Although legalizing marijuana may seem like the popular thing to do nowadays, it's important not to forget that it is a drug of addiction. Making it legal across the board for those of age could have some serious consequences that are worth thinking about.
Negative Effects of Marijuana
Marijuana use can have detrimental effects on learning, concentration and short-term memory. This can cause impairments when operating a motor vehicle or machinery, performing detail-oriented tasks at work, or studying complicated or in-depth material. According to a study by the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, students with an A average are four times less likely to smoke marijuana than students with a D average.
Marijuana can also be physically harmful. Like anything that is smoked, it has a negative impact on the respiratory system. Donald Tashkin at UCLA asserted that four or five marijuana joints have the same effect on the body as an entire pack of cigarettes. Other physical effects of long-term use include immunosupression, sexual problems, growth disorders, and sleep disturbances. Increased use may lead to greater need for medical care, which may trickle down to the taxpayer.
A lot of people argue that marijuana is not addictive because people who use it regularly and then stop do not immediately experience withdrawal symptoms. This does not mean withdrawal will not occur. Usually, they start using again before the symptoms have a chance to kick in. This is because the half-life of THC is so long; since the drug is metabolized differently than other drugs, the body stores it in its fat cells.
According to AddictionBlog, it can take 10 to 12 days for half of the THC in the system to be eliminated from the body. Thus, withdrawal doesn't begin for up to a month because the drug is still present.
One of the biggest indications that the drug is addictive is that chronic users continue to smoke despite negative consequences, such as problems with work, relationships, or finances. Marijuana is second only to alcohol in the number of users who seek dependency treatment in the United States. That number is more than 4 million.
Legalization could lead to an increase in young users, who are very susceptible to the negative effects of the drug. A study published in the International Journal of Drug Policy states that a full 10 percent of high school students who are at low risk for using marijuana now say they would use the drug if it was legal. This could lead to a new crop of chronic users down the road.
Even people who do not smoke marijuana can be negatively impacted by more widespread use. In an article on KevinMD, Dr. Jane Curley voices some concerns regarding the following:
- Second-hand smoke: Cafe employees and others will have increased exposure to an EPA-declared carcinogen.
- Driving under the influence: Cognitive impairments can make marijuana users dangerous on the road.
- Youth protection: More individuals will likely smoke near schools and playgrounds without the threat from law enforcement. There is also a concern that marijuana will not be sold in child-proof bottles.
- Product quality: Widespread regulation is not currently in place to ensure safe storage, transport and growing operations to protect an entire nation of legal users from molds and other health risks.
Since marijuana is still illegal per federal law, and that doesn't seem likely to change anytime soon, legal sellers often do their business in cash after being refused access to banks and credit card services. This leaves the businesses highly susceptible to theft and other types of related crime. Having both drugs and large quantities of cash on hand makes for a dangerous business model.
The Eventual Outcome
Recreational marijuana is only legal in very few states, and these laws are too young to truly study the impact. Only time will tell what the true consequences of legalization will be and whether legalization will be sustainable over the long term. Reality may be quite different from the desired outcomes.