- - Thursday, April 8, 2021

There is a time in life when human beings have a chance to feel as if they can conquer the world and reach for the stars. Hopes come to fruition for a fortunate few, but obstacles intervene for others, leaving them to look back later and regret the day they surrendered their goals. The frivolous decision to become involved with psychoactive substances is that moment for many. Thanks to the upsurge of marijuana legalization across the nation, millions more are destined for a future of dashed dreams.

Pot use is not a victimless habit. A study funded by the National Institutes of Health and published last week by the Journal of the American Medical Association found that marijuana users between the ages of 12 and 25 open the door to substance abuse disorders. Adolescent users, those 12 to 17, are twice as likely to descend into drug abuse as young adults, ages 18-25.

Researchers found 15.4% of the younger set and 51.5 percent of the older cohort had used cannabis. The results confirm the troubling conclusions of previous studies: Individuals who begin using marijuana during adolescence are twice as likely to develop a substance abuse disorder as the young adults.

The federal government still regards cannabis a controlled substance, meaning it has an extreme potential for dependency, no legitimate use in medicine and its distribution is a federal offense. Undeterred, state governments are racing to earn their trendy credentials by legalizing the weed. Making it a big business also means big state revenue, and every politician worthy of the title knows it’s easier to commoditize and tax vice than virtue.

Last week, New York became the 15th state to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Tokers 21 and older can immediately possess up to three ounces, though it may take a year before rules are ready for the regulation of commercial sale of cannabis. New Jersey beat New York to the pot patch by a month, and Virginia only needs the governor’s signature on approved legislation to join the party.

The libertarian, and libertine, argument in favor of pot says individuals ought to be free from government interference to make their own decisions, including whether to ingest mind-altering chemicals. After all, alcohol is legal, so tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, should be as well. Following the same vein of thought, a person who has fractured one leg is free to break the other. But why would anybody in his right mind want to?

Normalizing the use of another psychoactive substance for adults inevitably encourages its abuse among adolescents. It means generations of young Americans are destined for dependency, overuse and overdose on other, more potent chemicals. It means millions of young Americans are destined to be turned aside from their hope-fueled life plans, leaving them to wonder with heavy hearts what might have been. That’s not the American dream.

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