The Mistakes I Made with Cannabis 

Posted on November 19, 2023 View all news

My name is Tom. I am an Ohio resident. I was born in 1957 and am 65 years old. I am living a happy,  full life. I am 6 years retired from a prominent local manufacturer\retailer.  

One of my closest friends during my junior high & high school years was a buddy named Mark. We lived on the same street. Mark was two years my senior. Mark was a really friendly, nice kid, well-liked by everybody who came in contact with him. Mark was also a brilliant math student. His tutoring helped many neighborhood kids get through high school math. He was a member of the high school wrestling team. He had a car, a cool “hot rod” that he’d paid for with the wages he’d earned from his part-time jobs. (He always had a good work ethic and always was employed.) Mark also knew his way around the engine of a car. He did all his own upgrades & repairs. Mark had a steady girlfriend, a nice girl named “Polly”. The three of us, Mark, Polly, and myself, were close and spent a lot of time together. Mark and i played neighborhood sports together (when kids still played pickup games in the  neighborhood, unlike today.) We played baseball, football, basketball, and tennis all year long. 

We enjoyed life! Mark and i had promising futures. We were typical, well-adjusted kids. 

Mark was introduced to cannabis at age sixteen by another neighborhood kid who had been abusing alcohol, cannabis, and pills since his early teens. (This same neighborhood kid would also introduce  me to cannabis; more on that later.) Mark soon began smoking cannabis heavily daily. He quit the wrestling team after his high school sophomore year. By his junior year, his grades began declining somewhat, albeit not precipitously. A local state university accepted him as a math major. Around this time, Mark’s behavior began changing. He started behaving “real peculiar,” as one neighborhood parent astutely observed. 

Mark was working part-time to help put himself through school & have some spending money. This was in the mid-70s, when kids could still afford to put themselves through college before tuition costs skyrocketed. He completed a few quarters of college but not his full freshman year there. He dropped out due to a lack of funds because most of his earnings were used to support him. Guess what? Yep, his daily cannabis habit. There’s absolutely no question in my mind that Mark, in retrospect, was strongly addicted to cannabis. Only back then, none of us were aware of what addiction truly was. Addiction to us was the image of a degenerate homeless man living in the gutter with a needle in his arm. None of us stupid young fellas realized the dangers we were facing. 

So, this promising, exceptional math student dropped out of college and got a full-time job as an auto mechanic at a local service station. He continued smoking cannabis heavily. 

About two years after Mark began using cannabis, I, too, began using that vile narcotic at age 16. My life was similar to Mark’s. I had earned good grades in school and was a member of the Cross Country and Track & Field teams. Sadly, my immigrant parents saw no value in sports. They forced me to quit all sports and get a part-time job, which I grudgingly did. Soon after getting the job, I was introduced to cannabis. Guess what almost all of my income was spent on? Yep- cannabis. I quickly became addicted as well. Soon, cannabis became the sole focus of my life. My grades took a nose dive. My immigrant parents were clueless about dope to perceive the behavioral changes I had been exhibiting. I stopped associating with kids who were dope-free. All of the kids I’d associated with were cannabis users. The strong interest I’d had in running & playing team sports ceased, except for watching a ball game here and there. 

By age 20, Mark had lost his job as a mechanic because his cannabis hangovers made him unable to awaken on time for his 7 am workday. His mental state had deteriorated significantly. His social circle had shrunk noticeably. The only people he associated with were those who would share their cannabis with him. Mark continued his relationship with myself & Polly, however. Unknown to me at this time, Mark was having delusions and hallucinations. He would later explain to me that he began hearing voices. He believed that his girlfriend & her mother were “witches trying to control (him).” He believed that the song ‘Magic Man’ by the rock group ‘Heart’ was composed directly for him and that he had a telepathic connection with the group’s primary songwriters, Ann & Nancy Wilson. 

Meanwhile, I was having my own troubles. I’d graduated high school with a whopping 1.9  accumulative GPA and was meandering aimlessly through life in a cannabis-induced fog. I was unemployed, had no goals, and had no clue what to do with my life. All I could think about was getting high.  But, by this time, I’d felt I was not getting “high” enough. So, I began smoking stronger & stronger strains- Columbian, Columbian Red, Columbian Gold (often misnamed “Acapulco Gold”), and the most potent strain, Black African. This refutes the claims made by today’s pro-cannabis crowd that today’s cannabis has THC levels far greater than the levels found in 70’s era cannabis. I was smoking very potent dope. 

Getting “high” was no more than a euphemism for getting stoned, which to me was in no way a “high.” More realistically, I felt terrible each time I smoked. I would become a paranoiac. My mouth got horribly dry, my eyes were bloodshot, and I’d immediately feel depressed, tired, and sleepy each time I smoked. And I’d want to eat the entire contents of the fridge. I’d lost almost all interest in the outside world. Simply put, I felt and looked like hell. 

Mark and I had a bad falling out, culminating in an ugly, physical altercation. In retrospect, our relationship took this wrong turn undoubtedly because both of us were suffering from the paranoia effects of cannabis, but Mark’s paranoia was much more severe than mine. 

Around this time, Mark got a part-time job at a local restaurant as a dishwasher. This brilliant, once promising young man had been reduced to being a part-time dishwasher. Even this position wouldn’t last; he was terminated again for his behavior, which by this time had grown increasingly more bizarre. He’d also lost Polly, his drug-free girlfriend & the love of his life. 

Mark’s behavior had regressed to the point where it disturbed his family. At about this time, I’d wanted to bury the hatchet with Mark, so I walked to his family home and rang the doorbell. His father let me in but warned me, “Mark is not feeling well.” I was totally unprepared for what I was about to see. I saw Mark, with my own two eyes, stomping around their home, holding his head with both hands, moaning & groaning, “Oh my god,” while swaying his body up and down. He was oblivious to my presence. In street parlance, he was “freaking out”. I thought he’d perhaps taken LSD or something similarly potent. But, I later learned, he hadn’t taken anything. I had no idea what was happening to him, so I quickly excused myself & exited. It was an awful and terrifying experience, one that is indelibly etched in my mind. 

Mark’s parents took Mark for professional help. In 1977, at age 22, Mark was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. The psychiatrist told Mark and his parents that his illness was triggered by heavy cannabis smoking. Mark began receiving treatment, which involved the now obsolete electric shock treatments. They also told him schizophrenia was a progressive illness, and there was no cure. 

I’d later heard the news about his diagnosis from a mutual friend that Mark was in touch with. I was shocked. I knew Mark had many problems but had no idea how severe his problems were. I felt a  deep sense of sorrow, loss, & regret. 

I had wanted to join the U.S. Navy immediately after high school because I’d wanted to “see the world.” I was talked out of it by a neighborhood guy, another doper, and a USN veteran with a bad conduct discharge. He told me I’d most likely get involved with hard drugs if I did. I took his advice because I was not mentally strong enough to make decisions and stand on my own two feet.

So, I was 19, with spotty employment, working low-level part-time jobs. For some of them, I was  “involuntarily terminated” because of poor attendance and other dubious reasons of my own making. I  did not understand at the time the awful effects that my daily use of cannabis was exerting on me. I  had become a different person. At age 19, I was diagnosed with clinical depression, but it took hold of me at sixteen because that was the age when I began declining. From the much wiser retrospective of a man in my senior years, I am absolutely certain that my depression was triggered directly by my regular cannabis use. Cannabis had turned my mind into mush.  

But the worst thing about my cannabis use was that people began looking down on me, and I had lost my self-respect. 

Mark had undergone enough shock treatments and was also given the medication Thorazine, which is often referred to as a “chemical straight jacket.” He was rehabilitated sufficiently where his behavior was not disturbing to his family, so he was allowed to return home from the state mental hospital where he’d resided. 

One day, on my 20th birthday in 1977, I heard Mark had returned home, so I called my old friend at his home. By this time, the hard feelings had dissipated, and we were friends again. We went for a walk to the corner store so I could buy cigarettes (another bad habit I’d had at the time). While walking up the street, Mark explained his illness, the symptoms, etc, everything the MD had explained to him.  After listening to him for a while, I asked him: “Mark, what do you feel like day to day? What does your mind feel like with this illness from hour to hour and minute by minute?”. 

His response shook me to my core and changed the entire course of my life. 

I feel like I’m on pot all the time.” 

His words hit me like a ton of bricks. So, I finally summoned the strength to quit finally. It must be noted here that I did so without any third-party intervention. My love of physical fitness & sports got me through my “self-rehabilitation.” Since then, I’ve never touched marijuana or any other illicit narcotic again. 

I felt a tremendous sense of relief, felt a huge burden lifted from my shoulders. But, it would take some time for my mind and body to fully recover from the damage I’d inflicted on myself with cannabis. I resumed running. I taught myself bodybuilding and began building my body up. I also began studying nutrition and eating healthier food to complement my new fitness regimen.  I once again was interested in sports. Slowly, the cravings for cannabis ceased. I also stopped smoking tobacco. I stopped associating with dopers and began associating with a better, drug-free group of people. I started dating for the first time in my life, too.

I had become strong again in body, mind, soul, and spirit. I was now able to think with a lucid mind. I  felt free of the depression that had ruled my life for the past few years. When my mind and body had fully recovered, I finally took charge of my life’s direction. 

I enlisted in the US Navy and got off to a great start because I was highly motivated & determined to succeed to regain respect and self-respect. I earned the distinction of graduating in the top 10% of my basic training company and was meritoriously promoted one rank. I shipped out to an aircraft carrier (USS Nimitz). I worked in the Communications department as an I/T Specialist. I served as the personal comm specialist for both the Admiral & Commanding Officer, a choice duty given only to those highly regarded. I also served as Communications Supervisor in charge of the communications center, including a staff of 12. I achieved the rank of Petty Officer Second Class (E-5 pay grade) by the end of my third year of active duty, the absolute minimum amount of time possible. It was my maximum rank during my four-year active duty hitch. I’d served with distinction, and my annual performance evaluations reflected this: I averaged 3.8/4.0 (similar to an academic grade scale). 

I was honorably discharged as a decorated veteran. On my final evaluation, referred to as the  “separation evaluation” that summarized my entire USN career, my Comm Officer wrote, “His talents  and dedication to duty will be sorely missed.” I’m proud of that and what I’ve accomplished. I’d earned the distinction of “United States Veteran.” 

Following my discharge, I was stronger & more confident than ever, had boundless energy, and was ready to take on the world! 

But, most importantly, I had regained my self-respect and the respect of my family. 

I enrolled at Lakeland Community College for my first two years and graduated with honors. I  transferred to Kent State University and finished my college career with Magna Cum Laude distinction and a degree in Business Mgmt with a minor in I/T. 

I embarked on a long and prosperous I/T career. For the last 20 years, I worked for a blue-chip Fortune  500 company where I recently retired from. Note that I retired at age 60, well in advance of my original plan. I retired comfortably with zero debt. But the most important part of my life’s endeavors was raising my son. He is dope, tobacco, & alcohol-free. He’s a full-time college student who is earning high grades. He’s well on his way … free & clear. 

It’s amazing what a clear mind can do for a fella.☺☺ 

In addition to Mark, whose story is the most egregious and compelling, I have seen cannabis negatively affect all who have smoked it regularly, including kids in my neighborhood, classmates,  and shipmates. None of them have survived regular cannabis use unscathed. All have been harmed in some way by it. The most prominent damage done to the cannabis users I’d observed is the  “gateway effect”; that is, eventually, they’d moved on to powders & pills. It must be noted here that they graduated to powders & pills not because of the chemical effects of cannabis but because of the social effects of cannabis. When people use cannabis, they begin associating more and more with other cannabis users. Often, those “other,” more experienced cannabis users are already using powders or pills. Thus, the novice cannabis user is easily introduced to hard drugs and begins walking down the same self-destructive path. Call it “addiction by association” and hence the true “gateway effect.” I saw this cause & effect with my own two 👓 eyes more times than I can count. 

Everybody I’ve ever known to smoke cannabis regularly has eventually quit, some sooner, and sadly, some later. All of them now regret using it. All of them have better lives after quitting. Again, I saw this with my own eyes- it’s not anecdotal hearsay or the result of some “study” or “research,” most of which amounts to nothing more than propaganda. I know of only one habitual cannabis user, a  former shipmate of mine whom I’ll refer to as “Ghost” (his nickname), who began using cannabis at age 12. Like me, Ghost is now 65 years old. His employment record after his military discharge is spottier than 101 Dalmations in spite of the fact that he holds a Master of Science degree. He suffers from chronic nightmares. Sadly, Ghost is dependent on his wife because he’s incapable of supporting himself. He’s failed in all his career endeavors, and it pains me to say that. Unlike a husband whose wife is the primary breadwinner, my buddy is dependent on his wife as the sole breadwinner, more like a child is dependent on his mother. He would be on public assistance today if not for his wife supporting him. He also has no pension outside his small social security entitlement. It’s apparent to me that his emotional (not intellectual) developmental transition into adulthood was arrested when he began smoking cannabis regularly as a boy. It doesn’t take a genius to see that this intelligent, good man has been irreparably harmed by cannabis. While I have no scientific evidence to prove my theory, I also have no scientific evidence disproving it either. 

In contrast, I attribute the current healthy & happy state of my life in large part to being cannabis free.  I have zero addictions to any dope, alcohol, tobacco, debt, or any other destructive habits. I inhale only fresh air into my lungs, and I do not drink alcohol. I am a slave to nothing. 


I tell this story of my life not to brag or beat my chest about what a “great guy” (as I roll my eyes) I am. I tell my story because I want to bring to light the mistakes I made with cannabis as a  teenager. I want to show how, once I got off dope, my life recovered, and I became a healthy, well-adjusted person. I share this part of my personal history to impress upon anybody reading this the before & after effects of regular cannabis use. My story is not a story of narcissism; it’s about recovery & redemption. 

• Cannabis is not “harmless,” as claimed by its supporters. 

• Cannabis is a powerful, hallucinogenic, mentally addictive, and ☠destructive☠ narcotic that nobody should ever use for any reason. The above stories should serve as a  cautionary tale to this fact. It is a public health & safety hazard that should remain outlawed. 

• Cannabis has no health benefits that have ever been definitively proven by authoritative medical science. Cannabis’ only known use is making rope! 

• The American Medical Association classifies cannabis as a “dangerous drug”. • Cannabis contains 50 known carcinogens, more than triple the 15 contained in tobacco. • There’s no such thing as “social smoking” as there is with alcohol, i.e., “social drinking.” The sole purpose of cannabis is getting stoned. 

• So-called “medical” marijuana is a myth. This myth is the result of a widespread media &  internet propaganda campaign waged primarily by those entities that stand to profit most from its legalization. Cannabis supporters are clever. They know that they can pass cannabis legalization much easier by first slipping “medical” marijuana in through the back door of public ignorance & apathy. Cannabis addicts will fight like rabid dogs for their dope. 

Over the course of my lifetime, I’ve learned that truly emotionally healthy, happy people have no need or desire to get stoned, drunk, or otherwise intoxicated in any way. Willfully making oneself intoxicated is not a “high”. It’s nothing more than an emotional sickness. 

What insanity has gripped our nation that we are considering re-classifying dope as “harmless”?  Since when is smoking any substance harmless or even beneficial? That notion is absurd. Since when is getting stoned a good idea for any individual or society? 

What insanity has gripped our nation that we now consider national legalization of dope? 

Finally, I leave you with a quote from a classic film. Recall One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest about inmates in a mental hospital. In the film, the character ‘The Chief’ was having a late night, soul-bearing conversation with the film’s protagonist, ‘MacMurphy’, played by Jack Nicholson. The Chief told ‘Mac’ a poignant story about his dad: “My father he was blind … from drinking and every time he put the bottle to his mouth, he didn’t suck out of it, it sucks out of him until he was so shriveled up not even the dogs recognized him”. 

Likewise, whenever a cannabis smoker puts cannabis to his mouth, he doesn’t suck out of it. It sucks out of him.

The only silver lining to Mark’s tragic story is that his younger brother Eric was “scared straight”  and never touched drugs in his life.

Tom Cardello

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