The marijuana debate has really gone to pot…
Pro-legalization forces have managed to convince about half the states in the country to pass laws decriminalizing – if not outright legalizing – smoking marijuana.
Marijuana is safe to use recreationally and too many people are serving ridiculously long criminal sentences for using it, according to advocates of the drug.
If adults can use alcohol and tobacco, they should be free to use to marijuana, too!
Basically, their message is “It’s my body — and I’ll puff if I want to.”
But pot may not be safe after all – especially not for youth and young adults.
Missing in much of the current debate is more careful science about the effects of marijuana use on the developing brain.
Today’s pot isn’t the marijuana that many of today’s older adults remember smoking in the Sixties. It’s a lot more powerful – and lethal.
As recently as the 1980s, marijuana sold on the streets contained about 4% of THC, the psychoactive substance that gets the user “high.”
However, tests performed in Colorado in 2015 where marijuana has been legalized, found rates as high as 20% and even 30%. Other tests have confirmed the growing potency – and lethality — of pot.
Public health officials warn that developing young adult brains are highly susceptible to damage from exposure to such high levels of THC. Research has shown that frequent marijuana use by teenagers is associated with changes in parts of the brain that are involved with attention, memory, decision-making and motivation.
Despite this growing evidence, marijuana use by youngsters is steadily rising. According to the Partnership for a Drug-free America, teen pot use has increased 80% since 2008. Even as tobacco use has declined sharply among youth– with noticeable reductions in alcohol use, too — pot use has not.
Another growing danger to teens is “synthetic” marijuana, often sold under cute names like Scooby. It’s not really marijuana. It’s a leafy substance that’s sprayed with synthetic chemicals, including dangerous hallucinogens.
Kids that vape are starting to put Scooby in their vaping pens. Some are landing in the hospital.
Why do 6 in 10 Americans support marijuana legalization?
Mainly because pro-legalization advocates have done a good job of conflating the promising medicinal aspects of marijuana with its recreational use.
Marijuana contains 70 “cannabinoids,” only one of which, THC, has psychoactive properties. The others contain chemicals that are similar to ones already found in the human body that relate to memory, appetite, movement and pain.
Preliminary research has suggested that these chemical might be used to treat a wide range of health ailments, including cancer
Currently, the federal government has tight restrictions on federal funding for marijuana research. Pot, like LSD and other drugs, is still classified officially as a “Schedule 1” – “dangerous to the public health” — substance.
Most researchers can’t even acquire large amounts of the plant to conduct tests on its merits.
A good argument can be made that the current Schedule 1 classification is archaic, and should be revised – if only to allow for more scientific research.
But legalizing recreational marijuana with high levels of THC is another matter.
Last week, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a national advisory warning of the dangers of marijuana use to pregnant mothers and youth.
It’s a long overdue recognition that despite changing social mores, the health effects of rampant recreational pot use may be a threat to public health.
But will anyone listen?
Marijuana advocates scoff at recent criticism, noting that past government campaigns against marijuana – including the infamous “Reefer Madness” movie — have bordered on hysteria.
And pot is big business now, with annual revenues nearing $10 billion. It’s becoming an enormous revenue-generating opportunity for entrepreneurs – and governments — looking to profit from a burgeoning consumer market.
Even if our nation’s youngsters will be paying a heavy price.