit; 2) Skills and thoughts developed exclusively when high, will be sequestered in your mind and you will only be able to access them again when you are high. This can reduce your ability to fully enjoy and utilize these parts of yourself, because when the pot's effect lessens over time, so will everything that is in that zone. So it's in your interest that anything you enjoy while high, you should be enjoying at least half the time while you're not high, or you might reduce your total enjoyments. To best achieve your goal of being high, you should reduce your intake, so that you can get higher."
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:13 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Pot is a drug, like alcohol and cigarettes, both of which are illegal for minors (in the US). Ignoring the legality of marijuana (because that's a lost point with your nephew), look to the fact that kids are still growing and maturing, and it's best to let kids have a healthy start in life. Let them figure out what they do and don't want to do on their own, don't be a pusher of anything. And everything in moderation. Moderate use is more possible when people are more mature, and not being pressured to use.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:14 AM on August 10, 2010

But, what is wrong with being an enthusiatic cheer-leader for smoking pot?

It's like being an enthusiastic cheerleader for Christianity, which is to say, annoying at best and completely obnoxious at worst. Be what you want to be and do what you want to do, but leave other people out of it.
posted by modernnomad at 11:23 AM on August 10, 2010

I'm happy for you, happy that it seems to be working for you.

No, that would be a lie and a terrible thing to say. It doesn't represent the OP's view, and it wouldn't be a good judgment of the situation. It's one thing for us to tell you you probably can't change your nephew's mind, but there's no way you should be actively encouraging your nephew who just dropped out of college to keep smoking pot.
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:23 AM on August 10, 2010

FWIW, I haven't ever been a pot smoker, though I certainly have known and loved many people who were, on every point on the continuum (from 'I didn't inhale' to largish dealer/user). The reason I didn't and the reason I've told folks in my life to think again about it, is because it's illegal--but wait, it's not because I care so much about the consequences of laws being broken themselves. Selling, buying, and using a product that is largely illegal means that you are participating in an unregulated commerce that hurts people. It means that there are producers and dealers using child labor, compelled labor, and violence. It means innocent people have been hurt to get this product from a grow lab or a field to you. It means that the product itself may be unsafe. It's a dirty product--and while it is almost impossible to stay away from consuming products in our world that haven't hurt others (oil, many overseas manufactured goods, some tropical foods like coffee or chocolate), I try to, I know others try to, and marijuana is an easy one to stay away from in this respect.

Certainly, some have argued that small, domestic grow operations may be as gentle a proposition as a organic truck farm selling tomatoes--but what if the growers are discovered and have kids? Or discovered and hurt for cash and product? Women's prisons are filled with women who were not involved in their partner's operation, but guilty by association.

I have found that a lot of kids are strong and idealistic about issues like this--political issues involving protection and justice--and often respond to this argument. Certainly, if that encourages folks to champion legalization, that's fine--but it doesn't make sense to use the product in the meantime while it's still illegal and hurtful.

I remember once, long ago in grad school when a friend of mine who was a weekend smoker connected with another friend of mine who was a daily smoker/small dealer. She of the weekend smoking decided to fund a party by selling a tiny amount of product at the party for the dealer. The dealer was, by all appearances, a sweet and gentle guy. I happened to be behind them in our building the Monday after when he asked her for his money, which she had forgot. He became instantly mean, and he threatened her. I was utterly shocked. This was just a very small arrangement between sophisticated friends. But the fact of the illegality of that product, the stakes of every transaction involving it, applied pressure in such a way that one friend threatened another (after all, the small dealer had a bigger dealer to answer to). I just don't think it would've happened like that, between those two folks, over beer money.

Now, I am not, keep in mind, an activist for legalization--my personal political energies have different fish to fry. But when I talk to young people about it, I talk about this issue (in addition to how all perception-altering/experience-altering/judgement-altering substances risk getting in the way of living your life), and find that it's an idea they can really internalize and is in line with other contemporary issues of green living, fair trade, and ethical business practice.
posted by rumposinc at 11:26 AM on August 10, 2010 [4 favorites]

he swears that pot had nothing to do with failing out of school, he says he just wasnt interested in school anymore

I'm all for pot smoking (although I don't like it myself), but he's a poster child for why pot is bad. If he really wants to encourage pot use, he should just STFU and let people who have actually succeeded do the cheer-leading. "I'm a college drop-out who's accomplished nothing in life and pot is GREAT!" is not much of an endorsement.

BTW- many males experience mild sexual dysfunction when stoned. That would certainly have been enough to keep a 12-year-old me from smoking too much.
posted by coolguymichael at 11:31 AM on August 10, 2010

re: rumposinc

It's a good point regarding ethical use of a product which is indeed made much more difficult because of it being an illegal one. However, it is still possible to ensure you are part of an ethical supply chain, though this may be difficult depending on your situation and location.

re: the preaching. I'd say this is his biggest problem. He needs to tone that down and really only get on the soapbox if someone else has engaged him on the subject or he is participating with activism of some sort. Like most anything, be it religion or technology or drug choice, people generally do not want to hear you preach about your choice. It's not even about the fact that he is talking about pot, it's just that he is being a preachy holier-than-thou loudmouth, and no one likes that guy. No one. If he really feels strongly about it, encourage him to get involved with activism, but stop the preaching outside of that, especially to the kids. That, IMO, should be completely verboten.

Finally, re: being a pothead. This is, in itself, not necessarily a bad thing. he definitely needs to realize, as others have said, that he has to take care of life first. He NEEDS to be employed and/or in school. Full stop. He needs to have some sort of inkling about what he's gonna be doing in his future... Not the next 20 or 50 years, but maybe just the next 5. He needs to think about getting on a path to self sufficiency and personal responsibility. This CAN be done while enjoying an after work joint or two, but the pot doesn't make it any easier.
posted by utsutsu at 11:44 AM on August 10, 2010

I'm happy for you, happy that it seems to be working for you.

No, that would be a lie and a terrible thing to say. It doesn't represent the OP's view, and it wouldn't be a good judgment of the situation.

My point is that among the chorus of people telling him he shouldn't want what he wants, which he will actively ignore, it can be helpful to have one voice adopting a co-conspiratorial tone, while still advising him to reduce his usage. That person might get through his oppositional barriers when the others don't.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:45 AM on August 10, 2010

utsutsu: certainly it is possible, I'm sure, to find "ethical" marijuana; until someone along that supply chain gets caught and hurts the people who love them love and necessitates those people using their resources (economic and personal) to mitigate the damage.
posted by rumposinc at 11:49 AM on August 10, 2010

This is all great stuff - this exactly the type of argument I need to help me help my family. thank you all for your thoughts - please keep them coming.

I think Cool Papa has a point that there is a larger issue of immaturity going on with my nephew, beyond the pot. Nevertheless, the pot has become to family focus point.

The rumposinc's argument about the danger of the supply chain - I have raised that with him. His counter argument is that nearly all our clothes is made in sweat shops - so many things that American consumers buy a purchased from a supply chain that is hurting someone somewhere.
posted by Flood at 11:56 AM on August 10, 2010

Flood: of course, I have the same concerns--as I mentioned the bigness of contemporary commerce makes it difficult. However, manufacturing clothes in a sweatshop is inarguably wrong, as is compelling an illegal immigrant to process weed under threat of exposure. I am idealistic enough to believe that I can do my very best to avoid supporting sweat shop manufacture with a modest amount of research and somewhat more careful consumption, and that I can avoid the second scenario absolutely in its entirety by not buying marijuana. More, while your nephew has his justifications at the ready in his advanced state of enlightenment, your young nephews may be interested in the economy of illegal products and their true price.
posted by rumposinc at 12:03 PM on August 10, 2010

Nthing that everyone's reaction to and relationship with marijuana is different - for some it's good, for some it's bad, for some it just isn't much of either. For me, when I discovered pot, which, I might add, was quite a bit later in life than most other people I know, it was a huge boon and, without wanting to sound too cliche, really helped me find myself, reduced my anxiety, opened my brain to new ways of thinking, etc. For a while in college, I was a daily pot smoker, and I graduated with two majors, having written two theses and earned a 3.9 gpa. So there's that.

This is just observation, and I don't have any scientific evidence to completely back this up - but, not always of course, I have noticed a correlation between the age at which one begins to smoke pot and the likelihood of that person becoming a couch potato stoner, in the stereotypical sense. IME, there is some truth to the brain development theory. I first smoke pot when I was 20 - which is quite a different thing than people who being smoking pot at 12. There are lots of formative years, in the physiological sense, during that time that you're probably better off not fucking with.

There's also the Dr. Weil theory that it isn't that pot is the cause of disinterestedness, or laziness, but that people are generally ambitious or lazy and so, when a lazy-prone person smokes pot, it makes him lazier perhaps, but only because he was lazy to begin with. When I smoke pot, I get creative and ambitious (I have found that this effect has lessened as I've gotten older, and I get sleepier sooner after I smoke. I've adjusted my intake accordingly. I suspect that this has nothing to do with pot smoking and more to do with aging). So there's a sense in which, perhaps, it's not the pot specifically or solely that's responsible for your nephew dropping out of college. People who don't smoke pot drop out of college too. And switching directions every 3 months? Well, that may be a bit on the extreme end, but also...he's 22. That will happen.

As far as encouraging a 7th grader to smoke, well, no one should. Even if there's zero validity to the brain development theory, 7th graders just aren't old enough to understand what ramifications decisions may have upon their lives. It's why we don't let them vote. Or drink. Or drive. I'm not sure why we let them consume copious amounts of soda and corn syrup and why we tell them not to have sex instead of telling them to be safe about it. But so it is. In that sense, again, it's not about the pot per se, but just about the individual, their age, etc.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:13 PM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think Cool Papa has a point that there is a larger issue of immaturity going on with my nephew, beyond the pot. Nevertheless, the pot has become to family focus point.

Pot, like booze, can be an easy scapegoat. Chances are, however, that it's a symptom, not a cause.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:14 PM on August 10, 2010

of course, judging by some of my spelling issues above, perhaps my entire theory is incorrect.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:15 PM on August 10, 2010

You're not being a hypocrite, you're being an adult. Here's what I'd tell him:

1. Pot is different for everybody and just because it's great for you does not mean it's great for everybody else. This is important. It is kind of just like alcohol - some people just cannot drink.

2. It's illegal and can be an enormous, life-altering and limiting hassle if you get arrested, especially if you get snagged at the wrong moment in the wrong situation and etc. Go ahead and tell yourself it won't happen to you but it damn well might and seriously, it'll ruin the next ten years of your life if it does. Rail against that all you like but it's just the way it is and your railing will not change what will be done to you.

3. Don't sell it/advocate for it to your cousins. They're kids and if you do it again I'm gonna bash your damn brains in because it's causing all kinds of strife in the family. However much you think it's great and beneficial, there are very real, very negative side effects and your counsins are kids and your aunts don't appreciate your them it's cool and no big deal. They want you to stop so be a mench and keep your proselytizing to other adults. You think it's cool? Great, but leave the kids out of this.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:15 PM on August 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

I'm sorry if it's already been said, but for me it's a control thing, and it's an "I already have an inhibition level far lower than most people" thing.

I don't get drunk, because I want to be in control of myself at all times. I haven't ever done an illegal drug because (in my head), it's a form of chemical escape---an "I can't deal with this on my own, because I am weak" thing, and because, in my experience, most of the potheads I have known who smoked for escape honestly have amazingly good lives.

I realize that's all horribly unfair and judgmental of me, but whatever, it's why I don't do any drugs. Hell, I've had surgeries and not taken my post-op pain meds for the same reason.

All that said, I am pro-legalization. However, the same with cigarette smoke----if you make me walk through your cloud of smoke, I am going to get in your face, and if you stink like smoke---I'm probably not going to talk to you.
posted by TomMelee at 12:19 PM on August 10, 2010

Ask your nephew what he would think about older high-school kids pressuring his cousins to drink, or smoke cigarettes. If he's truly passionate about legalization and about the politics involved, he has to acknowledge that legalities aside, smoking pot is still a person's personal choice, and that choice should be made when the person is at least old enough to understand some of the potential consequences if used badly. If your nephew remembers or had encounters with peer pressure and bullying tactics when he was younger, that might make him think twice about what he's doing, or at least give him pause.

I'm hesitant about suggesting this, but you or your sisters might want to speak with the cousins. If a few of them are showing interest, you might want to explain to them what pot is, what it does, how it makes you feel, and that it's currently illegal where you live. If you be upfront with them about why people smoke it, why some people like to laze around and listen to music after smoking it, and why some people crash their cars into lampposts after too many hits they may lose interest and write pot off as a 'weird adult thing'. In my own experience, alcohol was described to me as something that 'makes everything a little happier, or a little sadder, you're not old enough to have any and if you have too much of it you throw up your toenails and feel really sick - but once you get old enough, you can throw up all you like!' at the age of eight. It wasn't some mysterious hidden substance - it was an adult thing that I wasn't interested in, like horror movies and mortgages, and once it was explained to me in a matter-of-fact way it lost all allure. Watching a classmate in high school get carted off to get his stomach pumped helped too - nothing like scads of beer-soaked vomit to make one wary of overindulgence.

On the flip side, they may become more interested. Depends on the kids, I think, which is why this is better off dependent on the parents' OK.
posted by zennish at 12:28 PM on August 10, 2010

First of all, show him this comic (and Part Two). It sounds to me as if he may be headed for a bust, and a reality check straight from "his people" may help prevent that. Busted may also help him understand that dealing with law enforcement is a serious consideration.

Likewise, this comic (Part Two) is for you, and maybe even for him. Page two has a number of good suggestions ("doing drugs, like having sex, is something you should never be talked into") -- maybe if you show him the how-not-to-get-busted comic, and it catches on, you can show him the how-to-talk-with-your-kids one some weeks later. I think that one-two punch might make an impression... because the number-one thing he needs to learn here is that responsible use is just that, and it's very important from a pro-pot standpoint. NORML's Principles of Responsible Cannabis Use may also be helpful.

The underlying message is that if he really believes that marijuana use is a positive force, then he'll be undermining his own beliefs until he learns to stow the talk and start walking the walk.

You may veto this, but I would personally suggest that he get politically active (if he's not already), perhaps through MPP or SSDP. He's likely to meet a lot of responsible smokers through that kind of activism, and one or more of them may help steer him in a better direction.

In my experience, this is a phase that most people eventually grow out of -- I was pretty damn high-profile and militant when I was around the same age, but while I'm still all for legalization, I've mellowed a lot in how I approach the issue with others. Until he goes through the same maturation, your job is to keep his pot advocacy from getting him in further trouble with his family or the law... which, fortunately, is a lot easier than it seems. Keep the issue of marijuana-good-or-bad separate from the issue of how a responsible user behaves, and you're already halfway there.
posted by vorfeed at 1:17 PM on August 10, 2010 [5 favorites]

"If you're going to smoke pot, save it for when you're older"

Aaack, nonono. Unless these are the most straight-laced kids in the world (they do exist, but incidence is low), this is an *incentive* to smoke pot. Or anything else for which this argument is used.

"This is something adults do," emotionally, to a teen who just wants to be taken as seriously as the adults around him, translates as "if you do this you're more of an adult."
posted by galadriel at 1:40 PM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

This is hands down why I hate it but it's also the personality.

My nephew is 22 and discovered smoking pot about 2 years ago. During that time, he has failed out of a college program. He seems to change direction in his life every 3 months. And, he has become a cheer-leader for pot - believing he should enthusiastically encourage others to smoke it too, in some cases encouraging his cousins in middle school to start smoking pot.

I get it's "natural". I get that it is equal to alcohol in it's effects. But this laziness, dropping out, and then trying to convince the world it's ok to be that way is the same reason why I'm having significant issues in my relationship. It gets old by the time someone is this way and 40.
posted by stormpooper at 2:07 PM on August 10, 2010

Sorry, I didn't read through all the responses but I just wanted to add my anecdote: I used to work in the insurance business and would frequently communicate with underwriters at various large companies here in Canada (Canada Life, AIG, Manulife, RBC, etc.), and I knew many underwriters who were very well-versed in health issues and stat's. Often, we would receive offers on clients who smoked marijuana occasionally and they were rated similar to someone with a health condition, such as diabetes (smoking any pot at all in the past year would automatically bump the applicant up to "smoker rates", the same as tobacco smokers, but anyone seen as smoking pot regularly would be rated), so I asked two of the underwriters why this was the case. Their response was that (smoking) marijuana was FOUR TIMES as carcinogenic as tobacco. That really surprised me! They said that it could often be even worse, depending on what it was laced with, etc. but smoking (and inhaling*) any smoke irritates the lungs and can cause cancer (I believe there may have been other properties of marijuana (moulds?) that also contributed to the cancer-causing ability).

Anyways, I can't guarantee that this is correct but that's what was told to me by two separate underwriters that I trust and respect. So, you could tell your nephew that not only could smoking marijuana be more carcinogenic than cigarettes, but that it could lead to very expensive insurance rates as well.

*Some companies would consider cigar/pipe smokers as either non-smokers or would give them a reduced smoker rate as they were not as likely to get deadly lung cancer, although they still were at risk for oral cancers, etc.
posted by 1000monkeys at 4:34 PM on August 10, 2010

Some people like myself have awful reactions to pot. Confusion, fear, trembling, freezing limbs, heart poundind out of the chest for 3 hours straight causing chest and arm pains... ugh. One of the worst experiences of my adult life. It's not just a miracle drug that makes everyone happy.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 5:44 PM on August 10, 2010

My experience in college was pretty close to Lutowalkski's. I had the added experience of growing up with a hippie mom who, once I was an adult, was more than happy to smoke pot with me. However, she always, always emphasized responsible drug use, and what that entailed--discretion, privacy, the importance of set and setting. She taught me to trust my instincts about pot and be safe about it. She taught me to be discreet about buying it. That I wouldn't flunk out of college while using it was just a given (in many ways; I also have an over-the-top type A personality)--if we're talking about responsible drug use, we're not talking about being stoned all day, every day.

It sounds like your cousin hasn't absorbed any of that. If I were in your position, I'd probably say to him something like "Look, you're the kind of drug user that makes all of us look bad, and you need to stop pushing pot on your little cousins like some bad after school special villain, because clearly you're no posterchild for responsible drug use." Or something like that.

Seriously, hit him where it likely hurts--the fact that while some responsible adults can use marijuana, well, responsibly, he's not one of them.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:14 PM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Most people working on legalization are very clear that they are talking about legalizing adult use. Prop 19, on the California ballot this fall, for example. So the people working the hardest to legalize pot are NOT that supportive of young people using it. One of the main talking points around taxing and regulating mj is that it will make it MORE difficult for young people to get access to it. Some of that is politics, certainly, but it's also because there are more risks for young people than for adults. Encourage him to get involved with Students for Sensible Drug Policy or some other drug policy organization, and he'll find that the people most engaged in the issue are not encouraging young people to use. And also put a fair amount of energy into ensuring that young people who do use mj use it safely and responsibly.

Safety 1st is a website that may have useful info.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:24 PM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

A few thoughts:

I drink. Not much, but I do. I might let my niece have a taste of wine if her parents were OK with it, but you won't see me evangalising long island ice teas to twelve year olds. There are plenty of things that are age/maturity appropriate. There's nothing wrong with making that distinction.

Similarly, there's the question, which you and others have pointed out and amplified, of how we use. I have the odd beer, cider, wine, cocktail, maybe a couple of standard drinks a week. I don't have blackouts. I don't drink my way out of employment. I don't get into fights or wake up in strange beds after a few too many, all the while denying I have a problem.

Finally, something that seems to be under commented: yeah, it is illegal. Funnily enough, only a couple of days ago I was talking to a mate about how one of his cousins was gutted to discover he couldn't accompany a bunch of friends on a bit overseas trip because there are a lot of countries for whom a drug conviction is a drug conviction.
posted by rodgerd at 2:53 AM on August 11, 2010

Not sure if you've seen the recent studies about the association between earlier marijuana use and psychosis, but it does bring up a good point I wanted to make sure received a spotlight:

We don't really know what pot does to still-developing brains. Since the middle-schoolers have several more years before their brain development locks down, this nephew could be creating vulnerabilities for them that I'm sure he would never want to see them live with.

Note that the article doesn't say cannabis leads to psychosis. It says they aren't sure, that there's the possibility that those who are already at risk of psychosis can be more drawn to psychoactives like pot. Introducing a complicating factor like this to the younger kids is probably exactly the opposite of what your nephew is trying to accomplish.

Bringing that up to him, how you know he wants them to be happy, healthy, and safe and wouldn't want to do something that could make their lives harder at any point - perhaps even make an example of how you haven't gone around inducting youngsters - maybe that will provide a slight edge in helping him understand it's not about giving in to "the man" or being judged. It's about making sure he does no harm, even inadvertently.
posted by batmonkey at 11:32 PM on August 11, 2010

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