I read with interest the responses to my letter. There is still a lot of controversy about marijuana.
The fact that any drug has been used for a thousand years does not mean it does not have any potential medical problems. Any drug that is strong enough to instill changes in the body, may also adversely affect the body or mind.
For someone to write that a "naturally" occurring plant should not be illegal is obviously ignorant of the many "natural" substances that occur in nature that are not necessarily positive.
There are many herbs and medicinal drugs that come from plants that are useful. To compare marijuana with basil and oregano, however, is ridiculous.
And marijuana is just part of the plant. We can also get hashish from the plant.
Hashish or hash is made by taking the resin from the leaves and flowers of the plant and pressing it into cakes or slabs. Hash is usually stronger than crude marijuana and may contain 5-10 times as much THC.
My research came from many sources and included the National Institute on Drug Abuse. I also have seen some of the negative effects of marijuana on students in my 32 years experience as a high school teacher and coach.
Marijuana's active ingredient is THC (tetrahydrocanninbinol). The strength of today's marijuana is as much as 10 times greater than the marijuana used in the early 70s.
One of the positive effects of marijuana was found in reducing the nausea which came with chemotherapy in treating cancer and there are areas where controlled marijuana is used for this purpose.
Another positive effect of legalization would be obviously regulating the amount of THC and preventing the contamination of marijuana with PCP, etc.
Some immediate physical effects of marijuana may include: a faster heartbeat, dry mouth and throat. There is no scientific evidence that marijuana improves hearing, eyesight, and skin sensitivity.
Studies show that the drug can impair or reduce short-term memory, alter sense of time, and reduce ability to do things which require concentration, such as driving a car or operating machinery.
With alcohol causing close to 50% of the traffic related deaths, it does not seem wise to add another drug which definitely has adverse reactions on drivers, including ability to brake quickly, and to maintain speed and proper distance between cars. One drink of a beverage containing alcohol will be oxidized in approximately one hour. Research shows that skills are impaired for at least 4-6 hours after a single marijuana cigarette or "joint."
There have also been individuals who have had a panic reaction from the fear of "losing control."
Because marijuana is smoked, there is heat and combustion, which have had negative effects on the mouth, gums, and respiratory system.
Examination of human lung tissue that had been exposed to marijuana smoke over a long period of time in a lab, showed cellular changes called metaplasia that are considered precancerous.
THC is absorbed by most tissues and organs in the body, however it is primarily found in fat tissues. The body, in its attempt to rid itself of the foreign chemical, transforms the THC into metabolites. Urine tests can detect the metabolites for up to a week. Animal studies have found evidences of THC, up to a month later.
Some research studies suggest that the use of marijuana during pregnancy may result in premature babies and in low birth weights.
Some of the most damaging effects of marijuana are not necessarily physical but mental, emotional and social. Like any drug it may develop a psychological dependency. Marijuana is not physically addicting. It is also a drug that may lead users to experiment with other drugs.
One of the biggest problems, especially for adolescents, is the fact that regular use may delay emotional growth.
There are obviously many other pros and cons, but in the opinion of many experts, the potential for harm outweighs the positive.
Ira Gibel, Pine