Friday, May 4, 2018

Do You Care if Pot is Legalized?

Do you think marijuana should be legalized - why or why not?

This is a tough question with many variables.  I was asked that question for this month's Secret Subject Swap and I have mixed feelings.  From a purely personal standpoint I vacillate between "no" and "I don't care."  Many of my friends have used or are using marijuana for medicinal purposes, and I applaud the health professionals who have helped them realize improvements especially in the area of pain control.

However, when someone pushing for legalization uses words like "cure" and "harmless" my antenna goes up.  Drugs rarely, if ever, are a cure.  And in all my years as a health coach, I have never heard of a harmless drug.  They all have side effects. Even coffee! I find a lot of discrepancies in their arguments.

I agree with those who are pushing for legalization that it is not a gateway drug.  I know people who have used pot for many years and have never used or desired any other drugs.  Often, they are against prescription drugs as well.  

If it was legalized I would prefer to see it taken in a form other than smoking it.  Some will argue that smoking it will not affect the lungs but there is little evidence to confirm that.

I recently read a study by the American Public Health Association showing that since Colorado has legalized recreational cannabis, the percentage of opioid-related deaths has declined by 6.5%.  I believe that cannabis could be a good alternative and a safer one.

Another argument for legalization is that jobs in the cannabis industry will increase significantly and bring a new source of revenue for the states and possibly the Federal government.  In Colorado, nearly $200 million in tax revenue was collected in 2016 on just over $1.3 billion in legal sales.

On the downside, I have read many university-run studies showing it to be dangerous.  For instance, a study published by Northwestern University in the journal Hippocampus showed, through MRIs, an oddly shaped hippocampus in adolescents who had used marijuana heavily at ages 16 - 17 for a period of three years.  The hippocampus is the region of the brain most responsible for short and long-term memory.    Not surprisingly, there was also an average long-term memory test score reduction of 18% for heavy users compared with those who had not used marijuana before.

My concern is that younger adults could see their brains adversely affected if they use marijuana and an even greater concern that not enough is known about the long-term impacts on the brain, lungs, and other critical organs to legalize.

How will law enforcement define excess when driving under the 'influence.'  If you are under a blood-alcohol content of 0.08% you may or may not be arrested for driving impaired.  But if it is over 0.08%, you are going to get that ride downtown.  When it comes to marijuana, there are not cut and dried parameters.  It would make enforcement of any corresponding law a nightmare.  

There are many studies showing solid evidence that marijuana adversely affects one's ability to drive, although it also shows that it is 'less' dangerous than being impaired by alcohol.  THC can stay in the bloodstream for days or weeks, meaning getting an accurate reading of impairment would be next to impossible.  

I believe that the general population is pro-legalization for a variety of reasons.  Personally, I have seen people who I love deeply negatively affected by long-term use of cannabis.  Yet, this has little to do with whether or not to legalize it.  I have also seen those close to me die of alcohol poisoning, smoking cigarettes or eating too much sugar.

One of the best arguments I have heard promoting the legalization of pot is that the first amendment to the US Constitution says that everyone has the right to the pursuit of happiness.  If someone can only be happy when they are using marijuana, then it is their constitutional right to use.

What do you think?  Pro or con?  Why?

My blogger friend who posted this question is Southern Belle Charm.  For other interesting subjects, have a look around at this month's contributing bloggers:

Baking In A Tornado
The Lieber Family Blog
The Bergham Chronicles
Southern Belle Charm
The Blogging 911
Cognitive Script
Part-Time Working Hockey Mom
My Brand of Crazy


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