Yes, it’s harmful, and yes, it should be legalized.
It’s not often that the White House responds directly to a newspaper op-ed, as it did last week when the New York Times editorial board published its opinion that the federal government should repeal the ban on the production, sale and use of marijuana. The Office of National Drug Control Policy swiftly responded, reiterating its stand that it “continues to oppose” legalization.
The editorial board listed sound arguments, including the social costs of prohibition. However, the board was remiss when it effectively brushed aside what it acknowledged are the “legitimate concerns” about marijuana’s impact on the development of adolescent brains. Even supporters of legalization, of which I’m one, must not underestimate those concerns. The ONDCP was right when it said, in its response to the Times, “policymakers shouldn’t ignore the basic scientific fact that marijuana is addictive and marijuana use has harmful consequences.”
Some proponents of legalization maintain that marijuana is harmless, but it isn’t — especially when it comes to kids. Indeed, I’ve spoken to many supporters of legalization. They don’t want their children using marijuana any more than those opposed to legalization do.
A body of research shows that marijuana causes structural and functional changes in the developing brains of adolescents. By stunting communication between brain regions, it impairs high-level thinking. There’s evidence that it impacts memory, too, and, for a small minority of kids, can trigger latent mental illnesses like schizophrenia. Also, marijuana users are more likely to suffer from clinical depression than others, though, as Ty S. Schepis, assistant professor of psychology at Texas State University, notes, “It’s unknown if pot causes depression; it may be that depressed people smoke pot.” What is known is that the often stated contention that no one gets addicted to pot is contradicted by the fact that an estimated 9% do. I once visited an adolescent treatment center where most patients between 14 and 20 were there because of an addiction exclusively to pot — anyone who says that marijuana isn’t addictive should talk to these kids. Indeed, in spite of a basketball net outside and other recreational facilities, it wasn’t summer camp; those kids had all suffered devastating consequences from their pot smoking, and most had tried to stop but couldn’t.
There are more reasons to worry that regular pot smoking could significantly impact a child’s life. The drug may cause something called amotivational syndrome, and adolescents who regularly smoke are less likely to have learned to deal with their emotions, to weather disappointments and to work through difficult times in relationships. In a number of studies, long-term marijuana users reported poorer outcomes on a variety of life satisfaction and achievement measures, including educational attainment, than nonusers.
If marijuana impedes kids’ biological and emotional development, why should it be made legal, especially when there’s evidence that legalization may increase the number of kids who try pot in the first place? First, the assumption of an uptick in use doesn’t take into account countermeasures that can and should be put into place. (Following the model of alcohol, the Times advocates a prohibition of sales to people under 21, but that ignores the research that shows that the period of adolescent brain development doesn’t end until the mid-20s.) Science-based regulations must be put in place and enforced. Next, education and other prevention strategies must accompany legalization, and they should be paid for by the savings and revenue that would come with legalization. Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron calculated that if marijuana were legalized, the government would save $7.7 billion annually in law-enforcement costs, and it could bring in an additional $6.2 billion a year if pot were taxed at rates similar to alcohol and tobacco. That’s $13.9 billion per year that could, and should, be earmarked to prevention campaigns, as well as treatment for those who become addicted.
The fact is, the illegal status of marijuana hasn’t stopped millions of kids from smoking it every day, and it may stop many from seeking help. No one should be arrested for smoking pot. Children should be educated and, if problems develop, immediately treated so they don’t escalate. People who are arrested for drug use are likely to descend into more use. Think about it. Take a child who does what so many kids do these days: she’s with friends, someone hands her a joint, and she tries it. Now she’s broken the law. If her use escalates and she winds up in the criminal-justice system, she’s entered one of the highest-risk groups for addiction. Kids punished for using are under great stress, which increases their risk. If they’re expelled from school or lose a job, their prospects are fewer. This recipe creates not only more drug use, but more dangerous use.
Until we become more effective in our prevention efforts, many kids are going to try pot. Some will smoke a lot, and some will become addicted. We must have a new conversation with them, treating drug use for what it is: a health, not a criminal, issue. We must legalize marijuana and take the decision to use or not out of the realm of morality and judgment. We communicate the message that bad kids use drugs, good kids don’t. But as a pediatrician I know put it: these aren’t bad kids; they’re our kids. We mustn’t stigmatize. Instead, we must educate and nurture them, and build their resilience so they grow up safety and healthily.
David Sheff’s latest book is Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America’s Greatest Tragedy, the follow-up to his New York Times No. 1 best seller,Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction. Follow him on Twitter @david_sheff.
Position Essay on Marijuana
The word Marijuana narrates dried flowers, seeds, grass, and is a common name used for a drag made from Cannabis sativa- a plant. Other names to describe marijuana are; bhang, ganja, hemp, and dope. Marijuana is a drug that changes mindset and the perception of everything perceived by brain. The primary ingredient used in marijuana for distracting mind is THC; however, there are hundreds of other chemicals found in the plant. It is, in fact the quantity of THC in marijuana that determines how much it will influence human mind. It is pertinent to mention that drug war is costly and expensive being fought in the society requiring huge amount of resources. The main stakeholders in this war includes; government, black marketers, users buying illegal drugs, those involved in courts, and housed in jails because of selling or using marijuana. One of the surveys suggests that marijuana users in the United States are more than half of the population between ages of eighteen to fifty years. (http://www.alcohol-and-drug-guide.com/marijuana-use-usa.html)
Proponents of Legalizing Marijuana
The intensive debate about marijuana focuses on the subject whether marijuana should be legally allowed in the society or not? Proponents of the issue favoring legalization of marijuana assert that making it legal will, in fact, not increase its consumption and people may themselves make a choice of using it or not. They claim legalization of marijuana will divert demand from other dangerous drugs like heroine and use of marijuana will eventually rise. It is pertinent to mention that marijuana users, similar to other Americans, are not law-breakers rather pay taxes, maintain families, and love their children. Since most of the marijuana using people act like other responsible citizens, the advocates of legalizing marijuana supports they should not be treated like criminals just because they use marijuana and, therefore, ban should be lifted on using marijuana. Moreover, legalizing this substance and imposing tax on marijuana cigarettes will transfer the revenue from the producers and black marketers of marijuana to the government and will increase government income significantly. (Earleywine 118)
Arguments against Legalizing Marijuana
Opponents of legalizing marijuana are of the view that it is a mind-altering drug and as such should not be allowed to become a legal drug. Today, many Americans are using marijuana illegally, although most of the citizens have not even heard the word marijuana. It is used even in low-grades in schools increasing drop out rate. Marijuana users are present in all twelfth grades with twelfth grade students reporting that amphetamines are the easiest drugs that could be obtained by them. (http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/node/53)
Using marijuana causes cancers. Moreover, users are more exposed to the risk of accidents. Besides cancers in lung, neck, and head, marijuana causes anxiety, depression, and loss of appetite, diaphoresis, along with restlessness. It is regarded as a drug for losers and has grave impact on peoples' lives changing their normal life style. It is pertinent to highlight that nature has gifted humans with an immune system that is responsible for protecting human body from many diseases. Usage of marijuana damages working of T-cells in the lungs. Resultantly, a user of marijuana is more exposed to diseases. Research conducted on the effects of marijuana shows that continuous using of marijuana leads to injury in lunges destroying them completely. This could ultimately result in breathing problems as users become addictive to the drug. These serious threats caused to human health suggest that marijuana should not be legalized as it would place the drug equivalent to different other drugs including alcohol and tobacco. Besides serious direct risks, there are also grave side-effects of the drug. Using marijuana continuously leads to risky sexual behavior and increases chances of accidents. (Zimmer 202)
Other side effects of marijuana are different psychological problems like depression, anxiety, and anger. Users of marijuana suffer acute feelings of nervousness with obsessed feelings. The users of marijuana have more chances to use other lethal drugs like LSD and heroin. Marijuana legalization is not only supported by the pharmaceutical firms but also different health as well as medical associations comprising medical experts. The Federal Food and Drug Administration is also an opponent to the legalization of marijuana. (Castle 118)
Proponents assert that marijuana legalization will increase revenue of government by levying taxes and there will be a dramatic reduction in the rates of crime and theft. However, studies supported by strong medical evidence highlights that collection of taxes and increasing revenue will be at the cost of human health. The consequences and effects of marijuana, mainly discussed above, create serious health problems and most of them eventually result in death. This main argument in favor of legalizing marijuana of collecting tax is also portraying incorrect picture. Although, selling marijuana legally will be taxed and bring revenue but it will fail to cover the social costs that marijuana places on the nation. For instance, increased chances of accidents, lower level of productivity, and augmented probabilities of anxiety as well as distress conditions among people are the social costs to be paid by the society that are significantly excess of financial revenues earned by the government. (Rosenthal 87)
The paper has focused on presenting arguments for and against on legalizing marijuana. Although, there are some advantages of legalizing marijuana in the country, but the harms and dangers of legalization, supported by medical evidence affecting health as well as social problems, are significant and, therefore it is recommended that marijuana should not be legalized in the nation.
Castle, David Marijuana and Madness: Psychiatry and Neurobiology Cambridge University Press, 2004, p. 118
Earleywine, Mitch Understanding Marijuana: A New Look at the Scientific Evidence Oxford University Press, 2005, p. 118
Rosenthal, Ed Why Marijuana Should be Legal Running Press, 2003, p. 87
Zimmer, Lynn. Marijuana Myths Marijuana Facts: A Review Of the Scientific Evidence. Lindersmith Center, 1997, p. 202
Alcohol- and - Drug- Guide.com. "Marijuana Use USA" Retrieved October 5, 2009 from http://www.alcohol-and-drug-guide.com/marijuana-use-usa.html
Get The Facts Drug WarFacts.org, "Marijuana: Retrieved October 5, 2009 from http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/node/53