Comment & Analysis
Nov 28, 2018

For Those with Mental Health Issues, Marijuana Can Offer Relief

It’s time to embrace the benefits of marijuana – and legalise it, writes Eliana Jordan.

Eliana JordanDeputy Opinion Editor

Weed is slowly winning over the world, and it’s about time.

Be it in the form of increasingly popular and non-intoxicating CBD, a naturally occurring molecule in cannabis offering a plethora of medical benefits without the high, or the full, sticky green nuggets – the buds we all know and love – weed is finally receiving its due appreciation.

Marijuana has, until very recently, held the antiquated reputation of a taboo, illicit substance used not only to corrupt young children, but to open a gateway for harder drugs. In a mandatory health class when I was 12, I was shown pictures of emaciated, unconscious teens lying passed out in various locations, with horrified, blubbering parents overlooking the body of their child.

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We were supposed to believe this was the wretched kid who’d “tried the pot”.

Didn’t we see how terribly he ended up? Didn’t we want to spare ourselves and our parents that awful, irreparable pain? This was the disturbing, hyper-exaggerated scare tactic we were fed at a vulnerable age, an age when we hungrily ingested information spewed by those who are supposed to be knowledgeable, and we were supposed to believe them.

Or we rebelled and did everything in our power to prove them wrong. Well, the objective truth of the matter is that that health teacher was very wrong, and her fear-mongering was less preventative than it was questionable. So the majority of those eager 12-year-olds went on to “try the pot”, and – here’s the shocker – are all alive to tell the tale.

The more accurate arguments against weed, the ones that do not include photos of sickly unconscious people, are hardly threatening enough to warrant its current illegal status in most nations. So it makes you unproductive, sluggish, and sleepy? So does eating a chicken pot pie. So does a sugar crash, a hangover, or taking a swig of NyQuil.

On the contrary, here are the benefits beyond the giddy high, from the personal view of a college student who has used the substance both recreationally and remedially.

Weed clears the mind. It softens the edges of things. Instead of treading water in the deep end, you suddenly feel you’ve found the ground beneath you, even if you still have to stand on tip-toes. For those who have the dreadful tendency of overthinking, of turning useless and unhealthy thoughts into habitual patterns, weed settles the hyperactive mind. It is the friend that wraps warm fuzzy blankets around you, distracts from excessive introspection, and opens the shutters to let out the buzzing bees of negative self chatter.

For those who have the dreadful tendency of overthinking, of turning useless and unhealthy thoughts into habitual patterns, weed settles the hyperactive mind

Numerous family members of mine suffer from varying degrees of depression and anxiety and have dealt with the symptoms in various ways. My contemporaries have been able to turn to cannabis for a form of self medication, either in prescribed psychiatric treatment or on its own. And, frankly, I’m not sure they’d be here without it.

I remember, in the pits of my worst depressive period, finding relief in an otherwise inescapable darkness when the end of a joint would hiss and burn and I would breathe in slowly, exhale after a moment, and close my eyes. I would pause and listen, really listen, to whatever music I had playing, and I would, temporarily, enjoy things that had otherwise lost their appeal to me. Colours looked beautiful again. Stress evaporated. I felt, amid the tumultuous discomfort of depression, peaceful. This is because, aside from the THC in marijuana that makes you feel high, the other component of CBD prompts muscle relaxation, stress reduction, and pain relief.

The connotations of “getting high” seem primarily to imply heedlessness, a disregard for the laws, a sense of slowness and disillusionment with reality. Naturally, there’s a grain of truth in every conventional image of a highly stigmatised practice, but the fact is that marijuana users vary just as much as drinkers. The spectrum is vast and largely grey, with the exceptions of extremes on either end. If you have several glasses of wine once a week because it’s enjoyable, because getting tipsy can be fun in moderation, how is it so significantly different for someone to use weed in much the same manner? But the greater distinction between weed and alcohol is that there are zero recorded cases of overdose from marijuana ingestion alone, there is no term for a marijuana addict (marijuana-holic? It just doesn’t even sound right) because to be addicted to marijuana is to be emotionally dependent, which is a separate issue entirely, and not, on its own, a life-threatening one.

And one could hardly name a single health benefit of getting drunk on a weekly or monthly basis aside from the fact that, maybe, it releases some pent-up stress

And one could hardly name a single health benefit of getting drunk on a weekly or monthly basis aside from the fact that, maybe, it releases some pent-up stress. It’s sociable. Again, these aren’t real health benefits, just reasons so many people like to drink regularly and why we consider it to be such a rudimentary part of our lives.

With weed, there is a sociable aspect, too. There is the way time slugs by like dripping molasses, the way un-funny things suddenly appear boundlessly hilarious, and the way certain realities become so mind-blowingly evident. A basic conversation can quickly turn deep and revelatory. It’s fun in much the same way as alcohol, minus the potential to overdose and the often aggressive nature it can bring out in people. Worst-case scenario with weed, you fall asleep.

Fun aside, a lot of marijuana users just want relief. They want to relax and see beauty again, somehow.

If the cost of that is a dry mouth and a slower sense of time, so be it. It’s time to free the weed.

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