By Billy Kristol, Conservative Columnist
Marijuana legalization is coming to this country. It’s hard to call that an opinion anymore. Every social movement designed to give more freedom to Americans has started in one or two states but eventually become national. The legalization of marijuana will have profound impacts on our country. Many innocent, casual users will be freed. Tax revenue combined with reduced enforcement costs will bolster our economy. But let us not forget why this drug was made illegal in the first place.
Study after study shows that marijuana is far from harmless, especially in adolescents. Regular marijuana use in adolescence is shown to reduce cognitive functions. It can cause abnormal brain structure. It can induce short term paranoia regardless of age. It is far from non-addictive: marijuana treatment programs report withdrawal symptoms in patients. And finally, teens who smoke daily are over 60% less likely to complete high school or graduate college.
There is no question that alcohol is more destructive than marijuana. There is no question that tobacco products are inherently more deadly than marijuana. Prescription drugs are more addictive. You cannot overdose on marijuana; it is a subtly destructive drug. But it withdraws a user from society. It makes a user lethargic. It reduces productivity and increases social anxiety. You may respond that it does not affect you in this way. I concede that some heavy marijuana users are productive and intelligent members of society. But most are not. I worry that as more states begin to legalize the drug we will forget its negative affect on our society.
Occasional marijuana use, just like the occasional drink, is fine. Your brain will survive and your body will rid itself of the chemicals in a few days. Use it when stressed out, when you need a spark of creativity, or when you see an old friend. I rarely see discussions that promote moderate use, however. What I do see is a growing culture of pot where there is nothing wrong with waking up and smoking, smoking when you get home from work, and smoking when you go to bed.
I am not suggesting that marijuana stay criminalized. In fact, I wholly support the legalization movement: Americans should be free to treat their bodies as they like. Many Americans also require the drug for their healthcare treatment plans, and they should use as much as their doctors tell them to. But for the rest of us, too many have been incarcerated for victimless crimes associated with marijuana, and it is time to stop making criminals out of responsible citizens. But as marijuana becomes more common in our society, we must not forget that it is still a drug. Just like harmful prescription medications, just like alcohol, and just like tobacco. There are a vast number of resources that addicts of those mentioned drugs can turn to for help. Are there enough resources for marijuana addicts? We must handle legalization responsibly and not forget about the negative sides of drug use.