I left the office of my mayor yesterday to thank him for the wonderful job he did in standing up against the state political establishment wanting to push more taxation on local municipalities. As we talked, the mayor quickly went to the issue of legalized marijuana. Rhode Island is seeking to follow other states in the legalization of pot, and our mayor was fit to be tied. He vowed that he would fight marijuana legalization with every fiber of his being.
Being the farthest thing from a pothead, I still had my reservations. Could not marijuana be legalized and placed under strict FDA regulations so that those who were suffering from horrific diseases could receive relief? The key to me seemed to be, not the legalization, but the regulation of it once it was legalized. My mayor’s concern gave me pause, and I felt it was time for me to do my own research and come to my own conclusions. I believe my mayor is right for several reasons.
First, marijuana is addictive. Dr. Drew Pinsky states, “It would be malpractice to say that cannabis isn’t addictive. Anybody who has experienced it, actually been addicted to it, knows how profound that addiction is. . . The difficult thing about marijuana addiction is some people, even though they’re addicted can do fine with it for many years before they start having difficulty, but eventually the high starts wearing off, people start smoking a lot more to try to get that high back and that’s when they descend into difficulties. . . It is extremely addictive . . . for some people.”
Of the 7.3 million persons aged 12 or older classified with illicit drug addiction or abuse in 2012, 4.3 million persons had marijuana addiction or abuse. Under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug on the basis that is has “a high potential for abuse.” There is a reason marijuana is the most widely used illegal drug in the world. People can’t stop using it once they start. Obviously, the more legal and available marijuana becomes, the more addictions will increase.
Second, marijuana destroys health. Let’s begin with mental health. The main ingredient in marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and this has a powerful effect on the brain. This is what creates “the high” – the bright colors and hallucinations. After this high comes a wave of anxiety, fear, and depression. Memory can be permanently affected. A recent Northwestern University study found that marijuana users have abnormal brain structure and poor memory. Chronic marijuana use leads to brain changes resembling schizophrenia. The American Medical Association warns, “Heavy cannabis use in adolescence causes persistent impairments in neurocognitive performance and IQ, and use is associated with increased rates of anxiety, mood, and psychotic thought disorders.”
In addition to mental health, marijuana affects physical health. Smoking pot causes a 20 to 100 percent increase in a smoker’s heart rate. Some marijuana smokers are five times more likely to have a heart attack after they use it. Pot is not good for the lungs either. One study equates the cancer causing chemicals from the smoking of one joint to the exposure of five cigarettes. And marijuana smokers traditionally have lung problems 20 years earlier than cigarette smokers. Pregnant women who smoke marijuana have increased risk of birth defects, mental abnormalities, and leukemia risks in their babies. It is certainly hard to bless that joint to the nourishment of one’s body.
Marijuana is also injurious to sexual health. Advocates of marijuana often push it as a welcome aphrodisiac. But tests reveal that men who smoke pot can experience impotence as well as infertility. Many studies show a connection between marijuana use and testicular cancer.
These health statistics do not even include the fact that seven percent of all drivers involved in accidents have tested positive for THC. Smoking pot impairs motor skills and increases the risk of automobile accidents. A study in Australia discovered that cannabis intoxication was responsible for 4.3 percent of driver fatalities. Legalization of marijuana will make our roads even more unsafe.
Third, marijuana decimates lives. There has been an 80 percent increase in marijuana use among teenagers since 2008. A study of 129 college students revealed that, among those who smoked pot, critical skills such as attention, memory, and learning were seriously diminished. A study of postal carriers revealed that those who tested positive for marijuana had 55 percent more accidents, 85 percent more injuries, and 75 percent more absenteeism. Pot is responsible for kids flunking out of school, losing their jobs, and destroying their relationships. The legalization of pot will destroy the future of America as marijuana becomes more available to teens and twenty-somethings.
Fourth, marijuana costs taxpayers. Marijuana is the most commonly abused drug in the United States. Those who support its legalization fail to recognize that the greatest costs of marijuana are not related to its prohibition; they are the costs related to marijuana use itself. There is a common misconception that the principle costs of marijuana use are related to the criminal justice system. Therefore, if marijuana is legalized, it will save taxpayers the money of those who are currently incarcerated because of marijuana use. But only one-half of one percent of the people in prison are there for marijuana use.
The encounter with the penal system is merely a stepping ground to treatment centers. More than a third (37%) of treatment admissions into state funded programs were referred through the criminal justice system. Marijuana was identified as the drug of abuse in 57 percent of the persons referred to treatment by the criminal justice system. The more marijuana is legalized, the more taxpayers will have to fit the bill for abuse treatment.
We should not think that legalized marijuana will reduce illegal marijuana. Legalized gambling, for example, has done nothing to reduce illegal gambling in the United States. To the contrary, it has increased it. Legal gambling is taxed and regulated, making it more expensive. Thus, legalized gambling creates an addiction that is fulfilled in illegal ways. We can be sure that legalized marijuana will set the stage for illegal marijuana use in a similar fashion. And tax payers will have to fit the bill for the potheads who cannot afford their own treatment.
If Americans would take a look to the Netherlands, we would see the dangers of legalized marijuana use. The result of Amsterdam’s legalization of marijuana is that the city has become a tourist destination for potheads. Students are showing up for high school high as a kite, causing Mayor Eberhard van der Laan great difficulties. Whatever perceived benefits may come from the legalization of marijuana, the addictive nature of pot, the destructive results on one’s health, the decimation of quality life, and the tremendous cost to taxpayers are sound reasons for fighting against legal acceptance. Regardless of whether marijuana is a gateway drug or not, there are more than enough reasons for rejecting its legalization for such a time as this.