A recent Los Angeles Times article, published in the Times Free Press on Sept. 7, reveals - perhaps unintentionally - one of the fallacies of legalizing marijuana.
The article opens with the anecdotal story of Laurie Ritchie, a 53-year-old Centennial, Colo., wife and mother who prides herself on being an open-minded parent who voted in favor of legalizing marijuana in the state two years ago.
Now that it's legal for people 21 and older there, she admits "it's everywhere," including on her porch, where her husband occasionally has a smoke.
However, Ritchie is aghast that her sixth-grader and her high school freshman might see their dad taking a toke, but, being the good, open-minded woman she is, says she doesn't "know why I feel like this."
Maybe because she feels hypocritical Dad can smoke legally and her children can't. Or because it makes little sense that weed is illegal for her now-freshman when he or she is 20 and 364 days but fine the next day. Or maybe she's read the news about how legalizing marijuana has made it so much easier to get for people under 21.
After all, Colorado and Washington State are in the same boat this year, both having allowed the retail distribution of marijuana to people 21 and over. But, somehow, Children's Hospital Colorado and Seattle Children's Hospital have seen an increase in the number of children arriving in their emergency departments after accidentally ingesting marijuana.
Indeed, the Times article noted the Washington Poison Center had received more calls about kids and pot in the first eight-plus months of 2014 than it did in all of 2013.
To be sure, the arguments for legalizing marijuana make some sense. Studies have shown that people with certain medical problems can receive some relief by smoking it. Legalizing it also is supposed to help regulate it. And states are certainly receiving revenue from its legal sale ($13.9 million from taxes, licenses and fees so far this year in Colorado).
But research has been consistent and condemnatory on its early and frequent use. For instance:
• Long-term use early in life led to declines in IQ scores, according to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
• "The numbers of cannabis users 'in need of treatment' by clinical standards, and of those actually entering treatment, rank high compared to other illicit drugs," according to an article in the journal Addiction.
• "Cannabis use was associated with a modest increased risk for developing depressive disorders ... . [H]eavy cannabis use was associated with a stronger, but still moderate, increased risk for developing depression. These associations ... were consistent for cannabis use both in adolescence and in adulthood," according to the 2013 metastudy "The Association between Cannabis Use and Depression: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Longitudinal Studies."
• Research has demonstrated a "clear relationship" between cannabis and suicide, according to a 2012 study, "Daily Marijuana Use and Suicidality: The Unique Impact of Social Anxiety," in the journal Addictive Behaviors.
• "Significant correlation between greater frequency of marijuana use and increased number of inattentive symptoms was found in men ... with ADHD," according to a 2013 study in Psychiatry Research.
A coalition of sheriffs, police chiefs and other officers involved in drug investigations put the practical aspects to marijuana's frequent use in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, noting it can impair people's ability to drive automobiles and that its use is generally associated with crime.
The Department of Justice itself acknowledges the problems with impaired driving, with its associations with crime and criminal networks, and says curbing those problems remains a priority.
In Tennessee, a 2014 Vanderbilt University poll indicated 76 percent of respondents said marijuana either "should be legal for personal use" (32 percent) or "should be legal only for medicinal use" (44 percent). However, a bill introduced in the state House in January legalizing the use of medical marijuana stalled in committee, though another bill creating a four-year study on a non-psychoactive component of marijuana was passed and signed into law.
Proponents in Tennessee one day may have some success in passing a highly restrictive medical marijuana bill or in reducing potential jail time for possession of misdemeanor and some felony amounts, but the earliest results from Colorado and Washington indicate full legalization for recreational use -- despite the 21-and-older restriction and despite the money that would be collected -- doesn't make sense for any state.