The Marijuana Debate

An astonishing number — at least to me — of men and women we encounter in our work are long time, heavy users of marijuana. Some are in jail because of it, which prompts bitter complaints about Pennsylvania’s drug laws. I have heard more than one person say that, upon release, they intend to move to a state where recreational marijuana use is legal.

“Pot helps me relax” is the most common compliment of the drug’s beneficial effects I hear. More than one person has praised marijuana as a kind of substitute for heroin, helping them not return to that powerfully addictive substance…at least for a while. I have yet to hear anyone suggest marijuana has a single negative side-effect.

From the reading I have done, I’m of the opinion that medical research on marijuana has not yet produced conclusive and persuasive evidence that pot is harmful enough that it should be considered a public health menace as serious, say, as cigarettes. Yes, it does negatively affect brain development in adolescents. Yes, there does seem, at least for some users, to be a connection to violence. Yes, in some people, there are interesting potential links between long time marijuana use and the onset of schizophrenia. Yes, for some it could be a gateway drug to more addictive substances.

From time to time I have attempted to offer these research insights as a counter to arguments that pot is a really beneficial drug and ought, therefore, to be legal. The problem, of course, is in the word “some.” Not all pot users become violence or develop schizophrenia or go on to use hard drugs.

No one, of course, believes they are ever likely to be numbered among the “some.”

So marijuana use is not the same thing as a fully loaded revolver that is guaranteed to kill you if you point it at your head and pull the trigger. It’s a revolver with, at most, just one bullet in it. For “some” it probably has no bullets in it.

I’d like to see marijuana decriminalized but not made legal. That’s probably a distinction without a difference. But something tells me need a lot more clarity and certainty before Pennsylvania makes marijuana legal.

Hampton Morgan