More and more states across the nation are legalizing some uses of marijuana. A variety of messages come from the media, the Drug Enforcement Agency, Christian groups and actual users. The editorial board has chosen to outline the pros and cons of the argument, allowing readers to consider opposing viewpoints on the issue and come to their own decisions. Corresponding Editorial may be found here.
Marijuana, weed, dope, grass, Mary Jane, hashish – these and others are all names for the popular recreational drug that comes from cannabis. Despite the fun nicknames associated with the drug, it is dangerous enough to be taken very seriously. Research is clear when it comes to the dangers of marijuana consumption.
Some say outlawing marijuana takes away people’s inalienable rights. Yet one of those rights is life, and marijuana use endangers the life of the user and those around him or her.
While 14 states have legalized medicinal marijuana, the government has outlawed the use of the drug in most cases – and for very good reasons.
The mind-altering chemical in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), attaches to nerve endings in the brainÂ and interferes with neuron communication. This creates a sensation of pleasure, but it also causes short-term memory loss, distorted perception and hampered learning ability. These effects are even more potent when THC is consumed as food rather than smoked.
Studies have shown that daily marijuana users exhibit more permanent side effects. Brain scans reveal areas of decreased blood activity. These “holes” cause problems with language, emotional control and motor control. High school seniors who smoke marijuana have beenÂ shown to score significantly lower on math and verbal tests than their peers.
Some would argue that other dangerous substances, like alcohol and tobacco, are legal. But marijuana has been deemed more harmful than either of those. Smoking five joints of marijuana a week is as harmful to the lungs as a pack of cigarettes a day, and the long-term effects are even more destructive.
Those who advocate the legalization of marijuana point to its medicinal uses. Yet drugs like Marinol have the same effects and are approved by the FDA. In most states, receiving a medical marijuana card requires nothing but an application, a doctor’s signature and a small deposit. From then on, the medical marijuana is mostly self-administered. If we already see prescription abuse with many medicines today, how much more likely would it be to see abuse with an addictive drug?
There are no studies that prove marijuana to be a “gateway drug,” but the Drug Enforcement Administration has shown that only one percent of cocaine users started using cocaine without first taking marijuana, and 62 percent of current cocaine users started with marijuana before age 15. Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse reports that teens who used marijuana at least once in the last month are almost 26 times more likely to use another drug than those who have never used marijuana.
Everything is permissible but everything is not beneficial – and marijuana is one of those things. Just because we can reach up and eat the forbidden fruit does not mean that we should.