Marijuana a serious threat to mental health

(Graphic by Kate Turner)

Unfortunately, whenever a legalization-related issue arises on any subject, it is easy for the pro-legalization crowd to fall into the pit of denial. In no other group is this more true than within the marijuana legalization movement.

While I am not opposed to marijuana legalization, I am opposed to the fact-denying attitude that many within the legalization movement unfortunately hold.

The portrayal of marijuana as a harmless plant that poses no threat to society and no dangers to the individuals who use it is entirely false.

True, one could argue that many of its risks come from the act of smoking itself, meaning the risk of cancer, and that if it were legal, other, healthier forms of ingestion would become more widespread.

However, the act of smoking and the associated physical health risks are hardly the only threat that this drug poses.

The primary problem is the one that is most often denied, mocked and belittled whenever anyone raises it as a legitimate issue: the danger to mental health.

For some, the experience of being high can go beyond the mere stereotype of a general sense of vague paranoia. It can be utterly terrifying.

I’ve had experiences with marijuana far more reminiscent of Dante’s Inferno than Dazed and Confused,  and this is a big part of why I no longer use it.

These incidents may not be experienced by the majority of marijuana users, but they also can’t be treated as the experience of some irrelevant minority.

When talking about my negative experiences on marijuana, some marijuana users are understanding and take me seriously, but many don’t and insist the problem must be entirely in my own mind and not with the drug itself. The facts speak otherwise.

Marijuana has a long documented history of triggering paranoid feelings similar to those of schizophrenia; never mind the damage to memory and overall intelligence.

A recent study headed by Madeline Meier, a postdoctoral researcher of Duke University, shows that prolonged marijuana use by teenagers can be harmful to the developing brain, to the extent of lowering adulthood IQ’s by almost ten points on average.

There is one major threat that marijuana legalization poses, which the legality of alcohol does not.

Alcohol, even by its most devoted worshippers, is widely acknowledged as a substance, which poses many dangers.

Drinking and driving, the potential as an agent for rape, the propensity it creates for violent behavior — these are risks that almost nobody can deny and are taken seriously.

Marijuana, however, is widely considered to be a drug without any significant dangers.

By legalizing marijuana, it would mean legalizing a threat that a great portion of society refuses to even recognize as harmful.

In a way, as societal attitudes currently stand, it would make the legality of marijuana more dangerous than the legality of alcohol, because it would be allowing a threat, which many people would laughingly dismiss.

It begs the question, which is the greater danger? The obvious one that everybody recognizes, or the subtle risks that elude many people’s radars and is often regarded as not dangerous at all.

If there was ever a non-hypocritical and non-self-contradictory argument against marijuana legalization and for the continued legality of alcohol, that would be it.

Alcohol, for all the social problems it’s involved in, is something people are well aware of and the dangers it presents are often discussed.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for marijuana.

Not only are the effects not recognized, but they are often vehemently denied.

People who point out the dangers are often dismissed and ridiculed by the marijuana-using community, including those such as myself who have experienced the darker side of this drug.

It could be argued that alcohol on the whole, is more harmful. This still doesn’t negate the fact that alcohol is a threat that people actually recognize.

Marijuana is harmful but often isn’t even seen as dangerous, but a peaceful, mellow drug.

For marijuana to be legalized, an important first-step is educating people on the possible effects of the drug.

Similarly, the dominant attitude toward treating these threats as trivial and irrelevant need to be entirely diminished before we can welcome a new set of dangers to our society.

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