Nine states and the District of Columbia have now legalized the recreational use of marijuana. Is this a good thing? (Medicinal use is legal in 29 states.)
With loosening standards, it is no surprise that marijuana use is up across the board. Last year, 14% of Americans - one in seven - used pot. Laws actually do make a difference here, as 20% of Americans used pot where it is legal while only 12% used pot where it is against the law. The old saying is that “the law is a teacher,” and this serves as an example.
Citizens in a Christian country such as ours tend to have a high degree of regard and respect for the law, and by and large carry with them an assumption that lawmakers have put some thought and exercised some prudence in forming our laws.
Perhaps, as we might suspect, weed usage is highest among those between the ages of 18-34. What’s disturbing about this is that, while 10% of adults become addicted to marijuana, a full 17% of Americans under the age of 20 do. California, if you can believe it, is even considering allowing students to bring medical pot to school. Of course, it won’t take but half a day for this “medical” marijuana to be shared surreptitiously with classmates, and recreational pot itself will be overlooked and allowed before long.
What makes this alarming is that the earlier someone begins to use marijuana, the worse its long-term effects are. Dr. Michael Lynch, an emergency physician, toxicologist, and medical director of the Pittsburgh Poison Center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center says, “Early use is associated with more negative effects on brain and cognitive development.”
Not only is intelligence and decision-making capacity affected, there are psychological and even psychiatric consequences as well. Part of the increased severity of these impacts is due to the fact that today’s marijuana is not your father’s marijuana, or the marijuana you smoked in college. The active ingredient in pot, THC, has been turbo-charged in today’s marijuana, making it far more potent than it was in the days of Cheech and Chong.
Pot can cause agitation in users, and it has the “potential for anxiety and for psychotic effects,” including schizophrenia. It can even cause seizures in some users. And an alert to new moms: THC has been found in breast milk. While researchers are not certain about the impact of THC delivered to infants via nursing, prior research has identified a two to threefold increase in the risk of later psychiatric disorders associated with cannabis use prior to puberty.
The New Testament warns against getting high on alcohol (Ephesians 5:18), and by implication any other mind and mood altering substance. We are designed to always be under the control of the Spirit of God, and we are never to hand over that control to anything we ingest. It looks like that’s a lesson we may all need to re-learn.