Who’s most at risk with pot?

Published 11:30 pm Friday, May 3, 2013


While observing a drug prevention program to 6th graders in Covington County, I heard a little girl ask the question, “Is marijuana really bad for you? Marijuana is legal in several states. Does that mean that it’s OK to smoke marijuana?” My heart sank, because this push to legalize marijuana is affecting how youth perceive drug use. As the perceived risk goes up, usage goes down, or as the perceived risk goes down, usage goes up. Our children are listening!

Those who are promoting medical marijuana, and legalization, are making their issues resonate with regular America. They re-framed smoking marijuana so that it’s about having compassion for the sick and dying, and developed a “structure of permission” about the acceptability of marijuana. Legalizing drugs was considered terrible, but now it’s the compassionate thing to do. Well-meaning, law-abiding people are voting yes, because they think that marijuana is not harmful. The dangers of marijuana are being ignored.

After 11 states in the U.S. legalized marijuana, we saw the highest rates of marijuana use in history. Allowing medical marijuana increases drug use. States with medical marijuana programs have increased marijuana use among youth that have not been seen in other states. According to HHS (Health & Human Services), states having medical marijuana were also at the top of the list in terms of drug addiction and usage for adolescents age 12-17.

Due to the evidence, is it worth the risk to our kids, society, when usage leads to greater addiction, learning deficits, and a new legal industry relying on addiction for profit?

Only 2 of the 500 components in marijuana help with pain and nausea. For over 20 years, we have had these two components in a pill (Marinol), prescribed by medical doctors and purchased at pharmacies. Why legalize marijuana when the 2 helpful components are already in pill form?

Think of it this way: morphine is to heroin as the components of marijuana are to marijuana. Essentially, morphine is a component of heroin, but people are not prescribed heroin. Doctors prescribe morphine when necessary. There are components in marijuana that are useful in pill form, so one doesn’t need to smoke marijuana to get those other 498 components that don’t reduce pain or nausea.

According to the Colorado State Department of Health, only 2 percent of marijuana users reported cancer, and less than 1 percent reported having HIV Aids as their reason for using cannabis. The majority, 94 percent, reported that their pain was not particularly diagnosable by any standard.

Most medical marijuana users aren’t actually sick. The majority of those having medical marijuana cards, in the U.S. where medical marijuana is legal, reported having severe pain, and no diagnosed disease. In fact, the average medical marijuana user, is a 32-year old white male with a history of alcohol, cocaine and meth use, but no history of life threatening illnesses (Colorado Department of Public Health). Currently, there’s no scientific basis for using smoked marijuana as medicine!

Positive messages about the importance of accomplishing academic achievement and decreasing car accidents are being left out. Covington Co. Superintendent Terry Holley, stated “We already have enough problems dealing with the consequences of youth alcohol and tobacco abuse, and he would certainly be opposed to any attempts to legalize marijuana.”

Long-term marijuana users report less life satisfaction, less career, less educational achievement, poor mental and physical health. Parents need to know this so they will take this issue seriously. Fredrick Douglass once said, “It is easier to build strong children, than to repair broken men.”

Sources: NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse), www.drugabuse.gov, ONDCP (Office of National Drug Control Policy, The White House), Kevin Sabet, Ph.D., Director, Drug Policy Institute and Assistant Professor, University of Florida College of Medicine, Division of Addiction Medicine, Department of Psychiatry.


Susan Short is the director of the Children’s Policy Council of Covington County.