Legalization of Marijuana
Lets us first describe what marijuana is, it is a green, brown, or gray mixture of dried, shredded leaves, stems, seeds, and flowers of the female hemp plant. Marijuana is called by street names such as pot, herb, weed, grass, boom, Mary Jane, gangster, or chronic (National Institute on Drug Abuse). All marijuana contains THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the main active chemical in marijuana (National Institute on Drug Abuse).
In 1988, it was discovered that the membranes of certain nerve cells contain protein receptors that bind THC. Once securely in place, THC kicks off a series of cellular reactions that ultimately lead to the high that users experience when they smoke marijuana. Marijuana’s effects on the user depend on its strength or potency, which is related to the amount of THC that it contains (The National Institute on Drug Abuse). Researchers have found that THC changes the way in which sensory information gets into and is processed by the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a component of the brain’s limbic system that is crucial for learning, memory, and the integration of sensory experiences with emotions and motivations. Investigations have shown that THC suppresses neurons in the information processing system of the hippocampus and the activity of the nerve fibers in this region. In addition, researchers have discovered that learned behaviors, which depend on the hippocampus, also deteriorate via this mechanism. Recent research findings also indicate that long-term use of marijuana produces changes in the brain similar to those seen after long-term use of other major drugs of abuse (The National Institute on Drug Abuse).
Someone who smokes marijuana regularly may have many of the same respiratory problems as tobacco smokers. These individuals may have daily cough and phlegm, symptoms of chronic bronchitis, and more frequent chest colds. Continuing to smoke marijuana can lead to abnormal functioning of lung tissue injured or destroyed by marijuana smoke. Regardless of the THC content, the amount of tar inhaled by marijuana smokers and the level of carbon monoxide absorbed are three to five times greater than among tobacco smokers. This may be due to the marijuana users’ inhaling more deeply and holding the smoke in the lungs and because marijuana smoke is unfiltered. Recent findings indicate that smoking marijuana while shooting up cocaine has the potential to cause severe increases in heart rate and blood pressure.
In one study, experienced marijuana and cocaine users were given marijuana alone, cocaine alone, and then a combination of both. Each drugs alone produced cardiovascular effects; when they were combined, the effects were greater and lasted longer. The heart rate of the subjects in the study increased 29 beats per minute with marijuana alone and 32 beats per minute with cocaine alone. When the drugs were given together, the heart rate increased by 49 beats per minute, and the increased rate persisted for a longer time. The drugs were given with the subjects sitting quietly. In normal circumstances, an individual may smoke marijuana and inject cocaine and then do something physically stressful that may significantly increase the risk of overloading the cardiovascular system.
A study of college students has shown that critical skills related to attention, memory, and learning are impaired among people who use marijuana heavily, even after discontinuing its use for at least 24 hours. Researchers compared 65 “heavy users,” who had smoked marijuana a median of 29 of the past 30 days, and 64 “light users,” who had smoked a median of 1 of the past 30 days. After a closely monitored 19- to 24-hour period of abstinence from marijuana and other illicit drugs and alcohol, the undergraduates were given several standard tests measuring aspects of attention, memory, and learning. Compared to the light users, heavy marijuana users made more errors and had more difficulty sustaining attention, shifting attention to meet the demands of changes in the environment, and in registering, processing, and using information. These findings suggest that the greater impairment among heavy users is likely due to an alteration of brain activity produced by marijuana.
Longitudinal research on marijuana use among young people below college age indicates those who used marijuana have lower achievement than the non-users, more acceptances of deviant behavior, more delinquent behavior and aggression, greater rebelliousness, poorer relationships with parents, and more associations with delinquent and drug-using friends. Research also shows more anger and more regressive behavior (thumb sucking, temper tantrums) in toddlers whose parents use marijuana than among the toddlers of non-using parents (Michael Farrell, M.D., British Medical Journal)
A gateway drug is a drug that is considered to lead the user to experiment with harder more addictive drugs. “There is a fairly long history of research showing that early cannabis (marijuana) use is associated with increased risks for later use of so-called ‘hard drugs,’ but that research is based on the fact that most heroin and cocaine users report first having used cannabis,” says lead author Michael T. Lynskey, Ph.D., a visiting assistant professor of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and senior research fellow at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research in Brisbane, Australia (Lynskey).
In conclusion, I believe that the research speaks for itself in regard to why we should not legalize this harmful drug. It impairs a subject’s ability to function properly and has harmful long-term effects on the brain and its functions. The use of marijuana has been proven to lead a person to try more powerful drugs that lead to a deteriorated lifestyle and in some cases a life of crime.
http://marijuana.drug-culture.com/history/marijuana-gateway-drug.asp Marijuana As A Gateway Drug, The Real Drug War Begins, 2002-2003 www.Drug-Culture.com
http://www.rense.com/general39/refer.htm Marijuana – The GateWay Drug, Sheryl Jackson, firstname.lastname@example.org 8-2-3
http://www.marijuanaaddiction.info/marijuana-gateway-drug.htm Marijuana Gateway Drug, Narconon Southern California, Inc. 2001
http://alcoholism.about.com/cs/pot/l/blnida07.htm Marijuana, From the National Institute on Drug Abuse
http://www.robertawhite.com/marijuana.htm “The Gateway Drug”, Journal of the American Medical Association.
http://www.reason.com/links/links012403.shtml High Road Marijuana as a “gateway” drug, By Jacob Sullum
http://www.drugscience.org/Petition/C6C.htm The Gateway Theory: Marijuana Use and Other Drug Use, DrugScience.org