The Unintended Consequences of Legal Marijuana
The pros and cons for legalizing marijuana have been hotly debated in recent years as numerous states have made medical use of the drug legal and two have legalized it for recreational use. Many people have been open to the idea of making the drug more available and to decriminalizing it for various reasons. Some claim that marijuana is not harmful to health, that legalizing it provides states with more tax revenue, and that it would save money on arrests and jail time for possession misdemeanors. Unfortunately, there are some serious and negative unintended consequences for making pot legal.
Public Health Risks
While there is some research that indicates marijuana can be effective in relieving the symptoms of certain medical conditions, many people want to go beyond medical marijuana and allow it to be legalized for recreation. There are serious risks for healthy people using marijuana purely for recreation and the legalization of the drug could drive up public health problems as a result.
For legalizing drugs, pros and cons need to be considered with respect to how marijuana will impact public health. Marijuana is not as addictive as many other drugs, but it is habit-forming. Millions of people are already addicted and many more could become dependent as access to the drug widens. Using marijuana regularly contributes to respiratory illnesses and a decline in cognitive function.
Accidents are another great concern. There are no standards set for how much marijuana can cause a person to be too impaired to drive or operate other equipment. As with drinking and driving, being high while driving could lead to a devastating accident. As the use of marijuana goes up, accidents of all kinds are likely to go up as well.
Young People and Recreational Marijuana
Another serious consequence of making marijuana legal and more accessible is the increasing availability of the drug to young people. Teens are more susceptible to the effects of smoking pot because their brains are still developing. Using marijuana can seriously impact a teen’s ability to function academically and while participating in extracurricular activities. The long-term effects of marijuana on teens are not fully known, but it has been shown that it lowers the IQ.
Recreational marijuana pros and cons should be carefully considered before making a choice. While increased tax revenue seems like a good outcome, there are just too many negative consequences and serious risks for opening up access to this drug. Furthermore, the costs of treating people for addiction and other illnesses, as well as the costs of accidents and arrests, could even outpace the revenue that selling legal pot offers to states and local municipalities. Before more states take the step of making pot legal for recreational use, it is important to examine the unintended, yet serious, negative consequences of doing so.
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