By: Mallory Stufsky, Substance Abuse Navigator
With the topic of legalizing marijuana increasing in popularity, controversy regarding safety and other public health concerns come into question. Research from an October 2018 poll by the Pew Research Center found that 62 percent of Americans support marijuana legalization.
Timothy Hsiao, a professor of humanities and philosophy at Grantham University recently wrote in The Federalist and noted that there are seven "arguments for legalizing marijuana that no one should believe."
Hsiao reports that many people have come to believe that "marijuana is harmless," despite well-established facts about the negative healthy consequences from using marijuana, specifically in regard to mental health.
A 2017 study completed by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that "there is substantial evidence of a statistical association between cannabis use and the development of schizophrenia or other psychoses, with the highest risk among the most frequent users." While this list is not exhaustive, there are indicators that marijuana use is linked with other mental health conditions such as mood disorders, suicidal ideation, damage to the brain, and negative impact on memory.
Another layer of confusion is added with the term, "medical marijuana," due to the misconception that the marijuana plant itself is medicinal. In reality, the cannabinoids found within the plant, such as THC and CBD are the medicinal properties that can help with ailments such nausea, pain, and MS.
A second argument that Hsiao urges people not to believe is that "marijuana legalization is pro-liberty." Hsiao writes, "marijuana uses, attacks, degrades, and impairs the very thing that allows us to act freely: our brains." While under the use of any mind-altering substance, we cannot and are not be in control of ourselves and sound decision making.
Pro-marijuana legalizers believe that the tax revenue generated by legalization will increase tax revenue, although studies have shown that any tax revenue will be outweigh by social costs, such as health-care, education, impaired driving, court costs, etc. It has also been found that legalization will cost more tax dollars than it generates, similar to alcohol – which causes more crimes than all other drugs combined.
There is another misconception that "the alcohol prohibition failed," therefore so will the weed prohibition. Reports have shown that the alcohol prohibition actually reduced per capita consumption of alcohol by about 30-50 percent. Arrests for drunk and disorderly conduct, admissions to state hospitals for alcohol induced psychosis, and Cirrhosis deaths also declined.
Those in favor of legalizing marijuana also believe that the legalization of pot will reduce mass incarceration. Hsiao indicates that, "incarceration for mere possession [of marijuana] alone is exceedingly rare. Most inmates who are incarcerated for marijuana-related offenses find themselves there because of higher-level offenses, such as trafficking." Even with a release for low-level offenses for marijuana, we would hardly see changes in the prison population.
Hsiao discusses the myth that "legalization is necessary to stop police overreach." Those in favor of legalization feel that legalizing marijuana will reduce and minimize police raids, confiscations, and other law enforcement actions taken against drugs. What Hsiao points out is that a majority of these police departments are not going out of their way to search out drug users, but these substance users are stopped and arrested for other crimes, either using or being in possession of substances at the same time.
Hsiao's last argument is that legalizing marijuana may make the opioid crisis worse, not better. As mentioned, marijuana use increases the risk for other mental health concerns, including substance use disorder due to increased tolerance and higher likelihood to use marijuana along other substances, such as opioids.
Photo by Sam Doucette on Unsplash