By: Caitlin Cogan Doemner, Contributor
Legalizing Marijuana: Just Say “No”
If you’re only worried about the health of your lungs, the health risks of marijuana are less extreme than tobacco; unfortunately, if you also care about your brain, marijuana’s effects are significantly worse. Use of marijuana distorts sensory and time perception, inhibits coordination, impairs cognitive functions such as recall, learning, and problem-solving, and in larger quantities can cause disorientation, hallucinations, and delusions. Long-time users have been known to develop anxiety, paranoia, schizophrenia, and other psychological disorders. The argument that because some dangerous substances are legal (like alcohol and tobacco), other dangerous substances should be legalized is short-sighted. We know that alcohol is responsible for killing an average of 75,000 Americans every year; tobacco claims over 400,000 annually. Legalizing marijuana will inevitably increase the number of users and the corresponding number of deaths. Legalizing marijuana is the equivalent of signing a death warrant for thousands of people every year.
Anecdotally, drug users start experimenting with marijuana, but eventually get into heroin, cocaine, or other harder drugs. While advocates of legalization claim that marijuana is not a gateway drug, “ a study of over 300 fraternal and identical twin pairs found that the twin who had used marijuana before the age of 17 had elevated rates of other drug use and drug problems later on, compared with their twin who did not use before age 17.” When society legalizes a drug, it implicitly endorses its use, and increased availability will inevitably increase demand. This increased acceptance and availability would almost certainly increase the chances of the drug finding its way into the hands of minors. Due to the psychoactive nature of the drug, smoking marijuana during one’s adolescent years can seriously – and permanently – impair a person’s cognitive development.
While the scientific data about marijuana serving as a gateway to harder drugs may be inconclusive, its legalization would certainly serve as a “gateway drug” politically. The legalization of marijuana would set a precedent that could eventually result in the legalization of harder drugs or all drugs. The legalization of marijuana presents a slippery slope dilemma to legislators: When you begin legalizing vice, where do you draw the line? Gambling? Prostitution? While individuals may have differing personal feelings about the issue, public policy needs to act in the best interests of its citizens. For those of us who believe in objective morality, doing what’s right trumps doing what’s popular.
Government was instituted by God for the preservation of justice, which includes punishing evil, rewarding good, and protecting the weak. While many of our citizens may have the strength of character and body to use marijuana moderately and wisely, there are thousands of individuals who are likely to indulge in the drug without wisdom and develop an addiction. In 2008, an estimated 4.2 million Americans were dependent upon or abused the use of marijuana. Addictions enslave a person’s will, removing their freedom to choose what is truly in their best interests, and frequently negatively affects their personal lives, as well as their familial and professional commitments. In accordance with Paul’s admonition to avoid putting stumbling blocks in others’ paths, the majority of citizens who could indulge in marijuana safely should accept the legal prohibitions as a means of aiding the wellbeing of their fellow citizens and protecting those weaker than themselves.
The toll on “human capital” would very likely offset any economic advantages of legalizing marijuana. Marijuana use not only harms the user, but frequent use can undermine socially constructive behavior: “Marijuana users themselves report poor outcomes on a variety of life satisfaction and achievement measures. One study compared current and former long-term heavy users of marijuana with a control group who reported smoking cannabis at least once in their lives but not more than 50 times. Despite similar education and income backgrounds, significant differences were found in educational attainment: fewer of the heavy users of cannabis completed college, and more had yearly household incomes of less than $30,000. When asked how marijuana affected their cognitive abilities, career achievements, social lives, and physical and mental health, the majority of heavy cannabis users reported the drug's negative effects on all of these measures. In addition, several studies have linked workers' marijuana smoking with increased absences, tardiness, accidents, workers' compensation claims, and job turnover. For example, a study among postal workers found that employees who tested positive for marijuana on a pre-employment urine drug test had 55 percent more industrial accidents, 85 percent more injuries, and a 75-percent increase in absenteeism compared with those who tested negative for marijuana use.” So, not only would fewer people attend college, but worker productivity would decrease as well. The Drug Enforcement Administration says legalization of drugs will cost society between $140-210 billion a year in lost productivity and job-related accidents. Additionally, increased health care needs and more car accidents will result in higher insurance premiums for all.
Legalizing marijuana doesn’t make economic sense and will likely harm the most vulnerable members of our society.