The West Virginia Legislature has been actively considering legalization of recreational marijuana for adults over the age of 21.
I’ve been on the fence about this issue so I have been researching the pros and cons.
The arguments for legalization are persuasive although mostly conjecture.
Proponents say it will stop the “black market” and therefore uncontrolled dealers and crime.
The result would be less time spent prosecuting illegal growing, selling and possession of marijuana, freeing up law enforcement and the court system to concentrate on other crimes.
It would decrease the financial burden of imprisoning offenders of current laws.
Marijuana sales would be taxed which would lead to more money in the state’s treasury. Legalization could increase jobs in agriculture, processing and retail sales. And it is thought to be a victimless crime and less harmful than alcohol and cigarettes which are legal.
On the con side, once a substance is legal, adults and children perceive it to be relatively low risk and children have easier access to it. The marijuana of today is on average 13 times stronger than what was widely available in the 1970s.
Studies have shown that regular use of marijuana can decrease IQ scores by up to nine points. The smoke is a respiratory tract irritant. Mental health problems like addiction, depression and psychosis have been associated with heavy use.
Withdrawal symptoms include anxiety and irritability.
Slowed reaction time increases motor vehicular accidents and occupational injuries.
A study of brain MRIs comparing non-users to long-term users show changes in the memory section of the brain in teenagers who have a three-year history of marijuana use.
At the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Society for Neurosciences in San Diego, California, data were presented that indicated exposure to marijuana in utero and during teen years can affect the brain in several ways.
It can disrupt communication between different parts of the brain, interfere with learning and memory, and disrupt the levels of chemical messengers between nerve cells. Enforcement of driving under the influence laws is difficult because there is no established level of tetrahydrocanabidiol (THC) that indicates a driver is impaired. THC can stay in the blood stream and fat cells for days or weeks.
After studying the issue, I find myself off the fence and deciding we should not legalize marijuana for recreational use.
Let’s wait to see what happens in other states where it is legal.
Will data show that use in children and young adults increases due to the increased availability and perceived harmlessness?
Will the average IQ decrease in this population?
Will there be an increase in use of other substances?
Will the tax money received just be spent on the bureaucracy needed to regulate it?
This issue requires serious study.
Check out “Chronic State” VIMEO for this debate happening in Idaho.
What do you think?
Pat Browning, D. O.