- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 8, 2014

You can go into a store in Colorado and buy marijuana to get stoned for kicks, but you cannot purchase a 40- or 60-watt light bulb. This is the state of affairs in America after five years of President Obama’s liberalism, which has misguided the public on what are the actual dangers to society.

On New Year’s Day, Colorado became the first state to allow the purchase of marijuana for recreational use. Anyone over the age of 21 can buy pot over the counter to smoke at home to get high. Washington state also legalized cannabis, and sales will begin there in June. 

Colorado is being watched by other loosey-goosey states that may jump on the drug-decriminalizing bandwagon. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia already allow for sales of marijuana for supposedly “medical” use. 

Crime-ridden Washington, D.C., is actually considering a ballot initiative to legalize the drug. The Washington Times reported exclusively Tuesday that if the measure is approved by voters — and, most critically, by Congress — residents would be allowed to grow marijuana in their homes and transfer up to an ounce.

This demonstrates how activists are totally uneducated about the severe consequences of smoking pot.

Cully Stimson was a prosecutor in drug court in San Diego and has served as a military trial judge.

“There’s already a significant number of D.C. residents involved in the criminal justice system,” the senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation told me in an interview. “By telling them that marijuana is a medicine and not a drug, then legalizing it, you’re going to have a stoned, dependent community that is even worse than today.”

Mr. Stimson, a former defense attorney, has written extensively on drug policies and the dangers of marijuana. He predicts that Colorado’s social experiment will fail badly.

“Nothing positive will come out of it,” he stated. “You’re going to have lower test scores and a class of people who are unemployable because they are stoned all the time. People are going to die on ski slopes, on the roads.”

The think tank expert further explained, “Countries that have legalized marijuana have experienced negative social effects. They’ve seen more dependency — marijuana is highly addictive and a gateway to harder drugs — and more crime and a bigger black market because the drug cartels undercut legal sellers and also target youth.” 

Marijuana proponents who claim that pot is no different than alcohol are ignorant of the science. The body can process alcohol, and in many studies, a few drinks have been proven to have health benefits. Marijuana, on the other hand, is simply a toxin. Pot is more similar to heroin and cocaine than alcohol in how it affects the body. 

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the physical consequences of smoking marijuana joints — which do not have a filter, as cigarettes do, that can block some of the carcinogens and toxins — include respiratory problems, lung infections and a diminished immune system. 

Scientists have shown that the active ingredient in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), affects brain function in areas such as memory and concentration, which can affect learning skills and academic achievement. 

The medical studies also prove that chronic marijuana use leads to psychosis, depression, suicidal thoughts and “amotivational syndrome,” which is a loss in engagement in formerly rewarding activities.

While Hollywood has actively pushed pot smoking by making light of this laziness, it has a terrible consequence to a society plagued by high unemployment.

The physical effects are permanent when the drug is started young. Exposure to marijuana as a teenager can alter brain development, according to the NIH. There have already been reports showing decreased academic performance by children who live in states that have legalized “medical” marijuana. 

Those who push to legalize pot by saying the increased tax revenue to the states is a benefit that outweighs the risk of increased access and dependence by the young are woefully negligent. 

The risk of addiction from using marijuana goes from one in 10 adults to one in six for those who start as adolescents. That rate jumps to between one-quarter to one-half for kids who smoke weed daily.

The potency of THC has increased by almost 10 times the levels in the 1980s, which makes the side effects more severe and the drug more additive.

Studies of high school students show a high correlation between cocaine addiction and the start of drug use with marijuana.

Virtually every person in drug-treatment centers began their addictions by using marijuana. Yet when asked in a recent Rasmussen Reports poll whether marijuana use leads to harder drugs, only 39 percent of respondents correctly said “yes.”

Colorado and Washington are breaking federal law, established in 1970, which prohibits possessing, growing or distributing marijuana. However, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. decided unilaterally in August not to enforce the statute in these two states. The Justice Department has merely told the governors to vaguely regulate and enforce public health.

Mr. Obama’s lead prosecutor has given zero direction on how to prevent drug trafficking across state lines or enforce this cash-only business. 

There has been a massive marketing campaign for decades from the far left, Hollywood and politicians to manipulate the public into thinking marijuana use is harmless.

According to the same Rasmussen poll, 41 percent of the public favors the legalization of recreational marijuana use in their state, while 50 percent oppose it. 

Although legalizing marijuana is an issue that crosses party lines, with libertarians and some conservatives favoring it from the position of not wanting the government regulating their bodies, smoking pot is not an individual decision without dire consequences to society as a whole.

Emily Miller is senior editor of opinion for The Washington Times and author of “Emily Gets Her Gun” (Regnery, 2013).