This year, Easter grass may not only be for lining your basket.
Today, Christianity’s holiest day shares the calendar with 4/20, a sort of underground holiday for pot smokers. So while some dressed in their Sunday best, attended sunrise services and watched their children search the yard for colorful Easter eggs, others broke out their bongs, put on some reggae and prayed at the altar of weed.
While jokes have abounded on social media about the two “holidays” falling on the same day, the question remains: Should 4/20 really be cause for celebration? For once, it seems, the church and the scientific community are on the same page.
The answer is no.
Pastors were quick to take advantage of the coincidence, inviting congregants and converts alike to forgo drugs and get high on God instead. “You can’t get any higher than RISEN,” states the Freedom Church in Los Angeles on its website. In Mississippi, The Church Triumphant Global will hold a “Reverse 420 – ‘God Keeps Me High’ ” concert on Sunday. According to the church website, the event “will educate and inspire our youth to stay far, far, away from marijuana.”
The church is facing an uphill battle. The public’s’ views on marijuana have been shifting toward legalization and a sizable percentage of Americans (38%) in 2013 admitted to having tried the drug. It is the most commonly used illicit drug in the country, a 2012 government survey found. An estimated 18.9 million Americans aged 12 and older — or 7.3 percent — said they had used marijuana in the last month. And this year, residents of Colorado and Washington can celebrate 4/20 with legal recreational marijuana.
This is not good news, according to a growing number of researchers. Addiction specialists and neurologists say marijuana use does not come without risk, pointing to studies that have found cannabis use can lead to serious mental and physical problems — especially in younger users.
Even Once-a-Week Weed Use Changes Brain
A study published this month in the Journal of Neuroscience has found that even casual once-a-week use of marijuana by adolescents can cause critical brain changes. And long-time users who try to quit report withdrawal symptoms including irritability, sleeplessness, decreased appetite, anxiety and drug craving. Estimates from research suggest that about 9 percent of users become addicted to marijuana, which increases among those who start young (to about 17 percent, or 1 in 6) and among people who use marijuana daily (to 25 percent to 50 percent).
“The attitude toward marijuana changed when we started to get legalization,” Dr. David Sack, CEO of Elements Behavioral Health, told Fox News. “There’s a perception that marijuana is safe, if not helpful, but the evidence is to the contrary. Marijuana, especially when used by adolescents and young adults, affects future development and thinking.”
Is marijuana addictive?
The National Institute on Drug Abuse says it is. According to its “Marijuana Abuse” research report, “Long-term marijuana use can lead to addiction; that is, people have difficulty controlling their drug use and cannot stop even though it interferes with many aspects of their lives.”
The Office of National Drug Control Policy’s abovetheinfluence.com website states flat out: “Marijuana is addictive, with more teens in treatment with a primary diagnosis of marijuana dependence than for all other illicit drugs combined.
Dramatic Increase in Admissions to Rehab
Sack said there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people admitted to rehab for marijuana rather than other drugs, adding that “the increase in active cannabinoids that have been cultivated by growers specifically to make marijuana more powerful has also made it more addictive.”
The study in the Journal of Neuroscience, a collaboration between Northwestern University’s medical school, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, found that the parts of the brain that control motivation are compromised in marijuana smokers, a phenomenon memorialized in the song “Because I Got High” by Afroman.
“I was gonna clean my room, until I got high. I was gonna get up and find the broom, but then I got high. My room is still messed up and I know why. Because I got high, because I got high, because I got high.”
It is safe to say that, in the pot-smoking community, not much will be getting done today.