Most of the advocates tout the desire to legalize the drug so that the state can raise additional tax revenue off of the sales. Enhancing the ability of an over-bearing confiscatory high-tax state like New Jersey to extract even more revenue from its citizens is never going to be a compelling argument for me.
Slightly better is the argument that legalizing the drug will result in fewer individuals in prison for usage. While I agree that we have far too many individuals in jail for such petty crimes, full-scale legalization of recreational usage seems like an over-reaction to a problem which may be fixed by simply reducing the penalties involved.
But the absolute worst argument in favor of legalization is that cannabis is harmless or somehow beneficial to users. You will find these types of claims all over websites which market marijuana-related products, and they are absolutely false and extremely dangerous. If there are any mild benefits for a healthy person using cannabis, they are far outweighed by the negatives. Sadly, the proponents of marijuana usage will often laugh off any suggestion that using their drug of choice can do harm as a return to "Reefer Madness," a supposedly comical early 20th century belief that using cannabis can cause you to go crazy.
The sad facts are these: the more research that's done, the more science has realized that cannabis usage for healthy people is detrimental, both on a personal neuro-cognitive level, and on a societal level. It is particularly bad for youth as the impact of the active ingredient in cannabis--tetrahydrocannabinol or TCH--on the developing brain can be profound and long-lasting. Here is a list of articles detailing some of these findings. I would encourage anyone interested in this issue to at least skim over these studies:
Cannabis as a Neuro-Toxin:
- Does Cannabis Cause Lasting Brain Damage? (2012)
"Recent studies using high-resolution imaging techniques, combined with more robust delineations of specific brain regions in very heavy cannabis users, have revealed evidence of dose-related alterations, mostly in the hippocampal and parahippocampal regions."
- Is Cannabis Neurotoxic for the Healthy Brain? (2013)
"Our results suggest that in the healthy brain, chronic and long-term cannabis exposure may exert significant effects in brain areas enriched with cannabinoid receptors, such as the hippocampus, which could be related to a neurotoxic action."
- Long-term Effects of Marijuana Use on the Brain (2014)
"Our findings of negative correlations between connectivity indexes and measures of marijuana use suggest a cumulative deleterious effect of marijuana on OFC (orbitofrontal cortex of the brain) connectivity."
- Persistent Cannabis Users Show Neuropsychological Decline from Childhood to Midlife (2012)
"Persistent cannabis use was associated with neuropsychological decline broadly across domains of functioning, even after controlling for years of education. Informants also reported noticing more cognitive problems for persistent cannabis users.
- Effects of Cannabis on Memory and Cognitive Function
"Cannabinoids appear to disrupt short-term memory by interfering with the filtering of information, such that a greater volume of information reaches consciousness, overwhelming the ability to store, or prioritise such information for storage in memory."
- The Chronic Effects of of Cannabis on Memory in Humans: A Review (2008)
"Sufficient evidence has accumulated from recent studies of cannabis users in the unintoxicated state to conclude that long-term heavy cannabis use is associated with impaired memory function."
- Study Shows Memory Loss Due to Cannabis Related Harm to Mitochondria (2016)
"Acute cannabinoid intoxication induces amnesia in humans and animals, and the activation of type-1 cannabinoid receptors present at brain mitochondria membranes (mtCB1) can directly alter mitochondrial energetic activity."
- Even pro-cannabis sites admit that the substance impacts memory in a negative way...
9 Ways to Prevent Cannabis-induced Memory Loss
(Note: Executive function is the set of mental skills that govern time management, attention, planning and the ability to cope with multiple tasks at the same time.)
- Cannabis Use Before age 15 and Subsequent Executive Functioning (2011)
"The results suggest that chronic cannabis users process complex information more slowly and performance worsens in cognitive overload tasks as lifetime consumption increases."
- Executive Function Deficits in Short Term Abstinent Cannabis Users (2008)
"The cannabis users, compared to both control groups, had deficits on verbal fluency, visual recognition, delayed visual recall, and short- and long-interval prospective memory....These findings suggest that cannabis use leads to impaired executive function."
- Cannabis and Cognition: Short- and Long Term Effects (2011)
"A range of cognitive functions, encompassing attentional, memory and executive and inhibitory processes, are impaired both during the acute intoxication period and following long-term use of cannabis."
- Cannabis and Neurodevelopment: Implications for Psychiatric Disorders (2006)
"The effect of cannabinoids in the adolescent suggest long-term deleterious outcomes in cognition, depressive symptoms, schizophrenia and substance use disorders."
- Effects of Cannabis on the Adolescent Brain (2014)
"Teens who engage in heavy marijuana use often show disadvantages in neurocognitive performance, macrostructural and microstructural brain development, and alterations in brain functioning."
- Cannabis and Adolescent Brain Development (2014)
"Accumulating evidence from both animal and human studies suggests that regular heavy use during this period is associated with more severe and persistent negative outcomes than use during adulthood, suggesting that the adolescent brain may be particularly vulnerable to the effects of cannabis exposure."
- Adverse Effects of Cannabis on Adolescent Brain Development (2016)
"These data provide compelling longitudinal evidence suggesting that repeated exposure to cannabis during adolescence may have detrimental effects on brain resting functional connectivity, intelligence, and cognitive function."
While the above articles are mostly from scholarly journals, here are some news stories on the impact of cannabis legalization is having on society, largely from mainstream media sources that are otherwise favorable toward legalization:
- Vagrants Overrun Colorado Town. Residents Cite Legalized Marijuana as Reason. (2017)
- Pot Fuels a Surge in Drugged Driving Deaths. (2014)
- Traffic Fatalities Linked to Marijuana are Up Sharply in Colorado. (2017)
- Legalized Pot Sends More Teens to the ER in Colorado. (2017)
- Is Colorado's Homeless Surge Tied to Legalized Marijuana? (2017)
- Colorado Drug Overdoses Up in Almost Every County and Ahead of National Average (2016)
- Survey: Colorado Stands Out for Consuming Drugs, Alcohol (2016)
- Marijuana-related Fatal Car Accidents Surge in Washington State after Legalization (2016)
- Fatal Road Crashes Involving Marijuana Double after State Legalizes Drug (2016)
- How Big is Colorado's Drug Problem? (2017)
And let's not forget the ulterior motives of politicians and businesses who are looking to reap the benefits of legalization. Do they really care about the health and safety of the people they supposedly serve? Or are they simply looking for a way to make society more docile, stupid and ultimately easier to rule, while raking in big money? On this question, history is instructive:
A Disgraceful Little War -- The Opium War and Commissioner Lin