Classifying psychoactive drugs into different categories is usually a pretty straightforward process. The consistently documented effects of a substance are compared to one of the three main drug categories: stimulants, depressants, and hallucinogens. Some drugs have many properties that make it possible for them to fit into more than one of these groups. Determining how drugs affect the central nervous system is the key to differentiating between stimulants and depressants. Stimulants are known for increasing the activity in the CNS, leading to feelings of energy and alertness. Depressants do the opposite, while hallucinogens interact mostly with the chemical serotonin. With drugs like alcohol or cocaine, it is extremely easy to figure out where to classify them. That’s because alcohol will always slow users down mentally(reaction times) and physically when it comes to heart rate and breathing. There aren’t different strains or types of alcohol or cocaine that allow users to have a different experience. The only difference will lie in how potent those depressing or stimulating effects will be from batch to batch. Cannabis is much more difficult to throw into one category.
Everyone has heard the phrase that drugs affect everyone differently. This is true in a sense, but it’s also true that drugs have basic effects that will happen to the vast majority or all of its users. For example, cannabis will make users feel very euphoric and more sensitive to sounds and taste. I’ve never come across someone who has argued food doesn’t taste better while high. The same goes for listening to music. It just sounds so new and full of detail. There are so many strains available now that users can customize their high by selecting a strain that was bred for a specific effect or medical condition. This is the main reason why its difficult to categorize marijuana. If someone were to get their hands on an extremely powerful indica such as Gorilla Cookie or Banana Kush, there would be no stimulant properties to be found. If you manage to stay awake after using one of these strains, the strong feeling of relaxation will make it very tempting to just kick back. On the opposite side of the spectrum, sativas can make people so alert and sensitive to their surroundings that paranoia kicks in. However, no strain will ever cause visuals or make users see things that are not really there.
This doesn’t mean that high-grade cannabis can’t be too powerful or overwhelming to new users. High doses of this new substance can cause distortions in time and cause some people to panic. I don’t believe that this means it should be classified as a hallucinogen. That is because these type of effects will not continue after using the substance several times and they will not happen at all if the dosages are proper. Another reason why it shouldn’t be classified with other psychedelic drugs is that cannabis will never take the user into the deep depths of their mind like LSD or psilocybin mushrooms do. Even the most potent of edibles will not have you rethinking the meaning of life in the way a trip can. The potential for a negative experience is also much higher when dealing with these stronger drugs.
I don’t believe weed should be placed in just one of these categories, it qualifies as both a stimulant and a depressant based on the strain and the user. I know friends who say that weed makes them tired every time they try it, regardless of the strain or grower. Then there are people who are obsessed with figuring out what their ideal strain is, and acquiring it regardless what the cost may be. The stoner stereotype would make it seem that weed is a 100% depressant substance that destroys productivity. At the same time, the successful stoners in our society have modeled that it can stimulate the best of our creativity. Cannabis really is a one of a kind drug.
As things stand right now, private corporations across the country in states with or without legal weed are drug testing applicants and current employees for marijuana. This is not required by law but instead has been a common practice among businesses since the drug war was launched in the 1970’s. Even when states began legalizing the herb for medical and recreational purposes, things have remained the same. There may have been a decrease in the number of employers testing for marijuana or other drugs, but it’s still very common. A large reason for this is insurance companies refusing to provide service to businesses unless they make a considerable effort to maintain a drug-free workplace. Even though there is evidence showing the ineffectiveness drug testing has had on workplace safety, tradition has trumped information.
It was exciting to hear that on July 26th a bipartisan bill was introduced to Congress called the “Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act”. If passed it would prevent the government from denying employment to new employees or punishing existing employees for a positive THC drug test given that the cannabis use is legal in that state. Civilian government employees cannot be punished as long as the use was outside of the workplace. The only other exception to the bill is that positions requiring a high-security clearance are not barred from testing for the drug. This would be an enormous positive change for the entire country because many private companies would likely follow suit and stop testing for the drug as well. Also, I’m sure there are a ton of recreational/medical marijuana users who have passed up an opportunity or never considered working for the federal government due to their marijuana use. The government has been notorious for its strict policies on cannabis use citing its schedule 1 status under federal law. My mother and other people I know who are civilian employees have been randomly drug tested and went through a thorough background check to ensure there’s no history of drug use or other criminal activity.
The fat-soluble nature of THC is what allows the government and companies to be able to detect its use. Essentially all other drugs that are known to man exit the body in a much shorter period of time. For example, meth is only detectable in urine for around 72 hours. One long weekend and you’re good to go back to the office on Monday after a tweaked out Friday night. Heroin and Cocaine are the same way. It seems the hard drugs are eliminated by the body much quicker as if our body is flushing them out for our own well being. With marijuana and other drugs, detection times will vary from person to person due to an individuals metabolism among other factors. Marijuana metabolites are stored in fatty tissues and are slowly released into the bloodstream over the course of days or weeks. If this weren’t the case there would be little reason to drug test employees. It would be much harder for those who use other drugs to be detected by an upcoming drug screening. The effectiveness of workplace drug testing would be further questioned and likely eliminated shortly after marijuana is no longer tested for.
Allowing government employees to use cannabis on their own free time could benefit the employer as well. It gives them a much larger list of qualified applicants to choose from and likely a better candidate for the position. Outside of new employees, existing employees may decide that using cannabis to relax and unwind is a much more effective than alcohol. Having access to a safer alternative could help prevent work-related problems caused by alcohol abuse. Also, employees won’t have to hide their use from co-workers and will be less hesitant to build stronger relationships with the people they work with. Those suffering from medical conditions that interfere with their effectiveness on the job would be able to find relief without turning to prescription medication that comes with a long list of side effects. The list of positive results from a bill like this passing could go on forever and I can’t wait to see the workforce begin to openly accept the cannabis community.