Do we need a reality check regarding marijuana?
In May, 18 UW–Platteville students were arrested in one day on marijuana-related charges. We have watched as their fines/penalties have been determined over the past several months.
Grant County Sheriff, Nate Dreckman, in a September article, stated that “a vast majority of the hundreds of drug-related offenses each year (that go through the county courts) continue to involve marijuana.”
Washington and Colorado voters recently approved a ballot question to allow the legalization of recreational marijuana. The District of Columbia and 19 states support “medical” marijuana. However, under federal law, any marijuana use is still illegal. The mixed messages are potentially confusing and damaging to the public, and especially for youth.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the National Institute on Drug Abuse have said that smoked marijuana has no medical benefit. The National Institutes of Health has found through their extensive research that marijuana is significantly associated with lower IQ scores (as much as 8 points), learning problems, mental illness, car crashes, and a lower quality of life.
The American Medical Association and the American Society of Addiction Medication have also stated their opposition to legalizing marijuana. Why? One compelling reason is that research shows that marijuana harms adolescent cognitive brain development, contains carcinogens, and is linked to mental illness (especially schizophrenia).
“Our nation cannot afford to raise a generation of pot smokers and expect to compete in this high-tech, global economy,” says Gen. Arthur T. Dean, CEO and chairman of the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, the nation’s leading drug abuse prevention organization.
Another study shows that drivers who smoke marijuana within a few hours of hitting the road are almost twice as likely as stone-sober motorists to be in a crash that results in serious injury or death. Driving simulator studies conclude that there is evidence that marijuana-affected individuals are impeded as far as the ability to control a vehicle in the areas of steering, speed variability, car following, reaction time, and lane positioning. Higher doses resulted in greater degrees of impairment.
Driving while stoned has become a hot topic as more states allow for medical use of marijuana. It seems especially dangerous in Southwest Wisconsin with its unique topography of hills, valleys and curving scenic highways. Southwest Wisconsin drivers are especially challenged to be attentive to changing conditions, the potential for encountering wildlife, farm animals and machinery, or Amish buggies. Any substance that could diminish a driver’s attention or reaction time increases the potential for accidents.
As the 18 UW–Platteville students discovered in May, marijuana is still illegal in Wisconsin and possession or manufacture and delivery will be prosecuted. Beyond this reality, contrary to popular belief, marijuana is linked to a host of health and safety concerns.