As a general rule, it would seem downright dangerous for our society to allow everyone full access to an untested drug - just walk around the corner and buy some pot - that simple. But what in fact will be the consequences of more and more people in our society shifting their consciousness regularly into cannabis mode?
How will the Muse of Marijuana impact America's future? I'm obviously an advocate of legalizing cannabis on all fronts - I've seen vastly more positives than negatives over the last fifty years, in terms of the impact the marijuana muse has on people's lives. But still - isn't it a bit strange that, with almost zero scientific testing on the impact of cannabis on personality and so forth, that America is just so over-eager to legalize the stuff?
Those of us who have been both using and studying cannabis for half a century - those many Boomers among us - do need to get vocal and share what we've observed. As a retired psychologist and therapist, what do I want to point out?
Well, cannabis, and THC in particular, is without question a powerful consciousness-altering drug. It does generate quite novel experiences, it wakes up modes of perception that are often dormant in our society - and it also packs the power to change attitudes. But - for the better, or for worse?
A Summary Of Cannabis Effects
Wikipedia offers the following summary of marijuana's psychological effects:
"... effects may include a general alteration of conscious perception, a sense of euphoria, feelings of well-being, relaxation, stress reduction, increased appreciation of the arts, including humor and music, joviality, meta-cognition and introspection. There often occurs enhanced recollection (episodic memory), increased sensuality, increased awareness of sensation, increased libido, and creativity. Cannabis also produces many other subjective and highly tangible effects, such as greater enjoyment of food taste and aroma, and marked alterations in the perception of time and space (where a "rush" of ideas from long-term memory can create the subjective impression of long elapsed time). At higher doses, effects can include altered body image, auditory and/or visual illusions, and pseudo-hallucinations."
That list includes over 20 alterations in awareness and perception that most of us would love to have on a regular basis - thus the universal appeal of marijuana. And the key psychological point is this - each change in our flow of thoughts and inner experience can elicit a parallel change in choice and attitude.
For instance, a person who had a tough childhood and is habitually defensive and hard-hearted, manipulative and selfish, numb to beauty and closed to introspection and spiritual insights, will predictably through getting high (and having experiences that open up a more heartful, insightful, compassionate and uplifting attitude), think and behave in new, more enjoyable and harmonious ways.
A Change Of Heart
What happens, in my observation, when the average person starts getting high a few times a week, is that the resulting experiences can generate what we call a positive change of heart.
They will perhaps come to see a situation they've been reactive to or prejudiced against in a more positive light. They might stop being so judgmental in general, and begin to accept people and situations just as they are (increased tolerance). And as they have positive experiences inside their own bodies, they can change how they feel about themselves - which is the real change!
We're too often driven through life by our early ingrained one-liner beliefs - "I'm no good" or "Life's not fair" or "Big boys don't cry" and so on. Most therapists agree that a primary source of emotional suffering is caused by these mostly-unconscious negative one-liners.
Our brains are genetically programmed to generate core beliefs, and early experience reinforces them. They're initially developed to protect us - but later on they can become the foundation for neurosis, self-judgment, depression, anxiety, prejudice and so forth.
New experience and insightful introspection, which grass can elicit, can help us transform negative one-liners. When approached in a wise and mindful manner, the experiences that grass induces can facilitate a person having a change of heart that makes them less fearful and defensive, more open to pleasure, beauty, and relating - and in general more relaxed, trusting, and compassionate.
If our country gets high more, and experiences a mass change of heart in this direction, I think we will all consider that a positive change in our society.
In the mainstream media of the past, marijuana has often been portrayed as a negative influence on people's success in life. And it's true that around 20% of our population has a strong genetic tendency toward addiction in general, and getting high all the time can become a habit that interferes with business success and relationships.
As the sage says, "All things in moderation," and that's important with grass. Too much too often can make us appear lethargic, unresponsive, dumb, dull, clumsy, and so forth. And used in the wrong situations, it might make some people tend to feel anxious, depressed, confused. Also, when we get stoned too often, memory can take a hit, grades drop down, business and relationships flounder.
I myself have a number of reservations when it comes to mainstream use of grass. For instance, until studies show otherwise, I don't think it wise to get high very often when pregnant. Also I don't think children will benefit from using cannabis, because the brain's development is so delicate during childhood. And I certainly don't want my airline pilot high while lifting off.
Likewise, as mentioned earlier, probably around 20 percent of the population will tend to abuse grass or suffer mentally from it - and they need to be screened and forewarned. We urgently need loads of new unbiased research to guide us in all these dimensions.
One Wise Approach
As America gets high, we definitely need to get wise and mindful and informed so that we consciously nurture a positive outcome to the marijuana revolution. When I reflected in years gone by on this situation, it became clear that free or inexpensive forms of professional guidance might be universally helpful. Therefore I've been encouraging my colleagues to go to work to create and provide such guidance to those seeking it.
What we need the most is open community and internet discussion for the sharing of experience related to the marijuana muse in our lives. We'd be fools to just legalize grass without a clear reasonable game plan for educating everybody about the broader situation.
Cannabis can be our best friend, but only if approached with the intent of encouraging a predictably positive change of heart. Our country right now is torn by tribalism, prejudice, competition, and other fear-based attitudes. Hopefully cannabis will help us move through a positive change of heart.