FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT WWW.QNS.COM APRIL 29, 2021 • THE QUEENS COURIER 27
A warning of the dangers of marijuana
BY PHIL ORENSTEIN
Th e state Legislature passed a bill legalizing
FIGHTING FOR EQUITY
Women Creating Change (WCC)
stands in solidarity with George Floyd’s
family and the families of countless
other Black and Brown people taken
from us by police violence.
While the Derek Chauvin verdict
demonstrates that some accountability
is possible, the urgency for systemic
change remains — as evidenced by the
numerous police shootings that have
taken place since Mr. Floyd’s murder
last May. Reimagining a public safety
system that values life and equity above
all else will require institutional changes
and sustained advocacy.
Last summer, New Yorkers and people
around the world from diverse
backgrounds took to the streets in
the wake of George Floyd’s murder
to demand justice. The verdict is an
important milestone, but it is just one
step on what we know will be a long
road. Working together, we can effect
real change and create a more just and
Much work remains, and WCC is
committed to supporting and working
alongside our peers to fight for equity
WCC Board Chair Deborah
Martin Owens; WCC President
& CEO Carole Wacey
We call upon the federal government
to emulate the exemplary walk-in initiative
set by the city where anyone can go to
any city-run site and get a shot, no matter
where they live.
Th is is a timely and crucial move in our
fi ght against the pandemic and its corollary
hardships and suff ering.
Th is can be achieved by designating
and funding similar walk-ins at the state’s
community health centers, local hospitals,
private health care providers, schools,
churches, senior centers, nonprofi t organizations
and other locations to be sites
for administering the life-saving doses of
Not only will this upping the ante be a
wonderful initiative shown by the committed
Biden administration, but herd
immunity can be achieved faster, and life
can return to normal, as fl owers blossom,
and spring ushers in and heralds a new
beginning in our embattled lives.
Th e COVID-19 vaccination is not a
partisan issue. It is a humanitarian and
national one, where our nation should
be steadfastly united as one, and speak
with one voice. Mayor Bill de Blasio was
right in lauding former President Donald
Trump for encouraging all Americans to
get the COVID-19 vaccine. We stand in
solidarity, united against this evil.
United Communities Alliance
President Albert Baldeo
letters & comments
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recreational marijuana in New York
state, but with its passage, the public has
been sold a bill of goods.
It was deceptively sold to the public as
good policy signifying a “historic” end
to the “failed policies of marijuana prohibition.”
Th e good news is that several
Long Island mayors, the entire Town of
Hempstead, and many other cities, towns
and villages stood up and chose to opt
out of selling marijuana in their municipalities.
Assemblyman Kieran Lalor and other
legislators also said no, claiming that legalization
will not reduce crime, will not end
the black-market sale of pot, won’t be a big
job creator, won’t help poor communities,
won’t bring in major revenue to the state,
will lead to accidents and addiction, and
will endanger families and their children.
But that’s just half the story. Even more
serious is the story of marijuana’s insidious
harm to one’s body and mind which
must be told. Th is is my own story of
the major mental health consequences of
marijuana use, which is the chronic psychiatric
disorder called amotivational syndrome.
I was part of the hippy culture of the
1960s epitomized by Cheech and Chong
movies which achieved notoriety portraying
the life of potheads and their hedonistic
culture of free love, drug abuse, living
for the moment and drift ing through life
without a purpose.
I started my freshman year at
Stonybrook University enthusiastically
pursuing science studies, majoring in biology,
but soon fell in with the hippy crowd.
Marijuana was our drug of choice, and I
started out as an occasional user.
Soon, it turned into a daily habit. We
celebrated our drug and counterculture
experience with monthly dance concerts,
wild rock festivals and psychedelic light
shows presented by the physics department
with more and more of the student
No one warned us about the consequences.
We didn’t buy the overblown
scare tactics, the old canard that marijuana
was “the killer weed.” We viewed marijuana
as a non-addictive, mild, mindaltering
experience, safer than alcohol. It
became a way of life, and then we found
out the truth about the deceiving weed.
I’m writing this message as a public service
announcement to parents, children,
students and professionals and as a warning
of the real danger of marijuana.
Soon aft er my fi rst year, my grades
plummeted, and I stopped going to class
regularly. I stopped taking schoolwork
seriously and nearly dropped out of college.
To our pot smoking crowd, everything
in life was a big joke.
Later, I learned that many of my former
colleagues suff ered terrible fates. Several
committed suicide, some died young, and
others became business failures, losers
Fast forward decades later, I was teaching
with the REACH Foundation, a private
sector drug abuse prevention and
educational program in the NYC public
school system designed to help kids reach
their full potential. We delivered comprehensive
daily classroom lessons on drug
identifi cation and awareness, dealing with
peer pressure, goal setting, critical thinking
skills, confl ict resolution and pursuing
At the REACH Foundation, I learned
that I suff ered from a disorder known as
amotivational syndrome in my pot smoking
college days, characterized by lethargy,
apathy, dullness, impaired concentration,
loss of ambition, loss of concern for
personal hygiene and appearance, loss of
interest in all daily life activities including
work, school, family and everything else
except smoking pot.
We learned that, unlike water-soluble
alcohol, which is fl ushed out of the body
in hours, marijuana stays in the system for
a very long time, perhaps months. THC,
marijuana’s main mind-altering ingredient,
is fat-soluble, and its eff ects are cumulative.
Th e brain is a very fatty tissue and
THC is stored in the brain, long aft er it
can no longer be measured in the bloodstream.
Th e chemical eff ects of long-term use on
the brain are reductions in synaptic transmission
and interference with communication
between neurons in those areas
of the brain involved with amotivational
syndrome, alertness, learning and memory.
Th e euphoric eff ects are short-lived,
but the long-term damage to the brain is
tragic in the long run, especially in young
New York’s governor and our elected
offi cials who have done the unthinkable
and legalized and legitimized pot, do not
understand its devastating eff ects. Now,
it’s up to all of us to stand up in our communities,
towns and cities, and educate
and inform our politicians and the general
It’s up to all citizens to say no to those
who bow to the lawless status quo and
vote these irresponsible lawmakers out.
We, the people, have the ultimate power
and authority by getting involved in the
local political process, organizing, running
for offi ce and voting!
Phil Orenstein is the president of the
Queens Village Republican Club. Historian
Jerry Matacotta, founder of History Seminar
Series at Queensborough Community
College and High School American History
teacher, was the adviser for this op-ed.