Pier 21 column: How normal is regular marijuana use?

Bush, dope, draw, gage, ganja, grass, hemp, herb, Jane, joint, Mary, Mexican green, Panama Red, pot, puff, reefer, roach, smoke, Texas tea. What do all of these names have in common? They stand for the same thing: Marijuana.

Introduced into pop culture in the 1960s, the drug continues to be used and abused by many. Use is especially prominent on college campuses where it stands as the second drug of choice, behind alcohol, for students. Although it’s not the hardest or most addictive drug out there, its use can have a detrimental impact on your health.

First, regular marijuana users suffer from a condition called “amotivational syndrome” which means a person’s lack of interest in doing well in school, and pursuing a successful career. Additionally, the drug affects your lungs much like cigarettes do. One joint is the equivalent to smoking four cigarettes in terms of carbon monoxide, and five cigarettes in terms of tar in the lungs. Marijuana also weakens your immune system, and hence your ability to fight off disease. This is why regular users can catch a cold and keep it for weeks.

The drug can even affect your sex life! Users of the drug report a decrease in sexual desire. Marijuana (in large and frequent doses) can also kill a woman’s eggs and damage a man’s sperm. Doesn’t this information just make you want to light up?!

Contrary to popular belief, marijuana use among college students is not commonplace. Nationally, only 20 percent of college students used the drug in the past month.  Even at colleges with the highest reported marijuana use, no more than 15 percent of students reported using the drug on a regular basis.

Furthermore, depending on which campus you are on, it has been reported that between 20-40 percent of college students tried marijuana at least once last year, and between 8-15 percent are regular users. In sum, marijuana use isn’t as “normal” as everyone thinks.

Gabriela Halder is a graduate student at the Miller School of Medicine and a peer educator for Pier 21 and the Sandler Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Education. She may be contacted at

March 10, 2010


Gabriela Halder

33 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Pier 21 column: How normal is regular marijuana use?”

  1. David says:

    Thanks for sharing your obvious lack of any real knowledge. Hell, I should write for The Miami Hurricane. I have a great idea for an article about how seat belts hurt people because I have a friend who would have lived if they weren’t wearing their seat belt! That’s why I never wear a seat belt anymore!

    Also, don’t take LSD because you may turn into a glass of orange juice and get stuck like that forever.

    I’m looking forward to Gabriela Halder’s upcoming article on the open-mindedness of Westboro Baptist Church and it’s positive impact on homosexuals and war.

  2. Kyle says:

    “…One joint is the equivalent to smoking four cigarettes in terms of carbon monoxide, and five cigarettes in terms of tar in the lungs….”

    Really?….I’m curious what your source was for this information.

    Maybe if you did a bit more research about the truth you would find this>

    Cannabis is the best natural expectorant to clear the human lungs of smog, dust and the phlegm associated with tobacco use. Marijuana smoke effectively dilates the airways of the lungs, the bronchi, opening them to allow more oxygen into the lungs. It is also the best natural dilator of the tiny airways of the lungs, the bronchial tubes – making cannabis the best overall bronchial dilator for 80% of the population. Statistical evidence – showing up consistently as anomalies in matched populations – indicates that people who smoke tobacco cigarettes are usually better off and will live longer if they smoke cannabis moderately, too…… UCLA Tashkin studies, 1969-97; U.S. Costa Rican, 1980-82; Jamaican studies 1969-74, 76

  3. forteinsloumadeos says:

    University of miami … enough said :(

  4. Chris says:

    You know, when there are a lot of different names for something, it usually is because it is very popular. ONLY 20%, you say? That doesn’t qualify as normal? By that standard, homosexuality is extremely unusual. Less than 5% of the population call themselves homosexual. Hey guys, I know people are acting like being gay isn’t a big deal, but ONLY 5% OF PEOPLE ARE GAY!!! THAT’S NOT NORMAL!!!

    And, of course, nobody should be doing things just because other people do them, but what exactly is the motivation for trying to convince people that marijuana use is not normal? Are you bothered by the growing perception that pot is nothing to get hysterical about, nothing to waste billions of dollars a year fighting against? If so, why, exactly? For whom do you wish to wage this war?

    And regardless of the factual correctness of your “article”, you make the egregious logical error of considering only the costs of a behavior and not the benefits. Many people consider marijuana to be a medicine. Others, a sacrament. Many artists find in marijuana an ally with whom they can more creatively and freely express themselves.

    Oh well, art is useless, anyways. We should just burn all of our records, because most of the musicians you listen to are either marijuana users or draw musical inspiration from marijuana users (Beatles anyone?) Maybe you don’t like the supposed costs of marijuana, but if you are going to act as a reporter, you should inform the reader of both benefits and costs so that they may make a more informed decision themselves. It is patronizing and ignorant to presume to make that decision for others, and it is dishonest to misrepresent the situation to influence others in their decision. That is what we call propaganda, and you should be ashamed of yourself for this. Any beneficiary of higher education should have learned better by now.

    And while we’re perpetuating moralistic old wive’s tales, why don’t we have an article telling everybody how evil masturbation is? I read that it causes you to go blind. Doesn’t that just make you wanna stroke your little eraser, Gabriela?

  5. rick says:

    I dont know anything that have help me more in school then smoking

  6. justus says:

    ummm….. i really have not good to say aobut this it is shamful that people still thing thing like this

  7. Dustin says:

    I’m guessing that you based your statements regarding the effects of inhaled cannabis on lung tissue on the Tashkin’s study from the sixties, which was plagued with human and experimental error. It’s an easy mistake to make, since those are the

    You have to learn to long beyond that, ESPECIALLY as a graduate student. Every statement you meet should be subject to skepticism and scrutiny for empirical fact.

    Tashkin himself (2008), in newer studies noted a drift of results toward cannabis smoke exhibiting antitumor properties, through mechanisms not yet fully understood:

    Other researchers, including Ramer and Heinz (2007) have also noted varied anti-carcinogenic effect, and not just in areolar lung tissue. Here’s a brief bibliography of some select articles that might interest you:

    Anti-tumoral action of cannabinoids: involvement of sustained ceramide accumulation and extracellular signal-regulated kinase activation. Galve-Roperh I, Sanchez C, Cortes ML, del Pulgar TG, Izquierdo M, Guzman M. 1: Biochem Pharmacol 2001 Sep 15;62(6):755-63

    Effects of cannabinoids on L1210 murine leukemia. 1. Inhibition of DNA synthesis.
    Tucker AN, Friedman MA.Cancer Biochem Biophys 1977;2(2):51-4

    Suppression of nerve growth factor Trk receptors and prolactin receptors by endocannabinoids leads to inhibition of human breast and prostate cancer cell proliferation. Melck D, De Petrocellis L, Orlando P, Bisogno T, Laezza C, Bifulco M, Di Marzo V.
    Istituto per la Chimica di Molecole di Interesse Biologico, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Arco Felice (NA), Italy. Eur J Biochem 1998 Jun 15;254(3):634-42

    D9-Tetrahydrocannabinol inhibits epithelial growth factor-induced lung cancer cell migration in vitro as well as its growth and metastasis in vivo. Oncogene (2008) 27, 339–346; doi:10.1038/sj.onc.1210641

  8. Sarah says:

    I liked your article it helped me a lot with my 6th grade drug project thank you

  9. Alex says:

    I’m a student at DePauw University, and we would NEVER run such a baseless, wrong, ill-researched and overall bland article in our student newspaper.

    The Miami Hurricane editors should feel embarrassed to have allowed this one to run.

  10. Harry says:

    They are actually doing studies that show how the regular use of “bush”? can actually fight brain cancer. The THC kills the cancerous cells, making it less likely to develop brain cancer. Also, it will stimulate the mind, creating more cells. The author of the article has obviously never indulged in the great green giant. Why don’t you smoke a blunt and then write try to write the same article. I guarantee it will be the complete opposite of what’s written now.

  11. Dan says:

    Thank you for the laugh. It pains me to know that this sort of writing is coming from a graduate student, in med school at that. There can be three explanations for this article: 1) you’re federally employed, 2) you’re not really a graduate student, or 3) you go to church every Sunday, realize that none of your claims hold any weight at all, and think it’s morally wrong.

  12. Andrew says:

    Hahahaha great article! I love a good piece of satire! What’s that, you say? This piece isn’t supposed to be satirical? Wait, you mean to tell me that this article is SERIOUS? For shame, Gabriela Halder, for it is clear that you have never spent a single second of legitimate research about the topic you are writing about. What scares me the most is that you are a graduate student at a school of medicine! The horrible, horrible irony. I weep for humanity.

  13. Mark says:

    I’m sorry, but your article is full of so much bullshit that it’s hard to believe that school would publish it, or any place of education, or even any public service giving the people information. I’d like to challenge you to back up these claims you’ve made with some actual research. It seems to me like the same D.A.R.E. stuff that the government fed to children.

    I believe another comment made before my own said that we should be thankful that people don’t agree with everything they read. Scoiety has come a long way in that respect, and it saddens me to think that a univeristy paper would publish the bullshit you’re spewing out at the public.

    Cheers, Mark.

  14. Michael says:

    First off, let me start by saying that reading some of these comments restored my hope that people aren’t nearly so quick to believe everything they read or hear or see.

    The fact is, this piece is entirely biased and provides claims that are questionable, at best, and offensive, at worst. The history of Cannabis, for example, dates back to 5000 BC ,and examples of recreational use are found in ancient Hindu texts. It arrived in America long before the Hippie era and was made illegal in 1937. Amotivational Syndrome is under-researched and is used as a catch-all term to describe any of a number of problems experienced by all types of individuals, smokers and non-smokers alike, and it is far from a “typical” experience for even a daily smoker; bottom line: lazy people will be lazy, regardless of substance use.

    I could keep going on, but I imagine you get the point. Even if this is considered an “Opinion” piece, you should take care to make sure that your opinions aren’t based on something blatantly wrong. It’s sad that this woman is not only studying to be a doctor, but also counsels people on the issue when she is so misinformed herself. I think the Hurricane would do best to retract this piece.

  15. Ed says:

    I challenge Gabriela to provide back-up data on JUST ONE of her blatantly false statements…

  16. bloop says:

    so… what? she wrote this in grade 10? no, she’s a graduate you say?
    i had faith in the schools a little when a little girl got my halloween carving “pumpkin pi” but now it is ruined

  17. Pat says:

    FINALLY! Someone who knows the true evils that come with smoking weed! My father and mother were habitual marijuana smokers and for the past 3 years Ive had to care for them (feed them, help them go to the bathroom, groom them) because of there overwhelming lack of ambition. All they do is lay in bed all day, smoke marijuana, and cough up black tar and blood! Hopefully some of you will heed this girl’s intelligent advice and quit smoking that stupid drug!

  18. Josh says:

    This is ridiculous that a newspaper that wants any bit of legitimacy would publish such an incorrect and unsupported article. Is this really the education that we are giving to not only grad students but also grad students in the medical field? My mind is blown at the fact that this person also works for a drug and alcohol education center. Remember, skepticism is key, don’t take false statements as fact unless they pass under scrutiny.

  19. David says:

    How does someone succeed in grad school with such an outdated and obsolete mindset? This would be almost excusable if this girl had somehow skipped the whole of middle school, high school and college. Unfortunately, this article makes me doubt the mental fortitude of this person; in fact, I would go so far as to say that this sorry excuse for a journalist has a difficult time counting to potato.

  20. Sam says:

    All I have to say is that the author of this article needs to do some bloody research. So much misinformation in it that it makes me sick. Marijuana, I’ll admit, DOES have more tar than tobacco, BUT that is only because the ENTIRE plant contains more carcinogens and tar. The bud, the part that is smoked, has significantly fewer carcinogens as well as tar than tobacoo. The smoke, while it can be seen as detrimental to one’s health for being smoke, has done nothing but improve the condition of my lungs with thorough exercise.

    And as for your “amotivational disorder”, marijuana does not de-motivate. It just makes you stop giving a shit about things that don’t matter. Life is for living. Not for going to an educational facility to be taught what your government wants you to know so you can get a pointless job that benefits nobody except the corporation you work for.

    So, jog on with your pro-societal article full of misinformation and downright lies. Stop trying to convince people that ingesting a NATURAL part of this planet is wrong. People that take offense to anything created by nature make me sick and should stop watching so much goddamn TV.

  21. LUKE says:

    ven at colleges with the highest reported marijuana use, no more than 15 percent of students reported using the drug on a regular basis.


  22. Ben says:

    This article reads as a clearly biased literary piece, and you should be disappointed you held focus long enough to vomit these unfounded claims. As a journalist you should hold yourself to a higher level of professionalism, and as a grad student of medicine you should understand statement as fact is not statement of fact when making such claims.

  23. Herbert says:

    “First, regular marijuana users suffer from a condition called “amotivational syndrome” which means a person’s lack of interest in doing well in school, and pursuing a successful career”
    Such as Carl Sagan, Barrack Obama, George Washington, Bill Clinton, John Lennon and countless others. This theory is disputed, along with most of the information in this article, I would have liked to see a less biased work. Ive tried marijuana and would recommend it as a much safer alternative to alcohol.

  24. Craig says:

    This is the most ridiculous article I have ever read on the subject of cannabis. Almost every fact listed is false. We are all a little bit dumber for having read this trash. Thanks for showing your complete ignorance, Ms. Halder. Try doing a little research.

  25. Toby Slair says:

    Is this girl actually serious? People can fictionalize entire articles in grad school and still get them published? I think my favorite part was the comment on “amotivational syndrome.” A lack of interest in doing well in school or pursuing a successful career? How do you know that a person is just not motivated by other things than your utopian good grades and wholesome family? Maybe they have realized what they should be motivated for and changed their efforts? I would not get motivated to do well for The Miami Hurricane if they paid me after reading something like this. Does this mean I now have amotivational sydrome? I hope this person refrains from any more publications for the good of common sense.

  26. Mike says:

    Oh, wow. I really can’t even to being to explain how utterly ignorant this article is. Virtually all of the claims in this article (with the exception of the sex drive) have been repeatedly been proven false, by scientists and college graduates that, in contrast to the author of this article, were not ignorant bimbos. It’s almost offensive that the author is also a teacher for a Drug Education class. Just what the world needs; brainwashing people with more lies about things that should be a personal right.

  27. Johan says:

    This article is not only unoriginal and bland, but it is ridiculous and false. Not one of the “facts” Ms Halder states are true, and many have been scientifically disproven. I am shocked that a medical grad student would be clinging to such blatant pieces of fear-mongering propaganda in the face of actual research into marijuana.

    If I wanted to read a lot of condescending flapdoodle about drugs there are places that offer much more entertainingly ridiculous arguments, so the article isnt even good to read ironically. Really, this is some all round poor journalism right here.

  28. David says:

    Hahahaha! Great article! I love a good satire! What’s that? Wait this article isn’t supposed to be satirical? Wait, you are being serious?!?!? How in the hell are you a graduate student in medicine? And how the hell did you get such a retarded article published? Do people really still believe in this crap? I thought we’d come a long way since Reefer Madness. For shame, Gabriela Halder. For shame, Miami Hurricane.
    Get some real facts-

  29. Brett says:

    One of the most ridiculous articles I’ve ever seen. You should be embarrassed for writing something so obviously false, the student news paper should be embarrassed for allowing it to be posted, your parents should be embarrassed for birthing something so hilariously dense.

  30. Lynae says:

    This is a TERRIBLE article. She has many, many facts wrong. If she wants to know anything about anything, she should research REAL facts and statistics and not the fake ones used to scare third graders during D.A.R.E.

    Please refer to this for all articles that have real content.

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