The binding of THC to the CB1 receptors within the brain is what causes the psychological effects of marijuana, while the binding of THC to the CB2 receptors causes the majority of the physical effects. These effects can include muscle relaxation, euphoria, increased sensuality, paranoia, an increase in episodic memory and decreased short-term memory.
Unlike caffeine, most evidence suggests that marijuana is not physically addictive. Physical addiction to a drug is caused by the drug physically altering one’s brain chemistry in a way that nurtures dependence. For example, the brain is not accustomed to caffeine. The dependence one develops comes from his brain attempting to compensate for the unnatural chemical reaction.
Since the human brain is already attuned to receive cannabinoids, it does not alter a user’s brain chemistry in any significant way. The binding of cannabinoids to the CB1 and CB2 receptors is an entirely natural chemical reaction. Dr. Jack Henningfield from the National
Institute of Drug Abuse made a chart rating the addictiveness of various substances. On it, he rated marijuana as less addictive than caffeine.
Moreover, marijuana is a relatively nontoxic substance compared to most other drugs (legal or illegal). There has never been a single documented case of death from marijuana overdose in history. In 1988, the U.S. Department of Justice conceded that marijuana is incapable of inducing a “lethal response.”
A 2006 government report in the U.K. concluded that marijuana is less harmful than tobacco, alcohol and many prescription drugs. Furthermore, while it is true that there are many carcinogens in marijuana smoke, a 2006 UCLA study concluded that heavy marijuana smokers do not seem to be at an increased risk of lung cancer compared to non-smokers.
Vaporizing it or cooking it in food can mitigate the majority of the health risks concerned with smoking marijuana.
The reason I introduced this comparison is to make you question where our priorities lie. Caffeine, an addictive and potentially harmful drug, can be purchased and consumed almost anywhere. Even young children have access to caffeine in caffeinated soda and coffee.
On the other hand, billions of government dollars are spent each year to keep marijuana, a drug that is less addictive and toxic than caffeine, illegal.
During the next couple of months when you are filing your tax returns, remember this: A portion of your hard-earned money is going toward financing an operation to keep a substance less dangerous than your morning coffee off of the streets. Isn’t the system great?