However we choose to look at it, it’s just not OK

The potential impact and consequences for legalizing marijuana would be mostly on our youth. Adolescence and young adulthood are critical times for the physical development of the brain and central nervous system. Because changes are rapidly occurring within the body, the effects of marijuana can have long term health consequences for adolescents once they reach adulthood.

Contrary to popular myth and misconception, regular marijuana use also carries risk of addiction. National research indicates that of those who try marijuana, 1 in 6 will become addicted. In state-funded treatment programs, far more 12- to 17-year-olds seek treatment for marijuana use than any other drugs combined, including alcohol.

Research shows that adolescents who smoke marijuana every weekend over a two-year period are nearly six times more likely to drop out of school than non-smokers. They are then less likely to go to college; given marijuana’s effect on learning and motivation, where does this leave our youth? Do we want to encourage less education, more unemployment and more difficulty in achieving a healthy happy life?

Marijuana use causes change, both subtle and dramatic, in the emotional and intellectual. These changes occur because the “arc of the brain’s development becomes recalibrated by marijuana use.” Those who had started using marijuana at earlier ages were found to have an impaired ability to experience normal emotional responses. This can cause anxiety/depression in adolescents who already are at a significant time of challenge in their lives. Marijuana of today is far more potent than the marijuana of Woodstock. Most marijuana is five to six times more potent and today’s synthetic marijuana can cause irreversible damage to the brain and body.

Marijuana use in New Hampshire is also having a negative impact on public safety, specifically related to motor vehicle crashes. Since 2008, marijuana has played a role in 52 percent of drug-related crashes involving fatality.

House Bill 492 sends a message to our youth that marijuana use is acceptable. Leading youth and adolescents to believe that the government says marijuana use is OK. The legalization would increase access to our youth, and NH already has one of the highest rates of regular use for the past 30 days among 12-17 year olds. Promoting a message that the risks and danger warnings aren’t important or reliable enough to keep illegal, in essence “throws our kids to the wolves” by reducing protection against the continued increase of substance availability.

What are we saying to our kids? It used to be, “It’s not OK to use drugs. Just say No.” Then it became “Let’s become informed on the risks and dangers, but it’s still not OK.” Now we are saying, “It’s not OK, until it’s OK — especially if we think money can be made.”

It’s not OK for us to send the message to our children in critical growth and development periods of life that any mind altering substance is OK. It just isn’t.

Polly Morris is a Regional Coordinator for Monadnock Voices for Prevention.

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