Medical marijuana is having negative effects on America’s youth. While medical use of the drug may have its benefits, precautions need to be taken to protect children from access and influence.
Pot isn’t all bad; it just shouldn’t be promoted to minors. Once a person reaches adulthood, they can do whatever they want. Even regular users of marijuana, like Colorado’s Todd Mitchem, recognize that children shouldn’t be exposed to recreational use of the drug.
In an article published by The Cannabist, a marijuana oriented publication, Mitchem said that his children are well educated on marijuana.
Mitchem runs a dating app for pot users called High Life, and his children are very curious about marijuana in general. They’re not, however, allowed to even sample the pot brownies in the fridge. Why? Because, as Mitchem says, “It’s bad for their developing brains.”
Children are impressionable. As marijuana becomes a bigger part of mainstream media, youth across the country are starting to draw unsafe conclusions. Their exposure to marijuana should be limited to ensure they don’t make bad choices.
A study conducted by the Research and Development Corporation, a global research foundation, discovered that teens exposed to medical marijuana advertisements are more inclined to illegal use of the drug.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse, a government run activism and research group, reported that marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States.
Twenty states have decriminalized marijuana. According to Keith Stroup, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, decriminalization means that first-time offenders found with small amounts of marijuana would be given a citation and fined, but wouldn’t have a criminal record or serve time.
The impacts of recreational usage have become concerns for healthcare workers across the country. The American College of Pediatricians stated that call rates for accidental pediatric marijuana ingestion increased nearly 11.5 percent per year in states that decriminalized marijuana between 2005 and 2011. But, accidental ingestion isn’t the only problem facing America’s youth.
According to a study published by the National Institute for Biotechnology Information, a branch of the US National Library of Medicine, between 70-72 percent of people age 12 to 17 who enter drug treat- ment programs do so primarily because of marijuana addiction. These teenagers also reported being exposed to the usage of crack cocaine, heroin or codeine cough syrup.
Marijuana was labeled a gateway drug, or a drug that made users more open to other illegal drugs. Teen Challenge USA, a national drug and alcohol rehabilitation group, reported all of these findings in their patients.
“Teen Challenge centers repeatedly see marijuana as a gateway drug in many of their students’ lives,” said Patty Baker, a Teen Challenge staff member.
But, if that wasn’t bad enough, marijuana use can make high school even harder than it already is. Maybe anti- drug campaigns should use report cards as a motivator to not abuse illegal substances.
The New England Journal of Medicine reported in a 2014 study titled, “Adverse Health Effects of Marijuana Use,” that adolescents who use marijuana impair their cognitive development, develop breathing disorders and heighten their risk for episodes associated with mental illnesses, like schizophrenia. They explained that students have a harder time in their studies if they illicitly use marijuana.
According to the same study, these young people are at an increased risk for health problems because their brains and bodies haven’t finished developing. Essentially, they make the nightmare of puberty even worse. These findings were also reflected in a 2012 study on adult users conducted by the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. The study, titled “Persistent cannabis users show neuropsychological decline from childhood to mid-life,” found that patients who began recreational use of marijuana at a young age lost, on average, 8 IQ points between the ages of 13-38.
The lost mental abilities didn’t return when these patients quit later in life. Critical thinking abilities, learning abilities, memory and brain connectivity were all negatively impacted.
Thankfully, the solution is simple. Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana advocacy group, stated that they “don’t want people to think of medical marijuana more than it should be thought of,” and expressed support of limiting the access that America’s impressionable youth have to the media hype around marijuana.
Ford is a speech and debate alumna and coach for a local speech and debate team. She is also way more fun than this article would insinuate.