OP-ED: Let’s Be Blunt About the Dangers of Legalizing Marijuana

Madison Popovic, Editorial Director, Junior

Most people, at one point in their lives, have been warned against the harmful influence of drug use and other narcotic substances. “Just say no!” However, many decide to ignore the cautionary tales of the effects that drugs induce. Recently, Governor Andrew Cuomo became a proponent of the legalization of recreational marijuana in New York. This has sparked controversy, which has split New Yorkers: should recreational marijuana be legalized or should it only be available for medical use? It would be a mistake if this corrupting, addictive drug becomes legalized due to real health risks regular use causes. The real reason many support its widespread use is greed. Marijuana turns a profit. Just as New York has made money from gambling through Off-Track Betting and Lotto, now it is justifying its support for another harmful habit. But is pot use harmless?

Smoking marijuana negatively impacts one’s memory capabilities. Christian Hopfer, a professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, said in an article for The New York Post, “Smoke a couple times a day and marijuana will knock off your memory. That is pretty certain.” Marijuana users may also suffer long term neurological effects. In an article for Psychology Today, J. Wesley Boyd, a faculty member at the Center for Bioethics and Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, said, “Neuroscience has now shown us that the brain continues to develop until the late 20s, and using drugs while the brain is still developing can lead to potentially significant downstream problematic effects.” Despite the health consequences, people still smoke weed. According to Kevin Hopfer, by age 21, 50 percent of the population has experimented with marijuana. But marijuana is a gateway drug which leads to the use of more harmful drugs. In a 2015 study done by Yale School of Medicine, it was found that the use of marijuana makes a person two and half more times likely to abuse prescription pills.

Governor Cuomo seems to be indecisive. Last year he was not keen on the use of drugs saying, “Marijuana leads to other drugs and there’s a lot of proof that that’s true.” Why the sudden change of opinion? That answer is obvious: to make money.

In an article for The New York Daily News, Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), said, “Let’s be clear: legalization is not about social justice; it is about profits.” In reality, the income marijuana produces will actually take money from the states, rather than make them wealthier. The same Daily News article states, “A recent Colorado study found that for every dollar raised in revenue, $4.50 must be spent to mitigate the negative impacts brought on by legalization. Legalized states have seen rates of stoned driving deaths double.”

Some thoughts that may go through an adolescent’s mind when contemplating if they should use drugs such as marijuana are the fact that the drug is “all natural” and therefore must be safe to intake. According to an article published by The Washington Post, 60 percent of high school seniors believe that marijuana is safe. However, teens could not be more misinformed. The ingredients in pot have changed in the last few decades. In the same Washington Post article, Laura Hanby Hudgens said, “The average THC (the psychoactive ingredient in pot) content of marijuana has increased from less than 3 to 4 percent in the 1990s, to nearly 13 percent today. That makes it easier to overdose on marijuana.”

Marijuana is dangerous and addictive and its use leads to long term health problems. Not only would its legalization lead to an unhealthier New York, it would do so by putting a premium on profit. That’s an idea that needs weeding out.