WWW.QNS.COM RIDGEWOOD TIMES APRIL 29, 2021 13
A warning of the dangers of marijuana
BY PHIL ORENSTEIN
The state Legislature passed a bill legalizing
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.” The 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. This 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
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
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 and slackers.
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 “natural highs.”
At the REACH Foundation, I learned that I suffered
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.
The 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.
The 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. The euphoric eff ects are short-lived, but
the long-term damage to the brain is tragic in the
long run, especially in young developing adults.
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 public.
It’s up to all citizens to say no to those who bow to
the lawless status quo and vote these irresponsible
We, the people, have the ultimate power and
authority by getting involved in the local political
process, organizing, running for offi ce and
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.
CHERRY BLOSSOMS IN FLUSHING MEADOWS CORONA PARK
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