Legalizing Pot is Anti-Science
New research from Northwestern University contributes to the mountain of evidence asserting that marijuana use poses serious public health risks. The study, published in the journal, Hippocampus, asserts that teenagers who reported heavy marijuana use had abnormally shaped hippocampuses and performed poorly on long-term memory exercises. This study is the first to link the abnormal shape in the hippocampus (a phenomenon among heavy marijuana users observed in other studies) with poor long term memory performances (another phenomenon noted in studies about heavy marijuana users). While proponents of legalized recreational marijuana may attempt to discount the study based on two qualifiers (teenagers and heavy), each of these objections fail to recognize other studies that address those qualifiers. Simply put, marijuana poses health risks to teenagers and adults regardless of how casually or heavily they use. The unambiguous conclusion of decades of research calls upon liberals, classical and otherwise, to answer for their advocacy of loosening marijuana restrictions.
News of the Northwestern study competes with that of high profile Republican senator, Rand Paul’s, proposed legislation to protect medical marijuana users from prosecution in states where medical marijuana is legal. The Cato Institute’s Jeffrey Miron supports this legislation as a common sense approach to drug laws made more confusing by conflicting messaging from state governments and the federal government about marijuana’s legal status. Miron argues that marijuana’s classification as a Schedule I drug, alongside harder drugs like LSD and heroin, makes little sense.
“Putting pot in Schedule I is bizarre. Few observers believe either that marijuana has ‘no currently accepted medical use’ or that it has ‘a high potential for abuse,’ and many believe it’s safer than the drugs in Schedules I and II.”
Ironically, it is Miron’s argument that is bizarre.
One of the “few observers” Miron casually dismisses is Dr. Hans Breiter, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a psychiatrist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Breiter co-authored a study about the dangers of casual marijuana use among young adults (not just teenagers).
“I’ve developed a severe worry about whether we should be allowing anybody under age 30 to use pot unless they have a terminal illness and need it for pain, writes Breiter. “This study raises a strong challenge to the idea that casual marijuana use isn’t associated with bad consequences.”
Miron’s quoting the “many” who believe that marijuana is safer than the drugs in Schedules I and II poses two problems. First, the “many” are wrong. Liz Szabo, writing for USA Today, quotes the findings of a group of studies found in the New England Journal of Medicine. In 2011, marijuana accounted for 455,668 drug related emergency room visits whereas heroin only accounted for 258,482. In fact, heroin consistently caused fewer emergency room visits than marijuana. Furthermore, the studies found an indirect relationship between high school seniors’ perceptions about the safety of marijuana, and their usage of marijuana. In other words, when seniors generally perceived marijuana to be safe, they smoked more of it.
Despite these facts, Senator Paul’s proposal appears, at first glance, reasonable. His legislation means to simply bring clarity to muddied drug laws. Beneath the surface, though, Paul’s intent looks more like one of normalizing marijuana use. In January, Paul called former Florida governor, Jeb Bush, a hypocrite for standing by a continuation of criminalizing marijuana despite his own admitted dalliances with the drug.
“This is a guy [Bush] who now admits he smoked marijuana but he wants to put people in jail who do…I think that the real hypocrisy, is that people on our side…who made mistakes growing up…still want to put people in jail for that,” Paul said.
No. The real hypocrisy is admitting that the science is right–marijuana is not safe–but working to make it more easily accessible to people anyway.