(All photo illustrations by The Free Press; photos via Getty Images)

America the Stoned

More states are legalizing weed every year. An estimated 13.2 million Americans use the drug every day. So why is it starting to feel like a bad idea?

During the fall of 2017, Neal Pollack had a psychotic break brought on by weed.

The nonfiction writer had bought a ticket to the World Series, a lifelong dream, to see the Dodgers play the Astros. As was his typical daily routine at that point, he’d “spent all day” getting high. By the time Pollack showed up to the gate and realized that his ticket was fraudulent, “I was stoned out of my mind,” he says. “I screamed and cursed. Amazingly, they didn’t arrest me.” 

Afterward, he wandered the parking lot, sobbing and delirious, and at one point caught a glimpse of himself in the passenger mirror of a pickup truck. 

“I was red-eyed and puffy and had a long white beard,” he says. “I looked like shit. And I was 47 years old.”

When Pollack, now 53, started smoking weed in the early 1990s, it was still illegal across the U.S. By the time medical marijuana became legal on the West Coast during the late ’90s, he was smoking every day. By 2016, he smoked almost constantly, sometimes before his book readings. (He’s the best-selling author of several nonfiction books, including Pothead: My Life as a Marijuana Addict in the Age of Legal Weed.)

By the time Pollack finally quit, in early 2018—though he recovered from his breakdown at the World Series, it scared him into sobriety, he says—weed was legal for recreational use in eight states, and the great wave of legalization was just beginning.

At the time, Pollack’s psychotic breakdown (although it was never officially diagnosed as such) seemed to him like proof that he had a problem with weed, not that weed was itself the problem. But new research suggests that the latter may be true. 

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