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Posted by on Sep 1, 2009 in Society | 11 comments

Jonah Lehrer on Pot in LA

You might remember that last week I pointed to Jonah Lehrer on Mirror Neutrons and porn. This week he’s guest posting for Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish. His debut post yesterday was instigated by this LA Times story on the normalization of pot. Jonah says pot may one day be the new Prozac:

I recently moved to Los Angeles and I'm still adjusting to all the medical marijuana stores – there are two within a mile of my apartment. And it's not just the dispensaries, with their parking lots full of fancy cars – it's the Amsterdamesque attitude. Light up a joint and people ask for a hit; light up a cigarette and they give you a dirty look.  

My hunch is that the normalization of marijuana is here to stay. In recent years, there's been increasing interest among scientists in cannabinoid receptors, which are the cell receptors activated when you inhale some THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. (There's a grand scientific tradition of naming cell receptors after the drugs that activate them, which is why you also have opiate receptors and nicotinic receptors. For some still mysterious reason, a chemical in the tropical shrub cannabis sativa  is able to perfectly mimic our natural neurotransmitters. As Roger Nicoll, a neuroscientist at UCSF, puts it: “The brain makes its own marijuana.” Smoking a joint just helps you make more of it.) While these cannabinoid receptors have been targeted for the treatment of a wide variety of ailments and disorders, from obesity to chronic pain, I think they might hold the most promise for the treatment of anxiety… Despite the fact marijuana was first cultivated almost 10,000 years ago, modern medicine has yet to find another substance that can melt away our fears with such slick efficiency.  

Hm. I thought it was also true that people who smoke a lot of pot get paranoid. Is there a connection?

RELATED: According to a new Rasmussen Reports poll, parents prefer pot. Fifty-one percent (51%) of American adults say alcohol is more dangerous than marijuana, and just 19% think pot is worse.

And in Esquire former Baltimore narcotics officer Neill Franklin and Esquire columnist John H. Richardson conclude that our “war on drugs” results in the needless deaths of more than 15,000 Americans each year.