Several times over the last few months I have written columns on the controversial topic of marijuana. There’s been a lot to discuss. Legalization. Medical marijuana permits. Enforcement. I-502.
I based much of the writing on both my experiences as a police officer enforcing drug statutes as well as a few recent Trib articles. These stories ranged from status updates on marijuana legislation, a review of both Tacoma and Seattle’s stance on marijuana enforcement, and the results of an investigative piece wherein a reporter successfully applied for a medical marijuana permit.
The comments I received, which were about evenly split between those advocating for legalized marijuana and those opposed, suggested that many people had read up on the topic of cannabis. Advocates extolled marijuana’s medicinal benefit, while those opposed berated the loose enforcement of medical marijuana permits. Some expressed their concern that drug-related DUI crashes and resultant traffic fatalities would increase with legalization. Others were adamant that many of the health risks attributed to marijuana were simply wrong and that continued enforcement of marijuana laws amounted to little more than modern day prohibition.
I also discussed the federal government’s staunch position against legalized marijuana, which has placed the feds at odds with our state’s legislative process (at least as it applies to medical marijuana. Government critics have been quick to point out that politics, rather than public health, are behind the federal government’s stance.
I’m not so sure. There are countless opinions on the positive and negative effects of marijuana, especially from advocates who spread their opinion like jelly on toast. In op-ed pieces, TV news interviews, and even comments in this column, their support for legalized marijuana is loud and strong. But the one voice which has remained comparatively silent is, ironically, the federal government itself.
In fact, the feds do have an opinion on the negative effects of marijuana, and the information is alarming. I will leave it for you to decide if the federal government is a credible source, after all this is the government that led us into Iraq to find WMD’s. Here are just some of the federal government’s health facts:
- Harvard University researchers reported the risk of heart attack increases five-fold in the hour after smoking marijuana
- The National Institute of Health found that a person who who smokes five joints per week takes in the cancer-causing chemicals equivalent to a pack-a-day smoker
- Smoking marijuana weakens the immune system and raises the risk of lung infections
- Critical skills related to attention, memory and learning are significantly impaired for regular users even 24 hours after smoking marijuana
- Marijuana has been linked with depression, suicidal thoughts and schizophrenia
Here are some statistics on marijuana use by young people:
- 51% of youths (aged 12-17) who used marijuana received mostly C’s, D’s and F’s for grades (compared to 23% overall)
- There has been a 7% increase in youth using marijuana since 2007
- Youth who initiate marijuana use by age 13 generally do not attend college
- Marijuana use by youth in states with medical marijuana laws are higher than those without (8.6% to 6.9%)
- Youth addicted to marijuana accounted for 62% of youth admissions to state treatment programs
And some driving facts:
- Marijuana related DUI arrests increased by 28% in the last two years
- Drivers who test positive for marijuana are more than twice as likely as other drivers to be involved in collisions
In all, these alarming statistics on marijuana should at least give us reason to pause. It seems apparent that the debate on marijuana will continue, but it should be a discussion based on all of the facts.
Just thought you should know.