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Marijuana Isn’t as Safe as Advocates Claim

An article in the Camp Verde Bugle earlier this month from County Attorney Sheila Polk makes a strong case against fully legalizing marijuana. In it, she outlines some of the harms the drug can cause, including the danger of drug dependence:

“Marijuana dependence is part of this equation; in fact, marijuana dependence in this country is twice as prevalent as any other illicit psychoactive drug. For the year 2011, 4.2 million Americans suffered from marijuana abuse or dependence. That's almost two thirds the population of the state of Arizona.”

This aspect of marijuana is often overlooked or pushed aside by comparing it to alcohol addiction. The idea seems to be that being “safer than alcohol” is equivalent to “safe.” In truth, any comparison to alcohol ought to be understood as comparing a legal addiction with all the associated problems to adding another addictive substance into the mix. Does anyone really believe alcohol consumption will fall off if marijuana is legalized? And if not, why would we want to approve an additional danger?

The harm to young people is also well understood. Advocates of legalization say they’d continue to regulate use in this vulnerable population, but again, it’s hard to believe the situation will improve, since we already try to stomp out marijuana use in young people. Polk tells us: “The National Institute of Drug Abuse warns us that habitual teen marijuana use is linked to a significant decrease in IQ, 7 to 8 points; school drop-out and failure; other drug use; and mental health problems. This cannot be ignored. A loss of 8 IQ points is titanic, dropping a person of average intelligence into the lowest third of the intelligence range.“

And Arizona already has a problem with teen marijuana use. While the rate of regular use among high school seniors nationwide is one in fifteen, in our state it’s three times more common – one in five report using the drug. That’s embarrassing and shameful.


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