- - Monday, February 9, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Certain Americans have a love-hate relationship with marijuana, and with the pleasure comes the pain. In Colorado, where residents have legalized the euphoria of pot, the unhealthy consequences of it are beginning to emerge. There’s a warning for other states in the Rocky Mountain high.

Last week, the state of Colorado published a 188-page study of the health effects of pot. Coming a year after voter-approved legalization took effect, “Monitoring Health Concerns Related to Marijuana in Colorado: 2014” reviews existing literature and compiles a summary of the effects of marijuana use. Given the health risks associated with cannabis, it’s a perverse irony of human nature that the craving for a high can drive a stoner to give in to such a self-abusing downer.

The researchers found that for the 1 in 10 Coloradans 26 and older who smoke the weed at least once a month the “potential adverse health effects in this population are of significant public health concern.” Heavy pot use can produce “acute psychotic symptoms during intoxication,” and impaired memory can persist for at least seven days after use. Psychosis — a loss of contact with reality — is not a mental state that enables someone to achieve his goals. It certainly doesn’t help him behind a steering wheel. According to the Colorado study, pot smoking is responsible for doubling the number of car and truck crashes. A traffic accident is a definite downer, and so is the increase in automobile insurance premiums that usually follows.

Pot enthusiasts can be relieved to learn, however, that a separate study in the Journal of Neuroscience finds no evidence that the human brain actually shrinks as a result of pot use. But pot smokers seem to lose their wits. Adolescents who smoke regularly experience an IQ decline of 8 points on average, according to Duke University researcher Madeline H. Meier. The Colorado study finds that young people who smoke weed are prone to “developing psychotic symptoms and disorders such as schizophrenia in adulthood.”

Pregnant women who pass the grass and forget they’re toking for two put their unborn child at risk. The Colorado report finds marijuana intake “is associated with negative effects on exposed offspring, including decreased academic ability, cognitive function and attention.” No mother would wish attention deficit hyperactivity disorder on her newborn baby, but prospective moms who get high may be consigning their children to lives of dependency on Ritalin and the like.

Coloradans who voted to legalize marijuana may not have thought through the consequences of the high life, but William Bennett has. The drug czar under President George H.W. Bush writes of the dangers of legalization in a new book, “Going to Pot,” and told Fox News Channel last week that “they’re starting to have regrets out there in Denver.” One of those regretting is Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat. “If I could’ve waved a wand the day after the election, I would’ve reversed it and said, ‘This was a bad idea,’” he told the cable channel CNBC.

Oregon, Alaska and Washington state have also approved marijuana use, and the District of Columbia legalized it earlier, but is so far restrained by Congress. For Americans in states considering legalization, the question isn’t so much whether they should or shouldn’t, but why would they want to? Life is short, and getting wasted is a waste of time, or worse.


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