The Truth Hurts: How Ignoring The Negative Side Effects Of Weed Hinders Legalization


I have never smoked marijuana. It's been offered to me many times, I've watched my friends smoke, hung out around people smoking and have never been tempted to try it.

I am not one to get on the bandwagon of anti-marijuana propaganda. I am skeptical of most drug laws and believe the majority of them are extremely punitive and counterproductive. I stand by the medicinal effects of marijuana and believe they should be explored and used if they are indeed as beneficial as they are claimed to be.

Beyond this, I believe alcohol is the worst drug there is. Alcohol destroys the most lives, is the cause of the most drug-related suffering and is the most widely abused substance in the world. The negative social effects of marijuana are likely to be less than those brought on by alcohol.

Every positive aspect I just mentioned has largely been used by pro-marijuana supporters in their bids for the legalization of the drug. However, many proponents take it one step further when they suggest marijuana is generally harmless.

It’s smoked in jest, or a “happy drug” as Miley Cyrus has put it. It’s not spoken of with any degree of responsibility attached to it. Socially, its use is largely celebrated, if not entirely encouraged.

However, I cannot agree for a moment that marijuana is harmless. To agree would mean I was blind to what marijuana dependence has done to my friends.

Three people who smoke multiple times a day come to mind when I reflect on the problems brought on by the drug. Making plans with them became a futile effort, as they often fell through because they would fall asleep or become too sloth-like to want to go out.

It became difficult for them to make it out of the house. Everything became a much slower process, so their schoolwork suffered as well as their work prospects. Two gained a significant amount of weight and one developed severe anxiety. All three of them fell between extremely high and low moods, depending on the amount of time that had passed since they last smoked.

Not one of them was able to go to bed without smoking, and despite being students with little money to spend, they all managed to come up with $50 to $100 a week for their marijuana supply.

Were all of these friends depressed? Probably. The excuse often given is that marijuana dependence is a choice or a result of other illnesses and not a fault of the drug itself. This is true only to an extent: Are we to deny that a depressed person’s alcohol use is largely complicating his or her recovery?

Drug use and mental illness lock themselves in a cycle; they feed each other until it’s impossible to understand which one is perpetuating the larger issue. The only solution is to the cut the aggravator -- the drug -- in order to begin to address the original problem.

When I think about it, I believe nearly all my friends have smoked marijuana at least once, and only these three became dependent. Likewise, nearly all of my friends drink alcohol and I’ve only known two to venture into the beginnings of alcoholism. But alcoholism is undeniable and marijuana dependence exists.

To carry on as if the side effects of marijuana use are obscure, or worse, non-existent, is to deny the existence of the millions of people who do have a dependence on the drug.

Marijuana discourages dependent users from even recognizing that they have a problem, as they tout statistics that only focus on health benefits instead of relying on statistics that also mention its negatives.

I am not blind, nor naïve, nor a victim to the propaganda of anti-marijuana activists. I am simply a human who has eyes who has seen firsthand what it has done to certain people. I cannot deny what I have seen and I have seen marijuana suck the life and energy out of some friends and reduce them to lazy hunks of matter.

I don’t know anyone who would suggest that alcohol is harmless, despite engaging in the drinking of it, so I don’t understand why painting marijuana as a harmless drug is so widely accepted. Moreover, I don't understand how it's touted and spoken of so popularly without a hint of responsibility attached to it.

My bid to all people calling for the legalization of marijuana is to simply be honest about it. Describe its benefits -- especially its health benefits -- while still acknowledging that it is a drug that bears a risk of dependence.

Advocating for responsibility of it is a mature and all-encompassing approach to the cause and will at least shed some truth on the entire debate.

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