marijuanaIt seems now virtually guaranteed that marijuana will become legalized throughout the country. Public opinion has changed in its favor, and most people think it’s harmless, no big deal, and so on. With over a dozen states already having legalized marijuana in some form, more local interest groups are now taking the initiative to start their own legalization campaigns. This will only spread.

Thus far, the marijuana debate has primarily focused on an adult’s right to choose his own entertainment, and hasn’t given much attention to the effects this will have on our children, and on their children after that.

Legalization is supposed to put marijuana on par with alcohol and tobacco—and we all know how much teens respect the legal boundaries forbidding them from those substances. It’s safe to assume that with marijuana legalized it will become more readily available and teens will get their hands on it more. The only real question is how this will affect them.


Since cigarettes and marijuana will both be substances smoked by consenting adults, we can extrapolate a bit of marijuana’s future by looking at how cigarettes have done.

Cigarettes were once considered harmless. With more study they have now been revealed to be the source of many cancers and other physical ailments, and the CDC now calls them “the single most preventable cause of disease, disability, and death” in the United States. Over 8.5 million Americans have serious illnesses caused by smoking, and yet 46.6 million Americans continue to smoke. As a nation, we have proven time and again that we don’t keep our own best interests at heart when it comes to caring for ourselves and our health.

While it has been difficult to study marijuana fully due to its illegality, some research has been done. Marijuana has grown in strength since its early days, with drugs on the market now containing up to five times the THC (the active ingredient) as they did in the 1990s. Perhaps that’s why studies are now turning up with evidence that marijuana does influence people in unexpected, unhealthy ways.

According to studies done by the American Psychological Association, consistent marijuana use can cause young people to lose an average of 6 IQ points. A study done in New Zealand showed users losing 8 IQ points.

Brain imaging studies have shown that in adolescents, regular use leads to impaired executive function, which doesn’t recover even after they quit smoking marijuana. People who only smoke marijuana after reaching adulthood don’t suffer this effect, because it has to do with the fact that adolescents’ brains are still developing. One might think that having an 18-year-old age limit on marijuana would protect us from this result, but recent data has shown that human brains don’t stop developing until the mid-20s.

Aside from this study, another has revealed that even using marijuana just once a week can result in addiction and “neurocognitive damage” (meaning the person is harmed in his ability to think) in all users, but –again– especially in young people.


Some marijuana advocates say that legalizing it will lessen the demand, since it won’t have the ‘cool’ factor of being illicit. However, usage data from Colorado disproves this. Their usage rates among adults 18 and older have risen about 3% in the last 3 years, meaning that 19% of Coloradans now use marijuana. This is well above the national average of 12%. Washington state, which also legalized marijuana for medical purposes, reports a similar 3% increase, with 18% of their adults now using marijuana.

The bigger picture is that we are inviting our future generations to knowingly cause themselves cognitive damage as a form of recreation. Now that marijuana is legal, further studies will be done on it and will hopefully reveal either how to proceed safely, or that it should not have been legalized in the first place.

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