Is Legalizing Marijuana Playing With Fire?
When marijuana is available legally for patients with medical conditions there can be a number of benefits if certain conditions apply: If the pharmaceutical drug options to treat the patients symptoms carry more risks than marijuana; if the marijuana offers more therapeutic benefits than the pharmaceutical drugs and if the profits from marijuana sales are channeled into constructive enterprises that will benefit society as a whole.
However, legalizing marijuana for recreational use is a whole different concept and one that has many people worried. The parties that are lobbying to legalize marijuana claim that legalization will supposedly take the manufacture and sale of marijuana out of the hands of drug addicts, drug cartels and other clandestine factions and into the domain of regulated manufacturers and retailers. Obviously, this will allow the taxes from sales to be directed into the public health and education systems, which would be far better than the current situation where only drug dealers benefit financially.
But there are several downsides to legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes. One of the main issues is that legalization sends out a message to impressionable adolescents that marijuana is perfectly acceptable. The other issue is that it will become far easier for minors to purchase marijuana even though it will probably only be available to those over 21 yo. Just like alcohol, teens can always find older siblings or friends to buy cannabis for them but having said that, it's already fairly easy for young people to purchase marijuana, whether it's legally acquired or not.
So What's Wrong With Marijuana?
Besides the statistics indicating that marijuana is a gateway drug for heavier drugs, marijuana itself can be very damaging to both physical and mental health. Physically it causes fatigue and increases the risk of heart disease and cancer, particularly lung cancer (if it's smoked) and cancer of the lymphatic system as well as oral tumors and other forms of cancer. Studies have shown that smoking marijuana is far more carcinogenic than nicotine and most people are well aware of the cancer risk from smoking cigarettes. Neurologically, marijuana is a well-known trigger for mental illnesses such as bipolar and schizophrenia and the damage it can cause to a developing brain can be catastrophic.
In normal brain development, significant changes occur in brain structure and function during the adolescent years and healthy brain function and growth needs to be supported through a healthy diet, adequate sleep and other favorable lifestyle factors. So consider the outcome if the developing brain does not receive the ideal requirements for normal growth and instead is exposed to neurologically-toxic substances such as marijuana (or other drugs).
Research carried out at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in the US showed that adolescents who use cannabis regularly have abnormal changes to their brain structure and the youngger the person is when they begin using marijuana, the greater the brain abnormality. Some of the brain damage that has been identified includes changes to …