Despite recent election results, marijuana shouldn’t be legal

December 6, 2012 — by Carolyn Sun

On Election Day, Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalize the recreational use and sale of marijuana, the most commonly abused illicit drug in the United States. 

On Election Day, Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalize the recreational use and sale of marijuana, the most commonly abused illicit drug in the United States.
These Election Day victories, however, don’t mean that legalizing the drug is a good idea. Marijuana has numerous negative effects on users’ health and social lives and can lead to addiction and compulsive behavior.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), several studies have linked marijuana use to increased rates of anxiety, depression, heart disease, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Smoking the drug can also lead to respiratory problems, such as daily cough and excessive mucus production, and perhaps even lung cancer.

Marijuana is also a gateway drug. According to NIDA, high school students who have used marijuana have a higher risk of trying other “harder” illicit drugs. Using marijuana puts smokers in contact with drug dealers, who may urge them to try other drugs, such as cocaine, heroin and meth.

Now that voters have legalized marijuana in two states, more people will think that using the drug recreationally is acceptable. More teens will begin to smoke marijuana, which was already a trend even before Election Day.

Marijuana use has been steadily increasing among high school students, according to NIDA. In 2006, 5 percent of 12th graders reported using marijuana daily, compared to more than 6 percent in 2011.
NIDA says that using marijuana potentially leads to addiction, which has harmful effects on abusers’ cognitive abilities, social lives and functioning at work.

Teen users have a 9 percent higher chance of becoming addicted, and, according to CNN, performing poorly in school. Adolescent smokers also increase their risk of exhibiting anti-social behavior as an adult.

CNN reports that because their brains are still developing, teen users also risk long-term brain damage and up to an eight-point decline in IQ. Persisting into adulthood, these side effects are extremely damaging and can harm a person’s long-term career prospects, job performance and income.

Although Colorado and Washington attempts to avoid this by legalizing marijuana for only those over the age of 21, younger users will still find ways to attain the drug. They smoked marijuana even when it was illicit, and legalizing the drug only facilitates their possession of it. Likewise, the legal drinking age prohibits minors from consuming alcohol, but teens still manage to dodge it.

Because legalizing marijuana allows states to tax it, supporters of marijuana argue that the tax helps the United State’s economy. However, they may not be correct. Even though the United States annually collects $40 billion for alcohol and tobacco use, the tax revenue makes up only about a tenth of medical costs that stem from premature illness, accidents and death, according to CNN.

According to Princeton University, marijuana has 50 percent more carcinogens than tobacco, and since joints do not have filters, marijuana users take in all of those cancer-causing chemicals. Also, marijuana smokers inhale more deeply and hold the harmful smoke in their lungs longer than tobacco smokers.

Marijuana may be more damaging than cigarettes, leading to more health costs. While taxing marijuana would generate some tax revenue, it would not be nearly enough to help balance states’ budgets.
There is also the issue that marijuana is against the federal law, which prohibits the drug. In 2011 and 2012, federal officials cracked down on California and Montana, where regulation of medical marijuana had become extremely lax.

Although it may no longer be illicit in Washington and Colorado for adults to smoke marijuana, voters in other states should think long and hard before enacting similar laws.