5 Reasons Marijuana Shouldn’t Be Legal
The PR around Marijuana is all lies
It’s a little depressing to see how marijuana is spreading throughout the United States. Last time I went to Vegas? People were smoking it while walking down the street. NYC last month? Same thing. I even catch the pungent smell at night sometimes in my own neighborhood because a neighbor who drinks a lot semi-regularly indulges when getting good and drunk doesn’t do it for him. Today, there are 19 states where recreational marijuana use has been legalized and another 20 states where medical marijuana use, which is mostly just recreational use with a wink and a doctor’s prescription, is also legal. Under the best of circumstances, you’re talking about a drug that makes people slow, stupid, and lazy. Why we’d want to encourage more of that in a country that’s already falling to pieces is hard to understand, but of course, it’s a lot worse than that.
You see, the PR around marijuana is as good as it gets. It’s portrayed as non-addictive, harmless, and maybe even a little healthy. After all, would health-conscious celebs like Joe Rogan and MMA legends like Nate Diaz use it if it was bad for you? Ever seen Instagram party legend and pot entrepreneur Dan Bilzerian? The guy is built like a Greek God and he uses pot all the time.
Of course, he also had three heart attacks by the age of 32, and weed played a role in that:
Bilzerian has admitted that he had his first two heart attacks at the age of 25 and had a total of three heart attacks before the age of 32, which prompted him to clean up his act a little. The story goes that over four days of binge drinking, consuming cocaine and weed, Bilzerian ingested about 6 times the recommended dose of Viagra, to get things going downstairs. Given his lifestyle, it actually does not come as a surprise to people who follow him.
I want to provide a counter-point to the messaging people in our society get, from Joe Biden on down, about why legalizing marijuana is a terrible idea. However, before we get started, let me note two things.
First of all, our society would be better off if cigarettes and alcohol were illegal, too, but both of those substances have been around so long it’s practically impossible to get rid of them. Hopefully, we won’t end up giving marijuana so much of a foothold in our society that we end up in the same boat, but it seems entirely possible we’ll make the same mistake again.
It’s also worth noting that I wrote about this subject back in 2014. The article was well received enough that it ended up as a teaching tool in some schools, but you know what really stands out to me? Back then, there was a comparatively small amount of research available. Today, every concern that was presented in that article, plus plenty more, has been well documented. Saying marijuana is dangerous and really bad for people is no longer a controversial point for open-minded people that research the subject. Just consider this…
1) Marijuana is much more addictive than advertised: Most people seem to believe that weed is not an addictive substance – and that’s true for an awful lot of people that use it. However, there’s a subset of users, almost 17% of them below 18, that find it to be extremely addictive. When you use marijuana, it is possible that you will still be using it years or even decades later, whether you like it or not:
Contrary to popular belief, marijuana is addictive. Research shows that:
1-in-6 people who start using the drug before the age of 18 can become addicted.
1-in-10 adults who use the drug can become addicted.
Over the past few decades, the amount of THC in marijuana has steadily climbed; today's marijuana has three times the concentration of THC compared to 25 years ago. The higher the THC amount, the stronger the effects on the brain—likely contributing to increased rates of marijuana-related emergency room visits. While there is no research yet on how higher potency affects the long-term risks of marijuana use, more THC is likely to lead to higher rates of dependency and addiction.
Anything that addictive is a problem because even if it is doing real damage, people have enormous difficulty quitting. Legalization is just creating a new generation of addicts.
2) It does permanent damage to your brain: There haven’t been enough studies to confirm it one way or the other, but there is at least one study out there that suggests heavy marijuana usage among adolescents can lead to a PERMANENT IQ loss of up to 8 points:
Yes. Marijuana use that starts in adolescence can lower your IQ score and permanently erase up to eight IQ points — even if you stop using.
Maybe you’re saying, “There aren’t enough studies to confirm that” or “I’m not an adolescent so I have nothing to worry about,” but do you really think something that can have that much of an impact on your brain isn’t doing damage in other ways? It’s wishful thinking:
“A recent meta-analysis of neuroimaging studies demonstrated that chronic cannabis users have deficits in the prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain that inhibits impulsive behavior,” according to a recent Canadian study. Marijuana is widely used as an intoxicant in adolescence and ”teens who engage in heavy marijuana use often show disadvantages in neurocognitive performance, macrostructural and microstructural brain development, and alterations in brain functioning,” according to the National Institutes for Health (NIH). Unlike adults, the teen brain is actively developing and often will not be fully developed until the mid-20s. Marijuana use during this period may harm the developing teen brain. In one study, adolescents who smoked pot as early as 14 did worse by 20 on some cognitive tests and dropped out of school at a higher rate than non-smokers. “In general, those who started early already had poor short-term memory and poor working memory (that is, the ability to store information such as a phone number long enough to use it or follow an instruction shortly after it was given),” according to study notes.
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3) It may be as bad for you as smoking: Everyone knows cigarettes are bad for your lungs. It’s also well known that first responders and survivors of 9/11 had an increased chance of getting cancer from even the relatively brief exposure they had to the dust in the air and burning chemicals and materials they breathed in. Does anyone really think they can regularly smoke marijuana without doing damage to their lungs? Really?
Like tobacco smoke, marijuana smoke is an irritant to the throat and lungs and can cause a heavy cough during use. It also contains levels of volatile chemicals and tar that are similar to tobacco smoke, raising concerns about risk for cancer and lung disease.
Marijuana smoking is associated with large airway inflammation, increased airway resistance, and lung hyperinflation, and those who smoke marijuana regularly report more symptoms of chronic bronchitis than those who do not smoke. One study found that people who frequently smoke marijuana had more outpatient medical visits for respiratory problems than those who do not smoke. ...Smoking marijuana may also reduce the respiratory system’s immune response, increasing the likelihood of the person acquiring respiratory infections, including pneumonia.
...Whether smoking marijuana causes lung cancer, as cigarette smoking does, remains an open question. Marijuana smoke contains carcinogenic combustion products, including about 50% more benzopyrene and 75% more benzanthracene (and more phenols, vinyl chlorides, nitrosamines, reactive oxygen species) than cigarette smoke. Because of how it is typically smoked (deeper inhale, held for longer), marijuana smoking leads to four times the deposition of tar compared to cigarette smoking. However, while a few small, uncontrolled studies have suggested that heavy, regular marijuana smoking could increase risk for respiratory cancers, well-designed population studies have failed to find an increased risk of lung cancer associated with marijuana use.
...Additionally, the fact that many people use both marijuana and tobacco makes determining marijuana’s precise contribution to lung cancer risk, if any, difficult to establish.
There’s no question that marijuana is bad for your lungs and respiratory health, but the unfortunate reality is that there just aren’t enough studies to definitively say whether it’s better or worse for you than smoking. That being said, common sense suggests that something you inhale into your lungs that increases your risk of chronic bronchitis and respiratory cancers in some studies is going to turn out to be very bad for you once all the data is in.
4) It can lead to serious mental health problems: While it’s not a surprise that a drug that can damage your brain can cause mental health problems, this has to be a bigger number than most people would expect:
“Like tobacco, one cannot “overdose and die” from marijuana, but it is possible to suffer acute panic attacks and other major short-term health risks from smoking or eating marijuana (that is why almost 400,000 emergency room admissions a year are related to marijuana).”
Although panic attacks aren’t exactly a picnic, you could do a lot worse when it comes to your mental health, right? Well, how about this?
“We’re now counting 37 cannabis-related diagnoses a day,” Dr. Roneet Lev, an addiction medicine doctor at Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego, said about her emergency department. “It’s been steadily increasing over the years. When I started in the 1990s, there was no such thing. Now I see 1 to 2 cases per shift. The most common symptom is psychosis.” “We probably see 20 THC-induced psychoses for every amphetamine-induced psychosis,” said Ben Cort, who runs a drug and alcohol treatment center in Colorado. One study showed an increase of 24% in cases of psychoses in emergency departments in Colorado in the five years following marijuana’s legalization in that state in 2012.
… “One clinical study showed that a moderate dose of pure THC causes psychotic symptoms in about 40% of people who lack a family history of psychosis. If you’re a casual user and your dosage is mild, that likely just means a touch of paranoia,” said neuroscientist Christine Miller, an expert on psychotic disorders.
Thirty-five percent of people who have experienced such symptoms, however, will go on to experience a full psychotic break, according to another study, if they continue their high-risk environmental exposure by continuing to use cannabis.
Maybe it’s just me but avoiding things that can cause PSYCHOSIS and “A FULL PSYCHOTIC BREAK” seems wise. Of course, that’s far from the only mental health problem caused by marijuana:
Even more seriously, marijuana use is strongly associated with stunted emotional development. In particular, females who smoke marijuana show a great vulnerability to a heightened risk of anxiety attacks and depression. According to a study published in the British Medical Journal, daily use among adolescent girls is associated with a fivefold increase in the risk of depression and anxiety. Moreover, youth who begin smoking marijuana at an earlier age are more likely to have an impaired ability to experience normal emotional responses. The link between marijuana use and mental health extends beyond anxiety and depression. Marijuana users have a six times higher risk of schizophrenia and are significantly more likely to develop other psychotic illnesses.
Depression and anxiety are bad enough, but SCHIZOPHRENIA? Why does our society want to sanction the use of a drug that increases people’s risk of schizophrenia and “other psychotic illnesses?” Because the much less potent pot that people used in the sixties wasn’t as dangerous? Well, it’s not the sixties anymore.
5) It ruins lives: To be perfectly fair, you could make the argument that marijuana is only CORRELATED with ruined lives. So maybe people that headed towards bad outcomes gravitate towards marijuana as opposed to the marijuana causing it directly, but there’s no doubt that marijuana and failure go together like peanut butter and jelly:
Research has shown that marijuana’s negative effects on attention, memory, and learning can last for days or weeks after the acute effects of the drug wear off, depending on the person’s history with the drug. Consequently, someone who smokes marijuana daily may be functioning at a reduced intellectual level most or all of the time. Considerable evidence suggests that students who smoke marijuana have poorer educational outcomes than their nonsmoking peers. For example, a review of 48 relevant studies found marijuana use to be associated with reduced educational attainment (i.e., reduced chances of graduating). A recent analysis using data from three large studies in Australia and New Zealand found that adolescents who used marijuana regularly were significantly less likely than their non-using peers to finish high school or obtain a degree. They also had a much higher chance of developing dependence, using other drugs, and attempting suicide. Several studies have also linked heavy marijuana use to lower income, greater welfare dependence, unemployment, criminal behavior, and lower life satisfaction. ...Studies have also suggested specific links between marijuana use and adverse consequences in the workplace, such as increased risk for injury or accidents. One study among postal workers found that employees who tested positive for marijuana on a pre-employment urine drug test had 55% more industrial accidents, 85% more injuries, and 75% greater absenteeism compared with those who tested negative for marijuana use.
Read that paragraph again and tell me why we want more of that in our society. Better question – why would anyone want more of that in their own lives?
America hasn’t put any real thought into whether it’s good for the country to legalize marijuana, but we need to start taking this issue seriously before it’s too late. As I wrote in 2014:
It’s bad enough that we already lose so many Americans to cigarettes, alcoholism, and drunken driving. Do we really want to endorse the loss of millions more potentially productive Americans via marijuana? Do we move on from there to crack, heroin, or meth (Note: Oregon has gone this route since then and it has been a disaster)… Some people would say, “If they want to do it, great, then it’s no business of ours.” But you can also bet that those same people will be complaining about all the junkies and welfare cases that will be created by the policy they endorsed. So, ask yourself a few key questions. Is legalizing marijuana going to make this a better country or a worse one? Would you want to live in a neighborhood filled with people who regularly smoke marijuana? Would you want your kids regularly smoking pot? Now is the time to think about it because although it’s easy to thoughtlessly legalize a drug like marijuana when things go predictably wrong down the road, it will be a lot harder to put the genie back in the bottle than people seem to think.