The case against legalization and decriminalization of marijuana

Recently, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives and Democratic Party leaders have seemingly offered their support for marijuana legalization and decriminalization policies.

On Friday, the House passed legislation that, if enacted, would block the Department of Justice from enforcing the federal marijuana ban in states that have legalized recreational use.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently defended the inclusion of protections for banks that service marijuana businesses in the Democrat’s coronavirus relief legislation. Pelosi, in a response to a reporter’s claim that cannabis is not “directly related” to COVID-19 relief, stated, “I don’t agree with you. … This is a therapy that has proven successful.” Pelosi offered no evidence to validate her claim, nor is there any.

Additionally, Joe Biden, while not endorsing full legalization of recreational marijuana, has offered his support for decriminalizing marijuana and legalizing medical marijuana. Biden, in an attempt to justify his cannabis policy, stated that marijuana is not “a gateway drug,” a fact contradicted by findings by both the National Institute on Drug Abuse, or the NIDA, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The NIDA found that marijuana use is linked to the development or worsening of alcohol and nicotine addiction and stated that “more than half of new illicit drug users begin with marijuana.” The CDC, likewise, found that “people who are addicted to marijuana are three times more likely to be addicted to heroin.”

Furthermore, Robert Dupont, former director of the NIDA, has, contrary to the former vice president’s assertion, stated that “nearly all people with substance abuse problems usually [begin] with alcohol and marijuana” and that “people who use marijuana also consume more, not less, legal and illegal drugs than do people who do not use marijuana.”

The use of marijuana is linked to a multitude of debilitating mental and physical ailments. The principal psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol, has numerous short- and long-term effects on the brain and psyche of a person that can forever affect health and quality of life. Marijuana use often results in reduced attention, memory, and learning abilities while also diminishing the brain’s ability to build connections and develop. Marijuana users are also significantly more likely than nonusers to develop mental illnesses, including anxiety, psychosis, and schizophrenia.

Smoking marijuana, similar to smoking tobacco, can also lead to lung cancer, bronchitis, and scarring of the lung tissues. To avoid these consequences, many marijuana users vape (inhale through aerosol form) the drug. However, vaping comes with its own set of inherent risks. The Trump administration has removed many e-cigarette products from the market because they were linked to a string of deaths and a range of illnesses. Vaping products were never subject to the Food and Drug Administration’s approval process, resulting in many unknown consequences and side effects.

Marijuana, though perceived as relatively harmless and benign, is the most commonly found illicit drug in the blood of drivers involved in car accidents. It significantly impairs judgment and motor function. Nevertheless, as many users view the drug as safe, they will still drive under its influence. Legalization not only removes the barriers to obtaining marijuana but also heightens the false sense of safety surrounding it.

Regarding medicinal marijuana, cannabis has not been subjected to the same rigorous approval processes that are required of other medications. Cannabis-based remedies, drugs, and pharmaceuticals are largely unregulated and unchecked. If marijuana is to be used in a medicinal setting, then it must be subject to the same testing any other medication would, including randomized, placebo, and active-controlled trials to evaluate effectiveness and safety.

It is truly disconcerting that the Democratic Party is moving with such force to decriminalize and legalize marijuana, a dangerous and mind-altering drug.

Kyle Reynolds studies public policy at Indiana University and serves as a campus correspondent for Campus Reform.

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