In Part 2 of our series about marijuana, we examine the arguments some make that legalized pot can be beneficial to individuals and society.
Western society has become virtually unrecognizable to anyone born as recently as 50 years ago. Its values, behaviors and entertainment have largely become the opposite of what was acceptable in the mid-20th century. Today, the increase in jurisdictions legalizing marijuana for recreational use is leading to an even greater abandonment of long-held standards.
In the previous issue of Tomorrow’s World, the first article of this series noted two overriding reasons given for the legalization of pot. The first is that there is a growing acceptance in society that cannabis is a benign drug and thus legalization bodes no harm for society. The second is the fact that great effort and resources are expended by law enforcement agencies to fight substance abuse, apparently to little avail, and marijuana’s illegal status gives organized crime an opportunity to benefit from supplying the drug. Many people reason that if marijuana were legal, these resources could be deployed elsewhere, and the profits from drug sales would no longer benefit the criminal element, but instead would benefit the state.
Also in the previous issue, we saw a portion of the overwhelming body of medical research that demonstrates cannabis is anything but harmless. We quoted research showing that cannabis contributes to loss of motivation, especially in youth, due to diminishing dopamine levels in the brain. It was shown to be a direct contributor to both higher addiction levels and cases of brain impairment (reduced memory and attention span, diminished reasoning capacity, and consequent decline in academic performance). Even government health websites were shown to contain many warnings against the use of marijuana. Health Canada, for example, presents research showing increased risk of psychosis and schizophrenia, as well as the severe dangers posed to unborn children whose mothers are users.
Marijuana is anything but safe. But what of the second rationale presented by its proponents?
A key argument used by proponents of marijuana legalization is based on the assumption that legalizing the drug will undermine a major source of income for organized crime. The position is put forward that legalizing marijuana would reduce contact between users and criminal elements, and hence lessen the likelihood of contact with more serious drugs.
While it is obvious that removal of marijuana’s illegal status would cause a drop in the crime rate (the behavior doesn’t stop, it is just “redefined” as legal), it does not follow that the illegal drug trade would be significantly harmed.
Even as enforcement of marijuana laws has been relaxed and the drug has become accessible from storefront operations, the use of other illegal drugs has not declined. Despite easier availability and the decreased risk of prosecution, the consumption of even more damaging drugs has increased. Most empirical research shows that marijuana is a gateway drug to more dangerous drugs. Whether marijuana is made legal or not, organized crime will benefit from its increased use.
Dr. Robert Dupont, the first director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, makes the following observation in the New York Times: “… people who use marijuana also consume more, not less, legal and illegal drugs than do people who do not use marijuana.”
He goes on to say: “Legalizing marijuana will have lasting negative effects on future generations. The currently legal drugs, alcohol and tobacco, are two of the leading causes of preventable illness and death in the country. Establishing marijuana as a third legal drug will increase the national drug abuse problem, including expanding the opioid epidemic” (“Marijuana Has Proven to Be a Gateway Drug,” New York Times, April 26, 2016).
Research and common sense demonstrate that the legalization of marijuana will increase—not decrease—drug crime and drug abuse. Those who seek a high from marijuana are far more likely to seek a more intense high from other substances.
Earlier in my career, I served as an administrator in a large school system of over 80,000 students. One of my least favourite duties was chairing student expulsion hearings. In my experience, the vast majority of such cases involved drugs of some description, often crystal meth, ecstasy or crack. In almost every case, the young person had started with marijuana. Whether legal or not, it is a “gateway drug” to harder drugs, and the inevitable sorrow and loss of potential that follow. Legalizing recreational drugs only results in a weaker and more violent society, in which the only “hope” available seems to be found in getting high.
In fact, in some states in the U.S., legalization has resulted in a 400 percent increase in marijuana-related visits to emergency rooms, as reported by Dr. G. S. Wang of the pediatrics department of the University of Colorado (“Marijuana-related ER visits among kids quadruples at Colorado hospital: Study,” TorontoSun.com, May 8, 2017).
Several studies done in the U.S. and Canada have shown that when marijuana is legalized, or imminent, people believe that the government is designating cannabis as a safe and benign substance. However, users are frequently unaware that the potency level of marijuana today—the concentration of the hallucinogenic ingredient THC (tetrahydrocannabinol)—is up to five times higher than it was in the 1960s.
For most of the last century, marijuana was an illegal or restricted drug. This made it difficult to do research on any potential medical properties. Under pressure from the pro-marijuana lobby, a number of U.S. states and the government of Canada decriminalized marijuana for “medical” purposes and began to legalize growing operations for medical distribution. In some jurisdictions, an individual may receive a permit to grow a limited amount of cannabis if that person is licensed to consume it for a “medical” reason.
The medical profession has advised caution over what they call a premature application of medical marijuana. Physicians raise a number of key concerns regarding the prescribing of cannabis for a given complaint.
Clearly, the current rush to get “medical marijuana” on the market and into the hands of consumers is premature and even potentially irresponsible on the part of legislators. The American Medical Association—which, on medical grounds, has opposed the legalization of pot—stresses the need to conduct thorough research into the pharmacology of cannabis before the state begins to support it as a pharmaceutical. Other drugs have to go through rigorous testing, and rushing marijuana past this process is deemed irresponsible by scientists. Note the following clause from the American Medical Association’s policy:
Our AMA urges that marijuana’s status as a federal Schedule I controlled substance be reviewed with the goal of facilitating the conduct of clinical research and development of cannabinoid-based medicines, and alternate delivery methods. This should not be viewed as an endorsement of state-based medical cannabis programs, the legalization of marijuana, or that scientific evidence on the therapeutic use of cannabis meets the current standards for a prescription drug product (American Medical Association—CSA Rep. 6, A–01).
In a letter to Canada’s then Minister of Health, the Canadian Medical Association similarly stated that there “remains scant evidence regarding the effectiveness of the herbal form of marijuana…” (Letter to Minister Aglukkaq, February 28, 2013). This was followed a few months later by the following statement from the Canadian Medical Association:
The CMA still believes there is insufficient scientific evidence available to support the use of marijuana for clinical purposes. It also believes there is insufficient evidence on clinical risks and benefits, including the proper dosage of marijuana to be used and on the potential interactions between this drug and other medications (“New ‘Marihuana [sic] for Medical Purposes Regulations’: What Do Doctors Need to Know?” Canadian Medical Association, 2014).
Associations of physicians resist the use of so-called “medical marijuana,” as there is currently little solid clinical evidence that the drug is effective. There have been some indications that cannabinol, an ingredient in marijuana, may have potential for treating specific ailments, such as seizures. However, much research is needed to determine appropriate dosages, side effects and other information before doctors can ethically prescribe. To those who insist on the medical benefit of marijuana, physicians point out that some dosage-controlled, carefully measured medications already exist: dronabinol (Marinol®) and nabilone (Cesamet®). Physicians can already prescribe either of these medications, though each still lacks appropriate research. So why is there still such a cry for medical marijuana? Could it be that these approved, clinically monitored medications allow the THC to act on the body but do not give the user a desired “high”? One also wonders, if pot is legalized, how long afterward will the demand for “medical” marijuana persist? Perhaps the “medical” aspect is more excuse than reality.
We can conclude with a few statements from a recent editorial by Dr. Diane Kelsall in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. In response to Bill C-45, which is designed to legalize marijuana in Canada on July 1, 2018, Dr. Kelsall writes:
Simply put, cannabis should not be used by young people. It is toxic to their cortical neuronal networks, with both functional and structural changes seen in the brains of youth who use cannabis regularly. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health has stated unequivocally that “cannabis is not a benign substance and its health harms increase with intensity of use” (“Cannabis legislation fails to protect Canada’s youth,” Canadian Medical Association Journal, May 29, 2017).
Political leaders ought to be driven by a sense of what is good for their citizens, yet those who pander to groups who seek hedonistic pleasure—or to those who possibly have entrepreneurial interests eventually involving convenience store shelves and glamorous packaging—may be more interested in their own welfare than that of the nation.
Marijuana use has been illegal in North America, and in many countries around the world, for a good reason: it is, as science clearly shows, harmful to its users and to the nation. Marijuana and similar drugs, some even more deadly, rob users of potential, leaving behind broken dreams and shattered lives. The loss of human potential to marijuana and other mind-altering substances is enormous.
Long ago, in a letter written to a young minister, a now-famous citizen of Rome and a man of great education—who had held high position and been sought after by rulers of his day—gave the following advice as to how a person, young or old, can achieve a productive and satisfying life. The man, the Apostle Paul, wrote to a young Greek colleague named Titus:
Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you (Titus 2:6).
In truth, this is the very opposite of being high, stoned, drunk or any other term that indicates lack of control of one’s mind. One of the characteristics critical for happiness and success is self-control and the inspired wisdom of the Bible stresses the blessings of being in constant control of our minds: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:22–23).
Self-control cannot be exercised when one is drunk or high on a mind-altering substance. In such a state, one is at risk of committing actions and speaking words one can regret for a lifetime. Possible addictions that result can destroy families, careers, reputation and potential. A sober mind is an invaluable defense.
As we enter a difficult and dangerous period in the history of our nations—nations which are rejecting God and His Word—we must be alert and sober in order to respond to challenging times with wisdom. This will enable us to cope with the disaster that social change will soon bring upon our lands. Understanding reality and living soberly in accordance with God’s direction will be a source of protection in the coming days. Jesus Christ Himself warned that carousing, drunkenness and the cares of this life will be a distraction as the end of this age approaches (Luke 21:34–36).
It is a tragedy when people, young or old, seek the pleasure of “getting high.” Our human mind is a treasure, brilliantly designed by a great Creator, who plans to offer mankind an awesome future with potential undreamed of in the human sphere. To learn more, request our free booklet, The World Ahead: What Will It Be Like? No chemical in the universe can begin to deliver the wonderful sense of fulfillment God grants to those who take pleasure in living His way.