With President Barack Obama on board to legalize marijuana in the United States, it seems most people are now in favor.
Obama told a reporter from The New Yorker that he believes marijuana is, “no more dangerous than alcohol.”
He may believe this because there have been far more studies on the negative effects of alcohol than on marijuana usage. However, the studies that do exist suggest marijuana is not safe nor harmless.
I have nothing against people who smoke, but there is plenty of ignorance that goes along with the campaign to legalize marijuana that needs to be addressed.
“Smoke from marijuana combustion has been shown to contain many of the same toxins, irritants and carcinogens as tobacco smoke,” according to the American Lung Association (ALA).
The ALA also says marijuana is smoked differently from a cigarette. Marijuana smoke is inhaled more deeply, which means the smoke is in your lungs for a longer period of time, as compared to a quick puff from a cigarette.
These findings alone are enough to raise some eyebrows, but the ALA goes on to report that smoking marijuana also affects a person’s immune system, which makes it easier for a person to become sick and makes it harder for the immune system to fight disease.
Not all marijuana that is bought is pure cannabis, according to an article by Science Daily. The article discussed a recent study by scientists who were comparing the smoke from marijuana cigarettes to tobacco cigarettes.
“The scientists found that ammonia levels were 20 times higher in the marijuana smoke than in the tobacco smoke, while hydrogen cyanide, nitric oxide and certain aromatic amines occurred at levels three to five times higher in the marijuana smoke,” the article explains.
While short term marijuana usage can change a person’s mood, impair body movement, cause short term memory loss or alter the senses, drugabuse.gov says long term usage is much more hazardous to human health.
According to drugabuse.gov, long term use of marijuana affects brain development. Marijuana can make it hard to think and remember information. But since this happens over time, it may not be noticed by many regular marijuana users.
And while most people say marijuana is not addictive, scientists have proven this is not the case.
Under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug on the basis that it has “a high potential for abuse.”
WebMD says nearly 10 percent of people who use marijuana become dependent on it. I personally don’t believe marijuana is a gateway drug, but I do believe it is addictive and I have witnessed many of my friends become addicted.
I have heard a lot about how marijuana decreases anxiety and allows some people to feel calm while smoking or ingesting it.
In reality, research shows that marijuana is more likely to cause mental health problems – such as depression and anxiety – rather than prevent them, according to drugabuse.gov.
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) – one of the main chemicals found in marijuana – is a mind-altering chemical that can lead to hallucinations, paranoia, depression and anger. People forget that marijuana is dangerous because they are more focused on obtaining the high.
Along with the science behind both cigarettes and marijuana, you can also compare the way the public is reacting.
Even though smoking cigarettes has never been illegal in America – at least for people over the age of 18 – there was a social shift within the late 1990s and early 2000s that changed tobacco from a social phenomenon into an evil killer.
When the tobacco industry first came on the scene, there were no studies that linked cigarettes to cancer or other health risks. In fact, the media glorified cigarettes and said in many advertisements that there were health benefits. It wasn’t until the 1950s that studies came out linking cigarette smoke to lung, throat and mouth cancers.
When you look at cigarettes now, there are plenty of advertisements that demonize the industry, and there are a number of support groups to help smokers kick the habit. Even CVS changed their name to “CVS Health” and stopped selling cigarettes while promoting ways to quit, as well.
This comes after numerous studies into health risks and into the harsh chemicals put into cigarettes, used to make them taste better and – to make matters worse – more addicting.
Even though there is no evidence that manufacturers will add more chemicals to marijuana if it becomes legalized, history does often repeat itself – and that highly concerns me.
Personally, I do not smoke marijuana, nor do I plan to. While I would rather it not be legalized, making it legal or keeping it illegal will not affect me in any way. But I do think people need to look into the health risks before deciding to smoke marijuana recreationally.
I have heard many people say that marijuana is safe to use when, in reality, they don’t know what they are buying and what they are inhaling – or ingesting – into their bodies, and this concerns me.