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Marijuana Argument

The Argument Over Marijuana Legalization

Marijuana Legalization: There has been much debate about this issue with unwavering viewpoints from both sides. Is marijuana a harmful drug or is it benign? This is one of most frequently asked questions concerning the substance marijuana.

Marijuana Legalization

Marijuana Legalization Argument

Part I

Years ago when discussing marijuana legalization, one point that I would frequently hear from the side defending it was the notion that marijuana was not a drug. In light of the recent movement across the country to ‘legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes’ that stance is usually not taken any more. You can’t really promote a ‘drug’ for medicinal purposes unless it is actually considered a drug. In addition, the World Health Organization (WHO) defines a drug as “any substance that, when taken into a living organism, may modify one or more of its functions.”

Once it has been established that marijuana is indeed a drug the pro marijuana legalization side will often take a position that I hear repeatedly, which is: “marijuana is a natural substance and not man-made, and God put it here on this earth, therefore it is good or at the very least, not harmful.” In my opinion, God put a lot of things on the earth, that doesn’t necessarily mean all of them were meant to be ingested. While marijuana has been proven to have some medicinal properties, the majority of people that are using it are doing so for other purposes, and that purpose is to get high.

Marijuana is typically ingested by smoking it and the inhalation of smoke produced from a burning substance is toxic. Period. Lungs were built for fresh air and when something foreign or bad is in the lungs we cough to purge it, hence the term “smoker’s cough.” Many marijuana smokers as well as cigarette smokers are familiar with this. In the Mayo Clinic article “Marijuana as Medicine: Consider the Pros and Cons” it states that “marijuana smoke contains 50 percent to 70 percent more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than does tobacco smoke and has the potential to cause cancer of the lungs and respiratory tract. Marijuana smoke is commonly inhaled deeper and held longer than is tobacco smoke, increasing the lungs’ exposure to carcinogens.”

Also there are numerous chemicals unique only to marijuana plant. The current potency of marijuana, due to an increased percentage of THC, is significantly higher than ever before and so the research continues in order to determine with depth and scope of the impact on the body. The verdict is still out on whether these chemicals or higher levels of THC are harmful or not.

Sometimes users will tell me that when they smoke marijuana it doesn’t modify or change them in any way. That argument is usually debunked rather quickly. Ingesting a substance like alcohol or other mood altering drugs is mainly done for the purpose of changing the way we feel. It is why we do it. I know, because although I am presently in long-term recovery, I spent many years actively using alcohol and other substances to alter, change, modify, enhance, or diminish the way I felt. Trust me, it changes us. If it didn’t we probably wouldn’t be doing it.

Some of the main reasons for using marijuana are that it helps people ‘chill’, relax, reduce stress, feel calm and have fun. In my own experience I tried to examine the reasons I needed a substance in order to achieve that state of being and why I couldn’t do it on my own. For me, I was not able to ‘turn off’ those things that kept me worried, stressed, uptight, angry or not feeling good unless I ingested something in order to help me to do that. Some people claim there is nothing wrong with using a substance in order to achieve that. Maybe so, but the question remains, “Does marijuana have any negative impact or outcomes in the other areas of their life, such as financial, health, relationships, job opportunities, motivation, legal issues, emotional health?” When people come to me seeking counsel for marijuana dependency, these are the areas that it has caused harm.

Another question I like to add to the marijuana legalization debate is, “How is your life whenever you don’t have the substance? ” Often, when marijuana is not available, or an individual is trying to quit, they report feeling irritable, restless, discontent, grouchy, and depressed. These moods can be problematic and even harmful when left unchecked.

Another point for those in favor of marijuana legalization is that it’s not as harmful or dangerous as alcohol. While this may be true in some measure, it does not mean that marijuana is not harmful, but rather less harmful depending on the circumstance. But why are we comparing it to alcohol in the first place? The only reason I can come up with is that alcohol is legal. If it becomes legal to use marijuana does it suddenly become harmless? Why don’t we compare marijuana to something else that’s legal, fun to do and not harmful and see how marijuana stacks up. How about exercising? “Exercising is legal, at times it can be fun, it can produce a ‘high’ and it relieves stress and anxiety. So if exercising is legal and provides these outcomes and marijuana does too, then marijuana should be legal!” That type of comparison can certainly put a different perspective on the subject.

If a person cannot see where there are negative consequences or outcomes occurring from what they are doing, they are most likely in a state of denial. Looking too closely at the situation may uncover a problem, which would then require some action or decision on the part of the user. If we choose to stay in denial then we don’t have to do anything about the problem – because we don’t see a problem!

“Marijuana is not a gateway drug,” is something frequently told to me. Throughout my years of counseling people with substance abuse issues, sponsoring individuals in recovery, and talking to people who have used hard substances, they state that their journey did not start out by doing cocaine or meth or shooting heroin, it was a progression from their gateway drug which was alcohol and/or marijuana. It was the doorway that increased the odds of them going on to use harder substances. I know that was the case for me and countless others. That is why the assertion that it is not a gateway drug, can only be made individually, not globally.

So is marijuana harmful? Maybe not for some individuals, or those who truly need it for medicinal purposes, but for a lot of other people (myself included) yes, it is. Comparing marijuana to something else that has been harmful, such as alcohol or cigarettes, in order to justify marijuana legalization does not make sense to me and is a weak argument.

Part II

Marijuana Legalization Issue: The debate over marijuana continues as the movement for legalization gains more attention. Currently, medical marijuana is legal in 20 states and the District of Columbia. The states of Washington and Colorado have passed laws which have legalized the use of marijuana.

In part one of this article, published on February 25th, 2014 I challenged the idea put forth by many advocates for legalization that marijuana is a harmless, or at least a less harmful drug than alcohol. I would like to further the discussion of the marijuana legalization issue with this article. While it is true that marijuana may be less harmful than alcohol in some instances, it certainly is not a harmless drug, at least not for everyone.

Over the years I have had the privilege of working with a variety of individuals, of all ages, who have sought help for marijuana dependency. Chemical dependency is characterized by a loss of control over the substance (increased quantity and frequency of the substance) and continued use despite experiencing negative consequences in the main life areas.

Some of the negative outcomes of passing a marijuana legalization issue are financial problems such as spending too much or more than intended on the substance causing a strain in other areas of life where there is financial responsibility. Legal problems such as possession charges, trafficking, stealing as it relates to using, and other legal infractions cause further financial strain. Others may argue that there wouldn’t be much financial strain if it were legal, but in light of the heavy taxation that would be placed on it; I believe it would be a costly activity to engage in on a regular basis. There would continue to be the legal costs connected to driving under the influence, or underage using, same as there is with alcohol.

Many marijuana users do not believe that their usage has a negative impact or influence on others around them. In numerous cases this simply is not true. Relationship problems with parents, significant others, friends and coworkers due to the concerns and conflicts have been a major struggle for some people. Because of the intense connection and great fondness the user has with the substance it can be hard to see the problem and therefore a natural tendency to defend the marijuana legalization issue. Denial is the inability to see the reality of the situation.

Health issues such as depression, emotional issues, bronchitis, asthma, lethargy and amotivational syndrome can occur. Emotional and behavioral issues can include a change in personality, loss of ambitions, shifts or changes in priorities, diminished coping skills and an inability to delay gratification. I believe that the higher concentration of THC in today’s marijuana exacerbate these problems. Clients have reported that their marijuana use has been an obstacle for them in achieving or reaching their intended goals.

I am a person who believes in our freedoms and pursuit of happiness. But with those freedoms comes responsibility. Often dependency prevents people from being fully responsible. In addition to individuals who use, the people who manufacture, regulate, sell and profit from marijuana also have a responsibility to society. If we look to tobacco and alcohol as a model for new marijuana legalization policies, I am not impressed. Now as it stands, we are contemplating the legalization of a classified schedule 1 drug for which there is very limited regulation and oversight.

I find it ironic that we that we live in a society health conscious enough to consider banning the “Big Gulp” (large sized sodas) while promoting the legalization of a substance that is addictive and can cause serious health care problems. The marijuana legalization issue doesn’t add up unless you consider the profit motive, which is used by the pro-legalization side to further their agenda. “Legalize it and tax it, it will help our economy!” is the cry of many marijuana advocates.

It’s not just the segment of our society that can afford ‘these freedoms’ that get caught in the crosshairs of addiction, but many times it’s the less fortunate, or those with very limited resources who become addicted. When the realization hits that they need help they often do not have the resources to obtain it. I guess that is why when the state of Washington legalized marijuana they earmarked part of the tax revenue for substance abuse prevention, education and healthcare purposes.

This country has filled its coffers through the taxation of addictive behaviors such as gambling, alcohol and tobacco sales and now the legalization of a schedule one drug? It cannot be denied that these addictive behaviors have left many in ruins. Do we really want to continue down the path of allowing our government to fund itself by being a parasite feeding off the despair of those who are less fortunate and addicted?

The government does not make the bulk of the revenue from the occasional blackjack player or social drinker or once a week marijuana smoker. No, sadly enough, the more dependent and worse off the person is, the more revenue the government will gather through the taxation of increased usage. By profiting from these mood-altering, addictive behaviors our government actually becomes an enabler.

My real concern is not the marijuana legalization issue, but the bigger picture. Why has our society become so geared to a variety of potentially harmful mood altering behaviors, such as drugs, alcohol, smoking, overeating, video games, gambling, pornography, shopping and spending in order to feel good, numb out, relax, be happy or have fun? I think this is the discussion the country should be having and examine the reasons or the root causes of such behaviors. For me, this is the real issue and I don’t believe legalizing marijuana helps us address this ever-growing problem.

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