The aftermath of marijuana legalization

03marijuanaThose who talk about legalizing marijuana say. They say that marijuana is less addictive than tobacco, it is not as dangerous as other drugs, and it can be used as medicine. However, marijuana should not be legalized because it belongs to the drug class. If marijuana is legalized, it will affect the standards of the drug class and give other drugs an excuse to be legalized. We do not know what kind of social repercussions it will bring, so we should not make a hasty decision.

The effects of medicating marijuana

marijuanamedicalUsing marijuana as a medicine can help people who are mentally distressed or suffering from the after-effects of a serious injury.
Marijuana’s analgesic effects can temporarily free a mentally distressed person from mental anguish and reduce the pain of someone who has suffered a serious injury. Despite these benefits, these patients should only take marijuana under the proper guidance of a doctor, and if taken incorrectly, it can lead to addiction. Also, because marijuana doesn’t have long-lasting effects, it must be taken frequently, making it easy to become addicted. For now, marijuana needs to find ways to eliminate these problems before we can talk about legalizing it.

New Report on Marijuana in Washington State

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Our colleagues at the Northwest HIDTA have published a new report on the legalization of marijuana in Washington.  The report discusses the state’s regulatory system, as well as detailing effects on the state, including environmental harm, impaired driving, and diversion of marijuana.  Follow this link to read the full report.

Andy Zorn’s Story

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Andy Zorn with his mother, Sally Schindel

Andrew Zorn was a young man who experienced a downward progression in his mental health largely due to heavy marijuana use.  His mother, Sally Schindel, now runs an organization of women whose children have been negatively affected by marijuana use.  Their goal is to “make the public aware of marijuana harms by sharing the stories of how our youth are experiencing devastating mental (and physical) health effects from using marijuana.”

Read Andy’s story here or visit the organization’s webpage for more information.

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Depression and Anxiety

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PHOTO FROM LIFEWITHOUTDEPRESSION.ORG.

There has been a lot of discussion surrounding whether marijuana use contributes to or affects mental illness, particularly depression and anxiety. Most studies have shown that those who use marijuana, particularly beginning in adolescence, are more likely to suffer from depression and/or anxiety later on. Frequent use further raises this likelihood. Interestingly, those who suffer from depression and/or anxiety are not any more likely to use marijuana. Causality has not been definitively proven as to whether marijuana use causes depression and/or anxiety, but the relationship has been shown consistently.

Another related, possible consequence of marijuana use, especially for those who use marijuana often, is that it may damage the brain’s ability to process enjoyment. Studies have shown that people who use marijuana produce the same amount of dopamine (the brain chemical tied to pleasure and reward) as non-users, but that it does not create the same physical reaction for them that it does for non-users. And this lack of physical response indicates that marijuana users may have damaged the areas of their brains responsible for creating the feeling of enjoyment. Again, whether marijuana use causes the damage, or whether people use it to make up for existing damage, is unclear.

High Energy Use

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Growing marijuana indoors requires very large energy inputs. A 2012 study estimated that marijuana growth in the United States accounts for one percent of the country’s energy use; that’s $6,000,000,000 worth of energy! In states with particularly high production, marijuana energy use is even higher; California’s is estimated to be three percent of the state’s total energy use. Producing one kilogram of final product indoors generates 4600 kilograms of CO2 emissions, the equivalent of 3,000,000 cars. Most of this energy goes to the lights necessary to stimulate the plants’ photosynthesis. But it is also needed for climate controls (heating and cooling, depending on the season) and dehumidification, among other uses. This problem is compounded by the fact that because growing inside provides more stable conditions, marijuana farmers are able to increase the number of harvest per year, further increasing overall energy use per year.

The photo above, and more illustrated statistics on marijuana’s water and energy use, can be seen in this Mother Jone’s piece.