Legalization is not the only choice

February 22nd, 2014 by admin Leave a reply »

In a recent statewide study, 52% of Maine’s high school aged youth said regular marijuana use was not harmful, an increase from 45% in 2009 (Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey, 2013). Many of us in the field of substance abuse prevention and health promotion believe this is an unintended negative consequence of Maine’s decriminalization and medicinal marijuana laws. And research tells us that increasing access to and normalizing a drug does in fact increase the likelihood that people, especially youth, will use and abuse the drug.

Most Maine adults over 26 (93%) do not smoke marijuana. While most people seem to agree that they are against youth use, what about the third (27%) of Mainers between the ages of 18 and 25 who used marijuana in the past month (National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2010)?

Scientific research reveals more every day about the harmful effects of marijuana, especially to the brain which is not fully developed until the age of 26. Comparing marijuana to any other drug is a red herring to confuse the subject. Marijuana’s harmful effects and addictive qualities are different than other drugs. Whether some harmful effects are “better” or “worse” than other drugs is not the point.

Let’s be clear: marijuana is addictive. Approximately 9% who use marijuana become addicted. For those who start using as teens, 17% become addicted. For daily users, it’s 25-50% (National Co-morbidity Survey, 1994). In 2011 marijuana was the illicit drug with the highest rate of past year dependence or abuse in

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