When marijuana is available legally for patients with medical conditions there can be a number of benefits if certain conditions apply: If the pharmaceutical drug options to relieve the patient’s symptoms carry more risks than marijuana; if the marijuana offers more therapeutic benefits than the pharmaceutical drugs and if the profits from marijuana sales are channelled into constructive enterprises that will benefit society as a whole.
However, legalising marijuana for recreational use is a whole different concept and one that has many people worried. The parties that are lobbying to legalise marijuana claim that legalisation will supposedly take the manufacturing and sale of marijuana out of the hands of drug addicts, drug cartels and other clandestine factions and into the domain of regulated manufacturers and retailers. Apparently, this will allow the taxes from sales to be directed into the public health and education systems, which would be far better than the current situation where only drug dealers benefit financially.
But there are several downsides to legalising marijuana for recreational purposes. One of the main issues is that legalisation sends out a message to impressionable adolescents that marijuana is perfectly acceptable. The other issue is that it will become far easier for minors to purchase marijuana even though it will supposedly only be available to those over 21 yo. Just like alcohol, teens can always find older siblings or friends to buy weed online for them but having said that, it’s already fairly easy for young people to purchase marijuana, whether it’s legally acquired or not.
So What’s Wrong With Marijuana?
Besides the statistics indicating that marijuana is a gateway drug for heavier drugs, marijuana itself can be very damaging to both physical and mental health. Physically it causes fatigue and increases the risk of heart disease and cancer, particularly lung cancer (if it’s smoked) and cancer of the lymphatic system as well as oral tumours and other forms of cancer. Studies have shown that smoking marijuana is far more carcinogenic than nicotine and most people are well aware of the cancer risk from smoking cigarettes. Neurologically, marijuana is a well-known trigger for mental illnesses such as bipolar and schizophrenia and the damage it can cause to a developing brain can be catastrophic.
In normal brain development, significant changes occur in brain structure and function during the adolescent years and healthy brain function and growth needs to be supported via a healthy diet, adequate sleep and other favourable lifestyle factors. So consider the outcome if the developing brain doesn’t receive the ideal requirements for normal growth and instead is exposed to neurologically-toxic substances such as marijuana (or other drugs).
Research carried out at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in the US showed that adolescents who use cannabis regularly have abnormal changes to their brain structure and the younger the person is when they begin using marijuana, the greater the brain abnormality. Some of the brain damage that has been identified includes changes to the working memory – even two years after stopping the drug.
Furthermore, other research has shown that addiction develops very quickly, particularly in teenagers, and often results in the young person losing their motivation to engage in learning; no longer visualising and working towards their dream career and no longer caring about their health. The long-term risks of marijuana use are well-known such as cancer; mental health conditions and other risk factors – often resulting in regular users becoming walking zombies that are mainly focussed on their drug use and little else. Teenagers that are addicted to cannabis are also more likely to experience feelings of anger or discontent whenever they haven’t had the drug for a while and therefore are at high risk of becoming anti-social and losing their friends.