Up in Smoke: While it Seems the Whole World Smells Like Weed, Here’s the Question to Be Asked

Woman smoking, close up on smoke and mouth

From the March April Edition of Message.

by Ricardo Whyte, M.D.

Albert Einstein once said “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on it, I would use the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.”

Not only is it critical to make sure you ask the right questions, it’s important to avoid the crippling mistake of falling victim to asking the wrong question.
It’s concerning to watch the legalization of a substance that may be subjecting us to undue harm.

While heroin and cocaine are some of the most addictive and toxic substances to the human body their impact on culture is at least framed within their illegality. But the relaxing of attitudes and legalization of a substance expands its capacity to negatively affect, not just the users, but society in general.

Marijuana is responsible for the death of up to 430,000 people in the United states annually. Alcohol is responsible for the death of between 80 and 100,000 Americans annually. The number of deaths from cocaine use is estimated at 24,500. And even that number represents the stark increase in deaths from cocaine use which was 6784 as recent as 2015 according to the National Institute of drug abuse.

So what are some of the phenomenon that we are exposing ourselves to as we expand the availability of marijuana?

It’s not your parents weed

Marijuana—weed—refers the dried flowers, stems, leaves and seeds of the cannabis plant. With more than 100 compound or cannabinoid chemicals, including the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) cannabis is more than a temporary whiff.

The mind altering THC was observed in the laboratory in the 1960s. When a research team in Israel injected THC into aggressive Rhesus monkeys they became calm and docile. (National Geographic Magazine. 2015 Jun;). Prior to the 1990s THC content found in cannabis was less than 2%, but the concentration doubled, and between 1995 and 2015 there’s been a 212% increase in the THC content in the marijuana flower.

The other famous active compound in the marijuana plant is Cannabidiol also abbreviated CBD. CBD does not get you high.

In 2017 the most popular strain found in the dispensaries in Colorado had a range of THC content from 17 to 28% such as found in the popular strain named Girl Scout cookie. Unfortunately those plants producing high levels of THC are incapable of producing very much CBD, which is the protective component of the plant. For example the Girl Scout cookie strain has only 0.09 to 0.2% of CBD.

It’s almost like a bait and switch in the debate is this notion that the THC content will be some small percentage or what baby boomers might have been accustomed to. This switch is that the percentage is actually much higher than the percentage that baby boomers encountered. The science is not clear as to what the long term or even short term effects of exposing the body to such high concentrations of THC will ultimately be.

It’s the counterfeit

“All of war is deception,” is the ancient axiom attributed to Sun Tzu in The Art of War.

What if marijuana and substances like it are actually counterfeit in that they cause us to succumb to deception? One of the clues that you’re dealing with a counterfeit is its failure to truly satisfy.

Have you ever had an itch especially right in the middle of your back that was just out of the reach of your hands? Try and try as you might, you practically dislocated your shoulders, arms or hands trying to get at that inch. Either you have another person es to scratch that itch, or you get a back scratcher and you do it yourself. Or, you might have been shimmying against the wall, or gyrating against some structure in a compromising way to get at the itch. If you ever get to it, for about three seconds you experience Nirvana, but nothing really satisfied.

Marijuana, as humble and innocuous as it may seem, seems to scratch the itch of human angst.

Many attempt to medicate what they think is anxiety by smoking or otherwise ingesting weed. However, we pause to recognize that the term “anxiety” has become a large catch-all. We utilize it to capture a broad range of emotions including excitement, thrill, fear, hypervigilance, desire, expectation and a host of other human experiences. Too often we treat our broadly defined anxiety as if it is the pathological anxiety that needs to be medicated. Instead, some of these human emotions deserve to be explored, and in some cases maybe even nurtured and savored.

Too often we treat our broadly defined anxiety as if it is the pathological anxiety that needs to be medicated. Instead, some of these human emotions deserve to be explored, and in some cases maybe even nurtured and savored.

Once the distinction is made, though, could it be we are medicating something that should actually be valued perhaps even cherished?

What if the emotion is attempting to alert us that something important is happening?
Instead we silence it. We fail to benefit from the information to which our bodies are trying to attune.

Marijuana is subjectively said to reduce anxiety at least in the short term. The problem is the anxiety, paranoia (Delusional fear that someone or something is out to get you), and worst case scenario psychosis (difficulty distinguishing between what is real and what is not real and experiencing phenomenon such as hallucinations, whether auditory, visual, or tactile) that can result in the long term.

So you started consuming the substance in order to relax. And, it may facilitate that in the short term, but in the long term it’s subjecting you to an increased risk of anxiety, paranoia, and psychosis. That does not seem like a reasonable or fair trade.

Here’s one benefit of marijuana, a minimal benefit. Marijuana has been noted to help reverse appetite suppression. Most of us don’t suffer that condition, suppressed appetite.

Ask the Right Question

  • What are the assets that are helping me move towards freedom both financial and spiritual and otherwise and what are the liabilities that threaten to interfere with my progress towards financial spiritual social freedom.
  • How do I become self-determining?
  • And what is interfering with my ability to be self-determined?

Now that changes the discussion radically because I believe it becomes pretty clear that consuming marijuana especially tetrahydro cannabinoid is, without question, moving you away from financial freedom and spiritual freedom.

It’s interesting that we have tetrahydrocannabinol receptors. What that means is we clearly produce a product for that receptor.

So the better question is, what states do I need to put my body in that will maximize the production of those tetrahydro cannabinoid-like substances? When the body produces it, it’s not contaminated by irritants, and substances that are carcinogenic and deleterious and psychosis inducing. When the body produces it the positive effects are more pure. It’s a dangerous thing to ask the wrong question and it is incredibly liberating to ask the right question.

It’s the last thing you need right now

Many people who subscribe to various religious or faith groups are on high alert as a result of the existential turbulence that our world is experiencing. Their vigilance seems reasonable. As we observe the implications of the pandemic that resulted from a virus that shut the world down; or tense race relations; or concerns about global warming and the questionability of our earth to sustaining human existence in the future; or our inability to get resources within the reach of those who need it, it is clear that we are at the precipice of profound change.

The one thing is clear is that we need the brightest, most compassionate, and the most vigilant minds vigorously committed to delivering their best to attack these global issues that literally threaten our existence. Is this really the time to put ourselves at risk of a motivational syndrome that marijuana users are often subjected to?

You are asking the wrong question

One chilling recurrence in my professional practice as a Section Chief over a Psychiatric Service, or as the Medical Director of a Chemical Dependency Unit, is the encounter with individuals who are now merely a shell of a human being. These individuals no longer value life. How can they while living at the basest levels imaginable? They’re completely disconnected from family, disconnected from purpose, and genuinely resembling zombies. They did not envision this endpoint when they started their journey of drug use. Perhaps the question they were asking was “will this transport me to pleasure? Some relief?”

Perhaps the real question they might have asked themselves is could this be taking me somewhere I really don’t want to go? The reality is this world is in desperate need of all of our best efforts. So this is no time to be high. I don’t mean to be a buzzkill, but maybe I do. Time to look past the counterfeit, and seek Higher Ground!


DR. RICARDO J. WHYTE is an experienced medical director, skilled in healthcare consulting, case management, prevention, addiction medicine, and healthcare information technology (HIT). He is the founder of the Master Mind Institute that has developed the Thrive Membership that supports its members in establishing life balance and resilience fortification.

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