It goes by many names — cannabis, grass, pot, bong, burnie, weed, dope, hay and herb are just a few. Side effects include altered sense of time, brighter colors, short-term memory loss, slower reaction time, difficulty thinking, breathing problems, paranoia and hallucinations. While most of the country is busy protesting or celebrating the results of the presidential election, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada have legalized the recreational use of marijuana.
This is concerning for many reasons. Marijuana can affect brain development and have serious long-term and short-term side effects.
It is true that since Colorado legalized pot for recreational use the amount of users under the age of 18 has not increased, and it brought in a billion dollars for the state in tax revenue. Smoking pot is a personal decision, but the effects of marijuana cannot be ignored.
According to the National Institute on On Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the use of marijuana negatively affects brain development and even causes users to drop IQ points. The human brain is still developing in one’s 20s. The age group with the highest usage of recreational marijuana is 18-25 years old. A report of the effects of marijuana legalization published by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (RMIDTA), a government-run organization, showed that one third of 18-25 year olds in Colorado admitted to smoking pot in the last 30 days, which is a five percent increase from before pot was legalized 2012. Colorado has gone from fourth to first in the list of states with highest percentage of marijuana use. The frequency of use is also increasing, three users out of every 10 use once a day. In 1990, it was one out of 10. Frequency is also highest among poorer users.
Other long-term side effects for those who regularly indulge in pot is a higher susceptibility for lung infections and the development of a continual cough. Marijuana can also bring out mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, in susceptible users, according to the DEA. Although the “high” may feel good, marijuana is connected to a decrease in motivation, discontent and depression. Both motivation and optimism are important for success, which is why marijuana use in college students increases their likeliness to drop out or not attend class.
The short-term side effects are just as troubling. Marijuana is considered a hallucinogen, a drug that can cause, at high doses, users to experience things that are not actually happening. It also decreases skills such as body movement, problem solving and short-term memory. While some may compare weed to tobacco, marijuana’s short-term side effects are much more concerning and provides a heightened risk to those around users, especially if they get behind the wheel.
As we scorn at the use of tobacco, we seem to be finding a new fix in marijuana. It may bring in a huge tax revenue, but we should not look past the health and safety issues of recreational use. It can be argued that alcohol has similarly bad effects, but that is no reason to endorse marijuana. While it may not seem like a issue now, with the long-term and short-term side effects and the number of users and frequency of usage increasing, the recreational use of marijuana definitely has the potential to develop into a problem. It is your choice whether you use marijuana. However, I feel the negative impacts outweigh the positive.
Article by staff member Katie Dulohery
Photo courtesy of Interstate Studios