Loyola University Maryland

Office of Student Support and Wellness Promotion

Marijuana

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Marijuana is not a benign drug; Use of weed is a big deal! Possession or use of marijuana is illegal, and a criminal offense.

  • It is a fact that use or possession of marijuana is a criminal offense in the U.S., regardless of whether you, your parents, celebrities, or even the governing bodies of other countries, disagree.
  • Conviction of possession or use of marijuana is at the least a misdemeanor, a criminal offense that can result in imprisonment for up to one year.
  • A criminal conviction can pose serious obstacles to employment in this era of background checks, and can result in a complete bar to entry into certain fields (legal field, government or industry jobs with security clearance conditions).
  • A marijuana violation of Loyola’s code of conduct can result in suspension   from the college or deferred suspension with random urine drug screens.
  • A history of regular use of marijuana (as little as once a month), even without criminal or college disciplinary involvement or addiction, can also pose obstacles to future employment.

We are not talking about current use which can cause obvious problems when applying for employment due to the frequent use of pre-employment drug tests (including hair tests which can detect use up to 90 days in the past and cannot be beaten by use of available chemicals).

Because marijuana use is a criminal offense, a history of regular marijuana use will result in difficult decisions when filling out a job application that asks "Have you ever used illegal substances?" A false answer is fraud and a misdemeanor that could result in not only denial of employment but prosecution.

This situation of a history of regular marijuana use can be even more problematic in the case of potential employment in an industry, or in the government, where in depth background checks are done that include investigation of applicants use patterns in college. Investigators will interview the applicant’s friends and acquaintances about activities including marijuana use. Again, providing false information may not only result in failure to obtain employment but in prosecution.

Marijuana use can result in development of addictive disorders in some users that can cause as severe negative consequences as those associated with addiction to other drugs and alcohol. Marijuana addiction does occur. It is a myth that marijuana use does not cause physical dependence. Individuals who use marijuana daily, or almost daily, will develop physical dependence on the drug, with serious cravings, and withdrawal symptoms (anxiety, irritability, insomnia, some flu like symptoms). Though the withdrawal is not as severe or dramatic as that experienced upon stopping use of alcohol, heroin, or cocaine, it will be strong enough in some cases to cause the individual to relapse into use of the drug in the face of serious repercussions for doing so (incarceration, expulsion from college, loss of relationships, etc.).

Marijuana addiction can result in an individual using the drug and becoming preoccupied with using the drug, to the detriment of other obligations such as academics, involvement in college activities, and friendships with persons who do not use. The addiction can result in inability to control how often or how much drug is used, failed promises to self and others to limit or stop use, and other behaviors that continue in the face of adverse consequences.

Denial plays a role in marijuana addiction that can exceed that present in addiction to so-called harder drugs such as heroin or cocaine.

There is a culture in the U.S., in adults (especially baby boomers), celebrities, media, movies, music, governments (the city of Denver passed a law that it’s legal for anyone 21 years or older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana; no wonder it’s called the "mile high city"), and definitely in college age students, that marijuana use should be legalized. "It's no big deal; it’s just pot."

This broad culture of denial makes it difficult for individuals to see that their marijuana use is causing problems and adds to the normal denial that is associated with use of any addictive substance.

Compounding the denial issue is the fact that the negative consequences from even heavy marijuana use (daily; 3-5 times a week) are not as stark and dramatic as those associated with alcohol or cocaine use. A person using marijuana even daily may be able to function relatively well with perhaps a C average (when B's and A's used to be the norm), with a lessening of involvement in campus activities, and a shrinking of relationships to just those who smoke. Hanging out with others who smoke results in ease of justification of the changes in behavior to voluntary choices, rather than realization of the truth that marijuana has caused serious negative changes in the individual’s life.

Another contributing factor to denial is that marijuana is fat soluble and is deposited in the fatty cells of the brain and body with long lasting, subtle but important effects. Therefore, often it takes a month or longer of abstinence from use before the individual can become aware of how seriously marijuana use had affected his/her life (motivation, passion, memory, etc.).

Marijuana use causes cognitive impairment and memory problems in users, and in some individuals is associated with development of mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression, and, in a small number of susceptible individuals, a marijuana induced psychosis.

Research shows this about marijuana use: Long term and short term users showed inferior performance compared to controls on psychomotor speed, attention, and executive functions. Long term users showed a generalized verbal memory deficit with impaired verbal learning, retention, and retrieval; the longer the use the more the impairment. The degree of impairment was described by the authors as "subtle," but significant. In other words regular marijuana use interferes with short term memory and has other significant adverse effects on thinking. The term heard most often by marijuana smokers in recovery is this: "Weed makes you stupid."

Heavy marijuana use especially in young adolescents is associated with development of schizophrenia. Cannabis use, especially in high doses can produce in persons with no history of severe mental illness a temporary cannabis induced psychosis. Some individuals who use marijuana experience temporary paranoia, anxiety, and depression. Heavy use is associated with development of anxiety disorders and depression that do not disappear with cessation of marijuana use, especially in young women.