Issue Brief: Say No to the Stoner State

Recreational Marijuana


Say No to the Stoner State

Legalization of marijuana has just as diverse of a base of supporters as it does for those that do not support. Rather agreed upon or not, there are many studies to show the negative effects of marijuana, particularly on the brain, as well as what it has done in other states. In an attempt to protect our youth, who have the greatest potential for negative effects on their brain with marijuana usage, we lay out some of the main harms and points on why this drug should not be legalized for recreational usage. 


Youth Affected by Recreational Marijuana

The former chief of chemistry and drug metabolism at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr. Marilyn Huestis, studied the effects of marijuana on the body for over 25 years. She discovered that rather than having an effect on the body and being filtered out by the blood system as alcohol would, marijuana affects the fatty tissues of the body and are stored there. HB 110 legalizes marijuana for recreational use at the age of 21, but the development of the brain, which is a major fatty tissue, is not fully complete until at least 25 years of age. Once it was legalized in Colorado, their school districts saw an increase of high school drug violations of 71% in a time span of just 5 years. Legalization makes underage usage more commonplace. Young marijuana users are 8 times more likely to use other drugs as they enter their 20’s, 17 times more likely to commit suicide and 60% more likely to drop out of high school.

Marijuana is NOT Alcohol

Marijuana should not be treated the same as alcohol because of its major integral differences. Alcohol is a depressant; according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana can be classified either as a depressant, a stimulant, or more commonly as a hallucinogen. The short-term effects of marijuana are varied, lending to its wider classification. The more docile effects of marijuana include causing drowsiness or feelings of relaxation, slowed reaction time, balance and coordination issues, problems with learning and memory, and even anxiety. In the long term, it can lead to mental health issues, chronic cough, and frequent respiratory infections. Marijuana’s common connection as a classic hallucinogen puts it in the classification with other familiar drugs such as LSD and works by disrupting the communication throughout the brain, causing changes in mood, sensory perception, responses to the environment, learning and memory, just to name a few.

But What's the Harm?

With substances such as alcohol and cigarettes already legal, despite their harm, the question is if marijuana is really harmful enough for us to not favor legalization. The answer is yes! We know how alcohol can lead to liver disease and tobacco to lung cancer or oral cancer. Yet, what does marijuana harm? It’s a plant, so doesn’t that mean that it’s natural and okay for your body?

First, marijuana causes direct effects on the brain! Symptoms like altered sensory perception and slowed reaction time are just some of the short term effects. With every brain cell that is affected, the cognitive processes of the brain are further hindered. This is only exacerbated by the fact that marijuana is not immediately filtered from the body like alcohol but is stored in the fat tissues. This means that the negative effects are stored long term. It is no secret how important and integral the brain is to all bodily functions. The harmful results would only be amplified in a brain that was already in development. Experts agree that the brain is not fully developed until sometime around 25 years old. If marijuana is legalized for those as young as 21, the implications for young people is frightening.

Simply put, because a substance is made of a natural substance it is not automatically a substance that is healthy or good for you. This logic is completely faulty. Poison ivy and even hemlock are all naturally existing plants, but our body has adverse reactions to contact with them. Marijuana is clearly not the same level of an irritant as poison ivy, nor will it cause almost instantaneous death as with hemlock, but the point remains the same that natural is not equivalent to good for human consumption. Marijuana is a drug made from a natural plant that is harmful to our cognitive abilities and overall brain functionality. We need to protect our young people … protect our drivers … protect the citizens of our state.

Marijuana and Mental Illness

As already discussed, marijuana affects the brain. Marijuana can also cause hallucinations, delusions, and even psychosis, a mental health term that includes schizophrenia. This means that the substance lawmakers are attempting to make available for recreational use has the power to cause serious mental illness. The truth is that marijuana has less medicinal properties than is portrayed. The medicinal usage that is referred to is from the contents of cannabidiol (CBD), not tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The presence of THC in marijuana is what causes users to “get high” and determines the potency, which is much higher today than it was even just in the early ’90s. Potency rates have increased over the years and states like Colorado have also seen an increase in ER visits and hospitalizations because of marijuana; it has been on a steady incline from 2008-2016.

NO to Recreational Marijuana

Despite the push to make marijuana seem like a harmless plant with miraculous medicinal powers, the truth remains that it has serious negative implications for its consumption. There are already communities that have experienced the problems of the drug because of its presence on the black market; legalization will only create new users.

The American Medical Association has urged legislators to delay the legalization of cannabis for public health sake and though they support research on the drug, they “overtly oppose legalization of marijuana and [endorse] warnings emphasizing its dangers for abuse and misuse.” They have spent decades fighting the tobacco industry because of its dangers and have finally achieved some level of success in sharing its dangers–and here comes the multi-billion-dollar marijuana industry creating the next major public health concern. Decades ago, cigarettes were advertised positively in commercials and on billboards and now we see advertisements of its true negative effects. Hopefully, we can alert the public to the negative effects of marijuana before millions more are desensitized and experience the negative effects for themselves.

Talking Points

  • 01. Because of brain development timelines, youth are negatively effected by recreational marijuana.
  • 02. The body does not metabolize marijuana the same way as alcohol. They should not be compared to one another. 
  • 03. Marijuana causes direct harm to the brain.
  • 04. Usage of marijuana may cause or exasperate mental illness. 
  • 05. The American Medical Association has urged against recreational marijuana.


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