Letter to the Editor: What are you smoking?
August 21, 2014
According to recent reports, it's probably not what you think you're smoking.
I read Andy Whyman's guest column, "Legalizing pot would lead to positive social change," with interest, especially because coincidentally, I had just finished reading, "Legal Pot Is a Public Health Menace" that ran the same day in The Wall Street Journal. Missing from Whyman's information are two key points.
One, there is a huge disconnect between science and public opinion. Facts exist that show smoking marijuana can be detrimental. The Wall Street Journal references a study in the journal "Current Addiction Reports," which found that "regular pot use (defined as once a week) among teenagers and young adults led to cognitive decline, poor attention and memory, and decreased IQ." (The Wall Street Journal, 8-14-14, p. A11)
Further the Journal stated, "Over the past 10 years, study after study has shown the damaging effect of marijuana on the teenage brain. Northwestern School of Medicine researchers reported in the Schizophrenia Bulletin in December that teens who smoked marijuana daily for about three years showed abnormal brain-structure changes. Marijuana use has clearly been linked to teen psychosis as well as decreases in IQ and permanent brain damage."
A second key point Whyman omits is, "The marijuana of today is simply not the same drug it was in the 1960s, '70s, or '80s … It is often at least five times stronger, with the levels of the psychoactive ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, averaging about 15 percent in the marijuana at dispensaries found in the states that have legalized pot for 'medicinal' or, in the case of Colorado, recreational use. Often the THC level is 20 percent or higher."
It might be true that the pro-legalization train is picking up speed, as Whyman states.
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But how can that be a good thing if such favor is based on a lack of understanding of the real risks?
To soberly assess the benefit to society of legalizing pot, it's logical to separate the emotion and campaigning surrounding the issue from the reality of the substance as it is today, and the proven effects of its use.