Time Says Legalize Weed Even Though It Fries Young Minds
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Time Says Legalize Weed Even Though It Fries Young Minds


To legalize or not to legalize pot is a big stakes question in America today, and we’re almost sick of hearing about it. We all know the pro-legalization arguments—decreasing needless incarceration, lowering crime, generating billions of dollars through taxation that can go (hopefully) toward bettering the country (but will probably go toward drone warfare), etc.

The New York Times Chimed In

In an op-ed published in August, the editorial board of the New York Times pushed for the legalization of weed without substantially addressing the fact that pot leads to brain damage in youngsters. As a result, the Office of National Drug Control Policy took them to task, responding that it “continues to oppose” legalization, adding that “policymakers shouldn’t ignore the basic scientific fact that marijuana is addictive and marijuana use has harmful consequences.”

A Big Brouhaha

In a response to the White House’s response to the NY Times op-ed, David Sheff, the author of Beautiful Boy and Clean, wrote an op-ed for Time preaching legalization while also emphasizing the harmful effects of weed on adolescents and the need for strenuous regulation to keep kids away from the mary jane.

“Yes, it’s harmful, and yes, it should be legalized,” writes Scheff. “Some proponents of legalization maintain that marijuana is harmless, but it isn’t—especially when it comes to kids.”

Sheff’s argument is that he, like most in the medical community, believe kids using weed is a public health issue, not a criminal issue.

It’s an argument I don’t agree with; you have to wonder if the benefits of legalization are worth the havoc it will wreak on the minds of America’s youth. While pediatricians just released a statement saying they don’t want kids locked up for smoking weed, they still strongly discourage legalization.

Pot + Kids = Brain Damage

Sheff details the many negative effects that smoking weed (or eating it) has on young brains—how it stunts communication between brain regions, which goes on to impede high-level thinking, how it destroys memory and can trigger dormant mental illness like schizophrenia and depression and how it leads to something called “amotivational syndrome,” which essentially keeps kids emotionally underdeveloped so they can’t deal with difficult feelings or cope with stress.

Of course young potheads aren’t primed to be overachievers—many don’t make anything of themselves outside of being expert joint rollers and competent bakers of magic brownies.

So…What’s the Point of Legalization Again?

Like many pediatricians, Sheff believes kids absolutely must stay away from weed, and that prevention and educational techniques can do this. But did DARE really keep kids off drugs? Exacerbating the problem is that if pot becomes legal, many parents will be smoking it, and, whether they like it or not, this could easily make kids see it as innocuous, not to mention increase their access to the drug.

Sheff offers an in-between stance to the New York Times and the White House, but while legalization is a fantastic idea for many reasons, no matter how you try to twist the argument, it still substantially jeopardizes the mental and cognitive health of America’s youth.

No one seems to want to cop to that.

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About Author

Tracy Chabala is a freelance writer for many publications including the LA Times, LA Weekly, Smashd, VICE and Salon. She writes mostly about food, technology and culture, in addition to addiction and mental health. She holds a Master's in Professional Writing from USC and is finishing up her novel.