Washington and Colorado have legalized marijuana for recreational sale and consumption, raising the stakes even higher… we are seeing legislators seriously wondering why they are not in on this hottest new government revenue trend: taxing the production, distribution and sale of marijuana to their citizens, and hopefully attracting devoted pot-smokers to their state for marijuana tourism. Yes, you read that right. State leaders are seeing this as a way to promote business in their states by attracting people who are so dedicated to smoking pot that they would travel to their state apparently to stay and spend money on a pot-smoker’s get-away… lends new meaning to the idea of taking a trip to the Colorado Rockies.
As a successful non-profit executive having worked in field of education and reform of incarcerated persons and more recently in the hands-on rehabilitation of drug addicts, I can tell you there are many scientific reasons against legalizing marijuana. Each of these reasons whether biological, mental or social/moral in nature cry out against this cascading legalization of marijuana that we see today.
As someone who has talked with thousands of marijuana users (now tragically transformed into addicts, inmates and afflicted) and as a mother who takes my parenting of my own children seriously, I would like to talk to you about the single most important reason why marijuana should not be legalized – our children and those future children, yet unborn. Curiously (yet to the credit of the powerful lobby working successfully in favor of legalization) our kids and the unborn have been largely neglected in the nation-wide debate over marijuana.
Any discussion of marijuana should begin with a few essential facts.
Marijuana is a Schedule 1 substance which means it has high risk for abuse, no known medical benefit and has not been proven safe. Schedule 1 is the product of a joint effort by the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Food and Drug Administration and in the world of abuse it includes such big hitters as heroin, LSD and Ecstasy.
Make no mistake about it, marijuana is a mind altering drug which is addicting and can, and in many cases does, lead to harder, deadly drug use resulting in completely ruined or criminal lives. It is essential to understand that pot smoking started while one is younger has been shown to greatly increase the likelihood that the user will become a multiple drug user and addict. Just do an online search on effects of marijuana or marijuana addiction and you’ll see a studies and data documenting the adverse and addictive effects that go on for pages.
So, then, why do adults and kids use it? The answer is simple and is critical to thinking correctly about the legalization debate: To get high.
Getting high can mean a lot of things to different people but if you made a list of all the possible elements that are part of being “high” there are a few things you WON’Tfind on it, no matter how much marijuana is consumed by those making the list:
- Clarity of thought, logical reasoning and problem solving
- Ability to see and predict consequences
- Ability to be accountable
- Improved reaction time
- Remembering faster and with more accuracy
- Developing hand-eye coordination with rapid movement
- Accurate rendering of what one has perceived through sight, sound, touch and smell.
- Drive or ambition to do better not only for self but for others
The marijuana user has one reaction to such a list: “That list is a bummer, man!” Thus, it’s no wonder that you don’t find advocates of legalizing marijuana promoting that it will help our children who smoke it increase their achievement in school or, more importantly, prepare them for the realities of a life as an adult or future parent. Nor will you find credible educators in America advocating its use in schools or at home for their students.
Yet marijuana use among all youth groups – children, teens, and young adults – is on the rise. One reason for this is the rapidly changing attitude among young people that marijuana is neither harmful physically or mentally. This rapidly changing attitude is coincident with the legalization campaigns being run by marijuana advocates. If legalized marijuana is only for those who are of a minimum age then why are the Seattle Public Schools seeing a meteoric rise in marijuana use in their system for students as young as 12 years old?
Common sense tells us that which gets one high is not going to mix well with education, going to school, and aspiring to higher personal achievement.
Let’s look more closely at the effects of marijuana. When smoked, it begins to effect users almost immediately and can last for one to three hours.
Short term effects include:
Distorted perception and this includes perception of sights, sounds, time sense and touch.
Loss of coordination, slowed reaction time, difficulty thinking or remembering, increased heart rate and reduced blood pressure.
Imagine the difficulty of a student in high school or college (let alone middle school) learning or retaining any knowledge under those physical and mental challenges.
The active ingredient in marijuana is THC and this chemical stores in the body for long periods. Its action is to directly affect receptors in the brain. That it stores for long periods is why some marijuana users test positive for the drug even several weeks after they have last used the drug. Long term use of marijuana includes memory loss, decreased cognitive thinking and problem solving, lowered IQ, depression, anxiety and there is a new study that points to long term marijuana use resulting in schizophrenia as well as much evidence of it being a cause of depressive and paranoid thoughts.
That’s some bad stuff for an adult – but have we really looked at doing this to children? The marijuana debate is no minor issue. Even though all the discussion revolves around either adult recreational or medical use, the facts are that marijuana is primarily a youth issue. By way of example: 80% of marijuana use falls in the 12-26 year old age group. Have I mentioned yet that the brain is still developing up to age 25 years old? Why do you think it is you have to be 25 years old to rent a car? They obviously knew something.
Now this age group is made up of our middle school, high school and college students. Marijuana use has proven lowered grades, poor academic achievement, lack of motivation for future and career goals, more time partying and less time studying. Marijuana is being used as an escape from reality, the stresses of school, growing up and responsible achievement for oneself and for the society of which every person is a member. These are the very skills our youth should be learning and strengthening – such things as how to address and solve problems, overcome stress, tackle a project and complete it with success. We count on the youth of today having these qualities and skills since they are our future.
If adults and parents are saying yes to marijuana, why would we expect our children to say no?
Some of the questions I asked myself when tackling how to approach educating my children on marijuana were:
What is the number one used illicit drug in the United States? – Marijuana.
Will marijuana make my child smarter?
Will it improve any of the innate wonderful abilities my child already possesses?
The answer to every one of those questions is NO.
So what does it do? It gets you high and for a small percentage of terminally ill patients, it might improve quality of life for a time. Oxycodone was designed for the same purpose and look where that got us – a major prescription pill epidemic.
Children should be learning how to process emotions, think in new combinations in order to answer questions and solve problems, they should be expanding their creative thinking and imagination, interacting with others and strengthening interpersonal communication and relationships. All of the things that marijuana inhibits.
By reducing the perception of harm and increasing accessibility of marijuana, the use of it will be increased. As adults, parents, healthcare professionals and leaders in our society, let’s not do that.
For all our children, students, young adults – that group we call and count on to lead us into the future – let’s keep their passion, their imagination, their energy, aptitude and creative ability intact. Let’s help them succeed and not mess with the qualities that make our geniuses and leaders.
Executive Director of Suncoast Rehab Center