A major argument for the legalization of marijuana mentions other vices that are already legal, like tobacco products and alcohol. Alcohol is a major point because it was once illegal in the US. They argue that making a substance illegal is pointless, so we should simply allow it. What they fail to mention, however is how different marijuana and alcohol are.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, alcohol is a depressant, while marijuna is most commonly classified as a hallucinogen. Marijuana can actually hold multiple classifications because the short term effects of the drug are so varied. The more docile effects of marijuana provide that it can cause drowsiness or feelings of relaxation, slowed reaction time, balance and coordination issues, problems with learning and memory, and even anxiety. In the long term, it can lead to mental health issues, chronic cough, and frequent respiratory infections.
The effects of marijuna usually last anywhere from 1-3 hours, but it can stay in the body for up to weeks after use. The organs in the body have fatty tissues that absorb the fat-soluble THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, very easily. A urine test can detect the presence of THC days or even weeks after usage. Dr. Marilyn Huestis discussed in an article, the work that she’s done to study the effects of marijuana on the body for over 25 years. Stating very simply that it is not filtered out of the blood like alcohol is, but is stored in the fatty tissues.
Marijuana's common connection as a classic hallucinogen puts it in the classification with other familiar drugs such as LSD and works by disrupting the communication throughout the brain, causing changes in mood, sensory perception, responses to the environment, learning and memory, just to name a few.
Because of the nature of marijuana having a direct effect on fatty tissues, it has the most potential for damage on the brain, which is the largest fatty organ in the body. And because the brain is not fully developed until at least 25 years old, a bill that would legalize marijuna usage at the age of 21 is particularly poised to have a major damaging effect on the brains of young people. Legalization also makes underage usage more commonplace. Once it was legalized in Colorado, their school districts saw an increase of high school drug violations of 71% in a time span of just 5 years. Young marijuana users are 8 times more likely to use other drugs as they enter their 20's, 17 times more likely to commit suicide and 60% more likely to drop out of high school.
With substances such as alcohol and cigarettes already legal, despite their harm, the big question is if marijuana is really harmful enough for us to not favor legalization. The answer is yes! We know how alcohol can lead to liver disease and tobacco to lung cancer or oral cancer. Yet, what does marijuana harm? It's a plant, so doesn't that mean that it's natural and okay for your body?
First, marijuana causes direct effects on the brain! It is psychoactive, meaning it changes how the brain works. With every brain cell that is affected, the cognitive processes of the brain are further hindered. Because marijuana is not immediately filtered out of the body, it means that the negative effects are stored long term. It is no secret how important the brain is to all bodily functions. If marijuana is legalized for those as young as 21, the implications for young people is frightening.
Yes marijuana is a plant, but that does not automatically mean it’s healthy or good for you. This logic is completely faulty. Poison ivy and even hemlock are all naturally existing plants, but our body has adverse reactions to contact with them. Marijuana is clearly not the same level of an irritant as poison ivy, nor will it cause almost instantaneous death as with hemlock, but the point remains the same that natural is not equivalent to good for human consumption. Marijuana is a drug made from a natural plant that is harmful to our cognitive abilities and overall brain functionality. We need to protect our young people ... protect our drivers ... protect the citizens of our state.
As already discussed, marijuana affects the brain. Marijuana can also cause hallucinations, delusions, and even psychosis, a mental health term that includes schizophrenia. This means that the substance lawmakers are attempting to make available for recreational use has the power to cause serious mental illness. The truth is, that marijuana has less medicinal properties than is portrayed. The medicinal usage that is referred to is from the contents of cannabidiol (CBD), not tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The presence of THC in marijuana is what causes users to “get high” and determines the potency, which is much higher today than it was even just in the early ’90s. Potency rates have increased over the years and states like Colorado have also seen an increase in ER visits and hospitalizations because of marijuana with extended periods of a steady incline.
Despite the push to make marijuana seem like a harmless plant with miraculous medicinal powers, the truth remains that it has serious negative implications for its consumption. There are already communities that have experienced the problems of the drug because of its presence on the black market; legalization will only create new users.
The American Medical Association has urged legislators to delay the legalization of cannabis for public health sake and though they support research on the drug, they "overtly oppose legalization of marijuana and [endorse] warnings emphasizing its dangers for abuse and misuse." They have spent decades fighting the tobacco industry because of its dangers and have finally achieved some level of success in sharing its dangers--and here comes the multi-billion-dollar marijuana industry creating the next major public health concern. Decades ago, cigarettes were advertised positively in commercials and on billboards and now we see advertisements of its true negative effects. Hopefully, we can alert the public to the negative effects of marijuana before millions more are desensitized and experience the negative effects for themselves.