Joshua Elwess (12th), Reporter

Marijuana is a greenish-gray mixture of the dried flowers of Cannabis sativa, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse. Some argue that marijuana is a harmful and addictive drug that should be banned, while others argue that, compared to alcohol and other drugs, it does very little damage.

“Marijuana: Effects of Weed on Brain and Body,” an article on Live Science by Lauren Cox, states, “According to a 2014 Northwestern Medicine study of teen marijuana users, memory-related structures in the brain appeared to shrink, a possible signs of a decrease in neurons. These abnormalities remained two years after the teen stopped using marijuana, indicating that the drug has long-term effects and look similar to brains of schizophrenics. Those who started using marijuana after 21 generally do not experience the same type of brain abnormalities as those who started using the drug earlier.” The same article states that effects can include feelings of panic and fear, hallucinations, trouble concentrating, decreased interest in completing tasks, and decreased ability to perform tasks that require coordination, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The article states, “Depending on the quantity, quality and method of consumption, marijuana can produce a feeling of euphoria — or high — by stimulating brain cells to release the chemical dopamine. When smoked or otherwise inhaled, the feeling of euphoria is almost immediate. When ingested in food, it takes much longer, even hours, for the drug to signal the brain to release the dopamine, according to the National Institutes of Health.”

Despite these risks, facts suggest that marijuana is not more harmful than alcohol. For example, according to an article in Business Insider called “We took a scientific look at whether weed or alcohol is worse for you — and there appears to be a winner,” “More than 30,700 Americans died from alcohol-induced causes in 2014. There have been zero documented deaths from marijuana use alone.” The same article states, “A 16-year study of more than 65,000 Americans, published in the American Journal of Public Health, found that healthy marijuana users were not more likely to die earlier than healthy people who did not use cannabis.”

The article states, “When it comes to addiction profiles, risk of death or overdose, and links to cancer, car crashes, violence, and obesity, the research suggests that marijuana may be less of a health risk than alcohol.”

Marijuana, based on the facts that we have, seems to be much better for a person than tobacco. According to “Smoking pot vs. tobacco: What science says about lighting up,” an article from the Chicago Tribune, “Unlike for cigarettes, there’s evidence of certain health benefits from marijuana, such as easing chronic pain. And marijuana can be used without smoking it.” The article also states, “While cigarette smoking is the top risk factor for lung cancer, some scientific evidence suggests there’s no link between marijuana smoking and lung cancer. That’s according to a 2017 federal report that rounded up nearly two decades of studies on marijuana, research that’s been limited by the federal government’s classification of marijuana as a controlled substance like heroin.”

In an article in the Washington Post called “Marijuana may be even safer than previously thought, researchers say,” Christopher Ingraham states, “And all the way at the bottom of the list? Weed — roughly 114 times less deadly than booze, according to the authors, who ran calculations that compared lethal doses of a given substance with the amount that a typical person uses. Marijuana is also the only drug studied that posed a low mortality risk to its users.”

I interviewed a fellow senior at Pitman High School. I asked him whether he supported legalizing marijuana or not and why or why not. He stated, “Yes I support legalized marijuana because people should be able to do what they want as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else.”

I asked him if he thought marijuana is worse or better for your health than alcohol or other drugs and why or why not. He stated, “I think marijuana is not as bad as other drugs because other drugs can have a more serious effect on your body and can be more addictive than marijuana.”

I asked him if he thought that marijuana impacted someone’s health in a positive or negative way and why or why not. He stated, “I personally believe that does not affect someone’s health if done in appropriate amounts.”

I asked him whether he tried marijuana or not or knows someone that has and whether he thinks it impacted the marijuana user that he knows. He stated, “No. I have never tried marijuana. Although I know people that have and they are healthy.”

In my view, the facts indicate that, while marijuana has risks (just like everything else in the world), it is much less dangerous than alcohol and other drugs.