Dear Stoner: My wife was telling me that she heard on TV that smoking pot can cause strokes in older folks. I'm 63 and just a little concerned. Any truth to this rumor?
Roberto Reefer Roller
Dear RRR: Back in February, a New Zealand scientist said he had found a link between cannabis use and certain types of strokes in people under the age of 55. Out of 160 stroke patients, 16 percent tested positive for marijuana. That was twice as high as the number of cannabis users in a control group with similar conditions and signs, but who had not progressed to a stroke. While the scientists and news media made a big deal out of those findings, they downplayed the more important part of the study: All but one of the 16 percent smoked cigarettes, which can more than double the risk of having an ischemic stroke.
In my completely unscientific opinion, the Kiwi study is crap — and it hadn't even been through a peer review before the media picked up on it. Other studies have shown that cannabis might even help the brain protect itself against strokes if they do occur.
Dear Stoner: What is the origin of the word "marijuana"? Is it named after a beautiful, red-haired lady named Mary Jane?
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Dear Word Smith: You could write a paper on this, but here's my 200-word version. "Marijuana" has mysterious origins, according to etymologists (word nerds). Most likely, it originated as slang in Mexican Spanish sometime in the 1800s, possibly with a different spelling ("mariguan") and likely not as a translation of the name "Mary Jane."
In America, the plant was called hemp or cannabis, and it was mostly known as either an ingredient in medicine or the fiber from which ropes were made. That all changed at the turn of the century, when newspapers and lawmen started using the term because it sounded exotic and Mexican — and therefore scary. It was a way of further demonizing the brown-skinned migrant workers. Especially out here in Colorado, where as early as 1917 lawmakers were banning the plant and levying an outrageously large (at the time) fine of up to $100 for its cultivation or use — and that only progressed through the '30s and '40s. By the '60s and '70s, the hippies, radicals and activists were taking back the term, though many probably didn't realize its origins even then. Today, "marijuana" is acceptable to all but the most humorless of cannabis supporters, who still deem it a racist term.