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by Patrick Appel

A reader writes:

I'm part of the 10%. The 10% that Kleiman would argue have been part of the "problem use" of cannabis, using it heavily and frequently.

Kleiman argues that the average median duration of heavy use is "44 months," and that this should be cause for alarm. There were 44 months of my life where I used cannabis almost daily, often heavily - it's called college. If you do the math, that 44 months equals 3 and 3/4th years, exactly the span of college for most individuals, providing you do not take summer courses at the end of your fourth year.

Despite the claim that this was a large amount of time to "take out" of my "young lifetime," I have no regrets, especially when compared to how that time was spent for most of my college colleagues across the country – binge drinking. Cannabis use, like binge drinking, is tolerated in college not because of a lack of legal consequences, but because of its social acceptability. I find the wording that Kleiman uses very interesting here – these experiences should be considered as "taken out" of my life apparently, despite the fact that I still remember what I learned during those times, and despite the fact that those 44 months exploded by social contacts and experiences. Even when I was often "high" for the experiences.

Is my factual recall any worse because of my cannabis use? Sometimes, but often it has been better, as I pause to reflect on the meaning and context of what I am reading. Much of the time, if I were not stoned, I would be looking on Facebook for the latest social news. When stoned, I find something of interest that I wouldn't normally, and delve deeper into online sources or books that I've been meaning to read. Let me be clear: I, like many others, read and learn with interest and excitement when I am high.

What happened when I stopped being in a college environment where free pot is available everywhere? I stopped using it heavily. That's what happens with even most college binge drinkers when they leave, even though alcohol is legal and easily obtained after college. Sure, there are cannabis users that think cannabis is more fun than geometry, but I don't see why they must be mutually exclusive. There are also people like myself, who found calculus boring and difficult until I was stoned, and could focus on understanding the concepts instead of the exact math, allowing me to build on that new understanding.

I don't know how many new people will use cannabis after legalization who wouldn't have before. I don't know how many people would see legalization as a realization of what people like me already know: being high is actually rather boring, and not for everyone. I don't know how many people will simply replace a night of alcohol use with a night of cannabis use.

But neither does Kleiman. Advertising executives exist in every country with decriminalization, and yet substantially changed drug policies in Spain, Portugal and Holland point out that cannabis use falls, not rises, with a sensible drug policy.