The 2012 election was historic. Voters legalized same-sex marriage for the first time. Also legalized for the first time? Recreational marijuana use. Is there a connection? You tell us in the comments.
In honor of every pothead’s favorite holiday, Science of Sin breaks down the science of getting stoned…
1. What is marijuana?
The scientific name for marijuana is cannabis. The plant appears to have originated in Central and South Asia and was called ganjika (later ganja) in Sanskrit. Humans have consumed cannabis for medicinal and spiritual use throughout Europe and Asia as far back as 12,000 years ago.
The weed you smoke today comes from two different species: Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica. Sativa is known for a more mental and emotional cerebral high. Indica is known for a physical and relaxing body high. Often, strains of marijuana are hybrids of sativa and india strains to achieve both kinds of highs.
Marijuana was illegal in the United States by the early 20th century. Political leaders claimed marijuana, which was popular among Mexican immigrants, would lead to rape, murder and homosexuality.
2. Why does marijuana get you high?
The main active ingredient in cannabis is called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. THC attaches to special receptors in your brain responsible for regulating stress, hunger, memory and mood. This leads to people feeling relaxed and happier. Perhaps to combat the stress that comes with being a sexual minority, LGBT people report higher rates of marijuana use than heterosexuals.
Sensory stimulation — touch, taste, sounds, smells, sights — becomes more pleasurable. In studies from the 1980s, subjects reported heightened sexual sensations and orgasms when high.
Art, music, television and movies are more enjoyable and meaningful; creativity and insight are often enhanced. LGBT icon Lady Gaga has said she smokes “a lot of pot” when writing songs.
3. What are the risks of marijuana?
But the pleasure of THC also comes with some potential downsides. Blood vessels in your body open up, making your eyes red and leaving you feeling faint. It disrupts your short-term memory and problem-solving abilities. Many report marijuana addiction reduced their productivity levels at work and school.
Studies also show THC can increase paranoia. Also, there’s some evidence that people predisposed to schizophrenia are more likely to develop the disease earlier if they use cannabis. However, it’s still unclear how much pot actually causes schizophrenia or if people with the disorder are simply more likely to use the drug. Still, it’s advised that people younger than 25 generally avoid the drug as their brains are still developing.
However, compared to other recreational drugs, scientists deem marijuana much safer. Smoking marijuana does not appear to increase lung cancer risk. No fatal overdoses have been recorded. And it’s much less toxic and addictive than the alcohol, nicotine, cocaine, meth and pain killers that the LGBT community abuses at higher rates. There’s still a lot more study that needs to be done on marijuana, but for the most part, it seems many people can enjoy normal lives using the drug recreationally in moderation.
4. Does marijuana really have medicinal value?
The United States has approved the use of THC for AIDS patients in order to increase appetite and reduce nausea. In recent years, many are calling for the United States to loosen its laws to study how marijuana could treat other diseases. Even CNN’s Sanjay Gupta is on board.
There’s emerging evidence that these compounds can fight a large range of illnesses, including PTSD, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, glaucoma and arthritis. It may even stop or kill certain cancers. However, due to its status as an illegal drug, there have been no large clinical trials conducted to test its effectiveness treating these diseases. (Although certain lawmakers want to change that.)
5. But … does marijuana make you gay?
In a recent Reddit thread, straight-identified men claimed smoking weed opened them up to exploring gay sex. While there’s no scientific evidence that getting high causes homosexual feelings, there is some evidence getting high increases libido. Along with increased sensuality and feelings of well-being, enjoying marijuana with some buddies could be a fun, sexy time for all.
So if you decide to partake in the holiday, educate yourself so you can make the best decisions for you. Start slowly, don’t drive and wait a few hours before deciding to do more. And if you’re worried about addiction, find a well-reviewed physician who understands the science of marijuana. Other than that, we say stock up on some munchies, movies and music, invite over some friends and enjoy!
Need something to entertain you this 420? Concerned about the effects of marijuana on your body and brain? Watch Xander get high and Alex explain what’s going on.
You can also see past Science of Sin posts on the evolution of homosexual men, the wonder of the penis, the science of weight loss, and your family jewels. Visit our YouTube channel for more sinful videos.