22 Apr The Dangers of Marijuana
Marijuana is a drug in the cannabinoid family derived from the cannabis sativa plant. It is the most widely used drug in the U.S. and some states are in the process of, or already have, declared it a legal substance. One of the big reasons why marijuana is so widely used is because it is viewed by many people as harmless. One thing that we have learned from other legal drugs, such as alcohol, is that just because a substance is legal does not mean it’s harmless.
In Colorado, where marijuana was recently legalized, a minimum legal age for use was set at 21 years old, just like alcohol. This is because marijuana is a mind altering substance that should only be used by responsible adults in a safe setting. Not only do young people lack the judgment to use controlled substances, many of the negative side effects associated with marijuana are especially dangerous for younger people whose bodies are still growing and developing.
Marijuana begins having an effect on the body when THC, the cannabinoid agent in the drug, reaches the brain. It can be ingested or smoked in order to be taken into the body. THC causes areas of the brain that affect concentration, memory, pleasure perception, and coordination to become overactive. Marijuana is especially dangerous for young people because it affects the way the brain stores memories and other information. Teenagers who use the drug can experience long lasting or even permanent damage in these brain functions. The younger a person is when they begin using marijuana, the worse the permanent side effects can be.
Although marijuana is currently being viewed in a more positive light because of its medical uses and legalization in some states, the fact still remains that it is the most commonly abused drug among young people between the ages of 12 and 18. Just as we are trying to educate children against the dangers of alcohol and keep them from using it before age 21, we should be doing this with marijuana too. In states where the drug is still illegal, use at any age can carry serious legal consequences, along with the associated health risks.