MARIJUANA USE: SHOULD IT CONCERN YOU? BY ben lucero
The legalization of recreational marijuana use in Alaska has gained a lot of attention since 2016, when the first pot shop opened for business. Since then, it seems to be a common cocktail-party delight to talk about among friends and colleagues. And what is everyone saying? That legal marijuana is great! But have we considered the effects it has on the brain or on our community?
The trending thought among the pot culture is that marijuana is not harmful to use. In fact, recent polls have shown that less and fewer people perceive any negative risk with using marijuana. According to Data and Statistics from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. “Among Alaska adults ages 18 and older during 2008–2009 to 2013–2014, there was a decrease in the perception of great risk of monthly marijuana use”. So what is the unbiased opinion of using it among the experts and what are some of benefits of legalizing marijuana to the State of Alaska?
Dr. Krista Lisdahl, is the director of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Brain Imaging and Neuropsychology (BraIN) Laboratory and specializes in clinical neuropsychology, addiction, adolescent brain development and neuroimaging, and was asked, what happens to the mental abilities among chronic marijuana users? Her answer was: “So, I’ve looked at how repeated marijuana use affects these brains and we have seen significant changes in verbal memory, ability to control impulses, decision making, ability to sustain attention over time. In fact, a person who begins smoking at a younger age will become more susceptible to forming these abnormalities. Also, more people tend to report increased mood symptoms, including depression and anxiety.”
“A lot of times, the attitude is that marijuana is just an herb. Why would it affect you? It’s safe. As though it’s something like mint, you know, that it’s not a psychoactive drug.” The kind of loose talk that floats around the kitchen table, “What is the harm if I use it here and there?” Well that kind of thing people say who think marijuana is like a common herb like mint leaf, but it is classified as a psychoactive drug that has chemical properties unlike that of mint —and no one is smoking mint-joints tonight anyways.
So people believe smoking marijuana is a safer alternative than drinking, and anything else that is out there; plus the idea is that the state is garnishing much needed funds from the cash crop. Since 2016, more than $3 million in taxes have been collected from marijuana growers according to the Alaska Department of Revenue. In fact, $1.7 million was collected alone for FY2017 — this contributed less than a whole percent, just .17% — to the overall total tax collected that year. While it can be said that $3 million added to the budget is better than not having it there, but what will it do now that it is there? According to Senate Bill 104, 25% of the revenue will be funneled into building a comprehensive marijuana use and treatment program for schools. And another 50% of the money earned will be diverted into a new Recidivism Reduction Fund under Senate Bill 91, designed to stop repeat criminals from going back to jail.
Now it would be beneficial for the state to have this money if it was allocated more appropriately. But an overall concern remains for the youth who might be influenced to smoke prematurely and the risk they take doing so. Even though marijuana is not as bad as doing other illegal drugs, this can be a great opportunity for parents to take responsibility by educating their kids at home teaching them not to follow the trend. Smoking marijuana before the brain is fully matured causes it to decrease its natural growth and stunts crucial cognitive skills. And if we do not teach this at home more kids will grow up learning about pot from those without authority to teach. The education children should be receiving about drug use should start at home before it does in the classroom. So does the .17% to Alaska’s overall financial budget in 2017 outweigh the negative implications it might have on society?
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