• The Shocking Truth About Today’s Marijuana—Mighty Parenting 224 with Laura Stack

  • today's marijuana

    When we were in high school and college, smoking a joint of marijuana was a way to be cool, to get a little high and have a little fun. Today’s marijuana is a very different beast. Laura Stack lost her son to suicide after he became addicted to marijuana; today, she joins Mighty Parenting podcast host Sandy Fowler to discuss how marijuana has changed from our school days, what it means to smoke marijuana today, and how we can protect our kids from addiction and worse.

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    A Favorite Quote from the Show: 

    THC is very problematic. MRIs show it causes a thinning of the prefrontal cortex as a result of CB1 receptors being impacted.

    High Points From Our Conversation on Today’s Marijuana:

    Quote about today's marijuana

    When Laura’s son Johnny first started using marijuana she wasn’t thrilled, but she also wasn’t overly concerned. Mostly it was, Well thank god it’s just marijuana; it’s not opioids or cocaine. It hadn’t really occurred to her that marijuana had changed since she was in school. What followed was a five-year journey through hell; Johnny became paranoid and delusional after using high-THC products, and eventually successfully suicided.

    Today’s marijuana (also called cannabis) is not the same as marijuana 30, 40, 50 years ago.

    The main component in marijuana that gives you the high is called THC; it’s a chemical compound found in the marijuana plant and is absorbed into your body and brain when you burn flour made from said plant.

    THC mimics a naturally-produced protein so it can bind to CB1 receptors in the brain, which means with more marijuana usage your brain stops producing the natural protein, which makes you crave more THC, which eventually leads to Cannabis-Use Disorder (which is a medically acknowledged mental illness).

    Alcohol leaves your system in about 24 hours; THC sticks around for three weeks. It doesn’t wear off quickly, and it’s not something you can use regularly and say, “oh, I’m only smoking (or dabbing) on the weekends, so it’s fine, it wears off.” like you (theoretically) could with alcohol.

    What are all these marijuana products?
    • Joints: plant flour rolled in paper and smoked (2-5% THC in joints from 70s, 80s, 90s)
      • About 25 years ago botanists increased the THC in plant to about 30% THC in the flower
      • Bred out the CBD (protective factor that tamped down the psychosis, intensity of THC effects)
      • They discovered you can extract pure THC from the plant without grinding it into flour first 
    • Dabs: THC vapes, composed of 90% pure THC
      • Just need a pin-head-sized piece to heat, using a marijuana dab rig (a red-hot surface)
    • Marijuana designer high-THC products 
      • Put pure THC into products (named by appearance) to distill further: crumble, wax, sugar, resin, crystal
      • Sold in dispensaries

    For clarification with terms—medical marijuana is the same as recreational marijuana; there’s no functional difference in THC levels between the two.

    It’s become a rite of passage to turn 18, get a med card ($500), legally buy medical marijuana  for a made-up illness, then later use it or sell it illegally to their friends or other teens.

    One in ten middle schoolers are addicted to today’s marijuana.

    For comparison:

    1. One old-fashioned joint —> 20mg THC (2% joint)
    2. One cartridge of 80% THC —> 800mg THC (80% vape)
    3. 90% hash oil —> 900mg THC

    It only takes one gram of hash oil to get 900mg of THC and a fast, out-of-your-mind high—and the device looks just like a nicotine vape. So kids can tell their parents that they’re just vaping, and parents can’t tell by looking at the device if their kid’s vaping nicotine or getting high on THC. 

    Today’s marijuana and the marijuana of the 70s/80s/90s are like apples and oranges; they’re not the same thing. Like cocaine vs. crack; one is markedly more dangerous than the other. You can actually smoke marijuana crystal with a crack pipe.

    Being dedicatedly religious, being a good student, being active in the community—none of these qualities mean your kid will never get addicted to marijuana. Laura’s son Johnny was Christian, had a 4.0 GPA and a perfect math SAT score and still ended up addicted.

    Vaping is very dangerous (and might be worse than smoking), whether it’s nicotine or marijuana—both cause serious physical (lungs and heart) and mental (physical brain and psychological) damage. If you have kids who are vaping, please try to convince them to stop. If a parent uses, kids are 80% more likely to end up using (and possibly addicted).

    Kids’ brains are not fully formed; there’s a 5-fold increase in episodes of psychosis in kids who use marijuana because THC molecules attach to the amygdala, where emotions are controlled. Instead of normal emotions, they experience intense fear, anxiety and paranoia.

    CIP—cannabis-induced psychosis—is commonly seen in kids that use marijuana, and manifests as extreme paranoia and delusional thinking; it’s linked to a seven-fold increase in suicide incidents among children and teenagers (as confirmed by the National Institute of Health).

    Cannabis use increases the frequencies of suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts. It is incredibly hard to quit using; stopping the ingestion/inhalation/absorption of THC into a body and brain dependent on it requires professional help and medical treatment.

    A common feature of ceasing to use marijuana is Cannabis Withdrawal Syndrome—it’s extremely painful and if a child is addicted and doesn’t have help, it usually requires a 30-day inpatient detox, which often involves serious headaches, vomiting, sleeplessness… 

    Marijuana is something that’s very difficult to quit using on your own; if you’re a parent, get involved early and have those hard conversations. Set boundaries with your kids about this, because of you don’t, that implies permission.

    Get educated about today’s marijuana and its effects on children and teens, then have a serious talk with your kid about it. Maybe you used in high school—admit that, then explain what the differences are between what you used and what using today would mean (intensifies anxiety, depression, other mental illnesses; very easy to become addicted; causes paranoia and delusions and suicidal thoughts). Make sure you and your kid understand the differences and just how dangerous marijuana is—for anyone.


    Sandy’s presentation at Johnny’s Ambassadors: Real Talk About Communicating With Your Teen

    Mayo Clinic: How Teen Marijuana Use Impacts Brain Development

    The Dangerous Truth About Today’s Marijuana: Johnny Stack’s Life and Death Story

    Parenting An Addicted Child Through Recovery | Kim Muench | Episode 84

    Understanding Addiction In Teenagers: Risk, Prevention, and Treatment | Richard Capriola | Episode 165

    Unraveled: A Mother and Son Addiction Story | Laura Cook Boldt and Tom H Boldt | Episode 179

    Our Guest Laura Stack:

    Laura Stack discusses today's marijuana

    Laura Stack was best known in the business world for her professional moniker, The Productivity Pro. Her 30-year career as a keynote speaker, bestselling author of eight productivity books, and corporate spokesperson came to a screeching halt on November 20, 2019, when her 19-year-old son, Johnny, died by suicide after becoming psychotic from dabbing high-THC marijuana concentrates. Laura responded by forming the nonprofit, Johnny’s Ambassadors, to educate parents and teens about the dangers of today’s high-THC marijuana on adolescent brain development, mental illness, and suicide. Her platform now brings education, awareness, and prevention curriculum to parents, drug prevention conferences, community groups, and schools to stop youth marijuana use. She is a powerful speaker who brings Johnny’s personal warning and solid research together in her new book, The Dangerous Truth About Today’s Marijuana: Johnny Stack’s Life and Death Story. Described as a force of nature with unstoppable drive and unwavering purpose, Laura is determined to get teens to #StopDabbing.

    To learn more or connect with our guest visit https://JohnnysAmbassadors.org.

    Our Sponsor: 

    Inward Bound Mindfulness Education — Mindfulness courses and retreats for teens and adults 

    iBme offers online and in-person retreats, mindfulness courses, and weekly meditations tailored for various communities of teens and young adults (and even parents!) Visit iBme.com/mightyparenting  to learn more and register for programs, including in-person summer retreats.