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Legalization of Marijuana: Impact on Youth UsageCrystal A. Parris Essay

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Legalization of Marijuana: Impact on Youth UsageThe use of marijuana, in the past, had a stigma attached to it. People that use marijuana regularly and recreationally have a characterization linked to them; whether it be ‘pot-head’ or that they are not reliable, among others. It is important to discuss the reasons and purposes for marijuana or drug use. This discussion affects the whole population, not just those that use it. Marijuana has an effect on not only the user, but also those people surrounding them, from family, friends, and the community.

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There is some concern, the legality surrounding recreational marijuana use has cultivated as a topic for discussion in both political and social arenas. More so, the use and effects of our impressionable youth. Most recent evidence points to the brain maturing at 25, even 30 years old. In her editorial, Dr. Kelsall argues that cannabis should not be used by young people at all. Adolescents have always tried pushing boundaries for various reasons, attempting to mature faster than necessary. They have gained access to alcohol, cigarettes, amongst other things, even with laws stating otherwise. I will argue that marijuana should be legalized with age limitations and restrictions of where and what strand you’re able to buy.

What is it?

Prior to discussing the legalities of marijuana use, it is important to have a bit of history and understand exactly what it is and what it’s used for. The cannabis sativa plant has been dated back to 4650 b.c. (Kane, 2011). In the book, Understanding Drugs: Marijuana, Kane states that the U.S. Department of Agriculture defines marijuana as a hemp plant, not a weed and it is only part of the cannabis sativa plant. The actual plant has a variety of uses other than for smoking and ingesting, such as making cloth, rope, soap, and lamp fuel, amongst other things. Marijuana is more commonly used in United States, Canada, Europe and countries that are considered more prosperous. There are different compounds that make up the cannabis plant, some of those compounds include vitamins and steroids, and scientists have been testing them to see their interactions with each other. Knowing the history and studying the effects of marijuana is important to passing laws and making educated judgments on whether to use it or not.

Current Knowledge

The current status of marijuana use in Canada, other than for medical purposes, is that it is illegal. Since the commitment made by the Liberal party, the discussion about legalizing marijuana has become more intense. The review of the possible benefits and adverse effects, as well as the potential age requirements have come under scrutiny. “The intoxicating effects are generally what come to mind when discussing marijuana. However, there are adverse effects to smoking marijuana… especially for regular heavy users” (Kane, 2011). In her CMAJ editorial, Kelsall discusses the hazards of regular cannabis use to the development of youth. The major concerns were that the developing brain is more susceptible to the potential risks that come with regular cannabis use. The Canadian Pediatric Society stated that the use of marijuana has many risks, including possible dependency and that the risks were higher if the usage commences as a teenager (Kelsall, 2017). In a summary of Kelsall’s editorial, Fischer states that abstinence from cannabis use is ideal to avoiding health concerns and that those under the age of 25 should avoid it all together. CMA currently argues that the legal age should be 21, as “medical evidence indicates marijuana is detrimental to the development of the human brain, a process that doesn’t stop until the mid-20’s” (Rankin, 2017). Depending on the levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), there is a potential for a cardiac eventHowever, contrary to belief, health issues can arise for all different types of reasons. Recently I was diagnosed with RA, and they do not have an explanation or an understanding for how I became sick with this illness. I happened to be a youth that avoided cannabis and never even looked at harder drugs, yet I still became ill. A survey conducted, then summarized in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that frequency of marijuana use was higher in aboriginal youth and more so with the females. With this study being conducted through secondary data, respondents may not have been forthcoming with accurate information.

What I Say:

Most of the conversation on the use of marijuana has surrounded regular use, there has not been much discussion on medical or periodic usage. The levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and method of delivery changes the effects marijuana has on a person; contradicting the ‘gateway theory’, which is often inspired by personal bias and experience (Gerald, 2013). From 1839 to 1912, marijuana was praised used to relieve a range of ailments and illnesses. With other drugs becoming available for those illnesses, cannabis lost favor in the medical community. More recently, marijuana has been reintroduced to the medical community, due to the low toxicity and with it being more natural (Gerald, 2013)

An article in the Canadian Journal of Public Health implies that the support of marijuana use being harmful is mainly due to the illegal considerations attached to it. Also, toxicity from cannabis use was low and mortality from cannabis usage was extremely small in comparison to that of alcohol, tobacco, and injection drugs (Fischer, Rehm, & Hall, 2009). Friese states that marijuana is the most commonly used drug by teens in the US. Those that use it routinely did not view it as a hard drug or a drug at all. Seems to be used more to fit in and to be social, and see it as less harmful than alcohol or other drugs.

There are substances currently being used that are legal with regulations that are more commonly used other than marijuana. “Data from the World Health Organization reveal the following U.S. incidence rates for lifetime substance use (on at least one occasion): 91.6% for alcohol, 73.6% for tobacco, 42.4% for marijuana, 16.2% for cocaine” (Kane, 2011).

“Regulations for cannabis product availability and dispensing in emerging legalized systems should include, among others: restrictions for high-risk cannabis products, clear product labeling, informed and behind-the-counter distribution, and strictly but sensibly regulated and restricted distribution” (Fischer & Rehm, 2017). Implementing the legalization of cannabis whilst monitoring the use is more important. Individuals have always found a way around the laws and regulations of the land; prohibition in the early 20th century is a great example of this. Prohibition was implemented to reduce crime and corruption, but its success was an illusion (Thornton, 1991).

References
BIBLIOGRAPHY Elton-Marshall, T., P, Leatherdale, S. T., Ph.D., & Burkhalter, R. (2011). Tobacco, alcohol and
illicit drug use among Aboriginal youth living off-reserve: results from the Youth Smoking Survey. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 183(8), E480-E486
Fischer, B., & Rehm, J. (2017). Cannabis use, legalization, and youth health. (LETTERS)(Letter
to the editor). Canadian Medical Association Journal, 189(29), E971. doi:10.1503/cmaj.733215
Fischer, B., Ph.D., Rehm, J., PhD, & Hall, W., PhD. (2009). Cannabis Use in Canada: The Need
for a ‘Public Health’ Approach. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 100(2), 101-103.
Friese, B. (2017). “Is Marijuana Even a Drug?” A Qualitative Study of How Teens View
Marijuana Use and Why They Use It. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 49(3), 209. doi:10.1080/02791072.2017.1290854
G. (n.d.). Status of Cannabis Laws in Canada: What You Need to Know [Digital image].
Retrieved November 10, 2017, from http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/cj-jp/marijuana/ info.html
Gerald, M. C. (2013). The Drug Book: From Arsenic to Xanax 250 Milestones in the History of
Drugs. Toronto, ON: Sterling.
Homma, Y., Nicholson, D., & Saewyc, E. A. (2012). A profile of high school students in rural Canada who exchange sex for substances. The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 21(1), 29-40.
Ivker, R., Dr. (2017). Cannabis for Chronic Pain: A Proven Prescription for Using Marijuana to Relieve Your Pain and Heal Your Life. Toronto, ON: Touchstone.
Kane, B. M. (2011). Understanding Drugs: Marijuana. New York, NY: Chelsea House.
Kelsall, D., MD. (2017). Cannabis legislation fails to protect Canada’s youth. Canadian Medical
Association Journal, 189(21), E737-E738. doi: 10.503/cmaj17055
Leatherdale, S. T., & Burkhalter, R. (2012). The substance use profile of Canadian youth:
Exploring the prevalence of alcohol, drug and tobacco use by gender and grade. Addictive Behaviors, 37(3), 318.
Rankin, J. (2017). Physicians disagree on legal age for cannabis. Canadian Medical Association
Journal, 189(4), E174. doi:10.1503/cmaj.1095378
Richardson, C. G., PhD, Kwon, J., & Ratner, P. A., PhD. (2013). Self-esteem and the Initiation of
Substance Use Among Adolescents. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 104(1), E60-E63.
Thornton, M. (1991). Alcohol Prohibition Was a Failure. Policy Analysis, 157.

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